There are revelations to The Message that are revealed. The role of the Chosen (and of the three Horsemen) with respect to The Message is becoming clearer. This is the height of the series thus far, everything is being set into motion.
Where we last left off, Xiaolian had just killed her sister and her father, taking on the mantle of Chairman of the PRA. She is finally reunited with Death, though seems none to happy about it. She has been held captive by her family for the last ten years. She feels that Death deserted her. They had a child together. That child is dead. She blames Death.
Death reveals that the child is still alive. That the child is integral to The Message. That the Chosen have him captive. They believe him to be the Beast of the Apocalypse.
Other than some backstory concerning the providence of Death and Xiaolian's relationship, we don't return to them for the rest of these two issues. I will say that the backstory was meagre, and that the motivations for their attraction not strongly drawn. For Death to step so far outside his role, for him to fall in love, it needs a little more than being witness to a young woman's bloodlust. Perhaps there is more yet to be revealed of that initial bonding. If this, though, is all that was needed to turn Death from his path, I will feel somewhat cheated. Narratively it's a bit weak. If Death is to fall in love, then that is an apocalyptic moment unto itself, and it deserves its own revelations. What Hickman has given us is too easy. Too convenient. Too simple.
We spend most of these two issues with the Chosen. Bel Solomon has misgivings. His conscience is getting the better of him. He betrays these feelings to Andrew Chamberlain. This is not a man you reveal anything to, as we've seen in previous issues. Chamberlain is the Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish of the Chosen, a master manipulator.
We then move forward to an assemblage of the Chosen at Armistice. With the death of Hu (Xioalian's sister), a replacement member is required. Xiaolian has rebuffed their offers of membership by sending them the hands of her sister, still clutching sword and flower when they were cleaved from her body.
Hickman is really starting to open up the narrative. In these two issues, we begin to see where this story is headed. The Apocalypse that the Chosen want to bring down upon humanity. Hickman is now confidently spending time away from the Horsemen, Death and Xiaolian. He's taking the time to develop our antagonists more deeply. These two issues, Bel Solomon and Andrew Chamberlain get the focus through most of the pages.
What do we learn of The Message? It has Nostradamus-like qualities. It really cannot be interpreted until the first prophecy in chain reveals itself. Little defensively can be done to protect from the future, until that first prophecy is revealed. Which is what happens in issue six.
"The bloody right hand will hold the sword, and the bloody left the flower. From the chosen host, betrayal follows the dragon's fall."Thus, with receipt of Hu's hands, holding sword and flower, the first in a chain of prophecies has revealed itself. The rest of the prophecies along the chain can now be interpreted. The custodians of The Message can now protect themselves from what will come after. As such, the Chosen now know they have a betrayer within their midst. Chamberlain gives up Solomon, who then barely escapes with his life.
The issue ends with Bel Solomon telling the story of his own corruption and downfall to a Texas Ranger he once knew, in the hope that the Ranger will bring justice to the Chosen. And by Justice, he means death. We're given some backstory on this Ranger, and we're certainly led to believe that he is a noble and righteous man.
It's taken six issues, and certainly not boring or uninteresting issues by any means, but Hickman is done teasing along his story. He's ready to let it explode upon the page. The story is wide open and every attendant part is now in motion.
East of West 05/06 Grade: B+
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