Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: The Last Days of American Crime

I didn't really know what to expect quality-wise going into this one. Call it an on-the-whim read if you will. The Last Days of American Crime is penned by Rick Remender, a comic writer I've heard good things about, but have never gotten around to checking out.  His Fear Agent series is supposedly quite good, but I don't know much about his other works.  The opportunity to find out for myself popped up during my most recent finals week.

During said finals week, I found myself in need of distractions that were easy come, easy go.  That need manifested itself in a week filled with comics reading.  After an entertaining brush with Transmetropolitan which yielded some great reading material, I decided I was in the mood for a crime story, and I had The Last Days of American Crime, fresh from a clearance rack purchase, just sitting there, so I dove in.

The Last Days of American Crime takes place in the near future where the US government has created the final solution to terrorism and crime.  The Government plans to broadcast a top secret signal that will make it impossible for anyone to commit a crime.  To distract the population from finding out about their crazy mind-control plot, the government has also created a new currency system that uses digital charge cards and data boxes that refill the cards.  The problem is that with one week until the signal is broadcast, and the new currency goes live, the secret about the mind control signal has gotten out and the country has erupted into a lawless orgy of crime.

That's where things stand when Graham Brick, our hero is introduced.  Graham is a life long loser, and has had his fair share of run-ins with the law. With the signal only a week away, he has a plan in mind to nab one of the data boxes and make off with an endless supply of funds.  All he needs to do is enlist the help of a couple other criminals he can trust.  Trust however, is hard to come by in the last days of American crime.

Overall, I found this hard boiled crime story to be decent with maybe too much emphasis on the "hard" aspect. By "hard" I mean sex.  This one tried pretty hard to be a sexy crime story, and maybe it is sexy to some people, but I found it to be just waaaay too much sex for the sake of sex. (Maybe I should have figured that out from the cover...)  I don't get why comic creators think people read comics to get off...they do know there's a thing called the internet right?  The only female character other than Graham's mom, is the overly sexed up Shelby, who is in the story almost exclusively as a source of T&A.  She is part of Graham's last-great-heist team too, but really, she's just there for eye candy.

If you eliminated all the unnecessary sexiness from the story, there's a pretty decent crime story at the center of it all.  With the whole country erupting into crime-fest, Graham's path to achieving his plan is one fraught with peril and his odds of making it all happen seem to get worse as the seconds tick by.  However, that interesting bit of plot gets pushed into the passenger seat as Remender elected to include lots of balls to the walls action, shoot outs, car chases and explosions in the story that are sorta interesting the first couple of times, but these elements were so overdone they  felt pretty tiresome and pedestrian by the end.

There seemed to be a concerted effort to make this story incredibly sexy and action packed, but for my tastes, it didn't work out.  I felt like I was reading the script to a shitty summer blockbuster. I couldn't care less about shitty summer blockbusters.

The art here is by Greg Tocchini, an artist I am completely unfamiliar with.  I wasn't a very big fan of his work either.  The pages and panels were all far too busy for my tastes, but the biggest drawback for me was the coloring. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what I didn't like, but I think it comes down to too many different shades and hues on the same page.  My eyes were constantly bombarded by a lot of bright spots of light on the characters which I think was meant to give that noir atmosphere, but instead all it did was make it hard to focus on what was going on.  Page after page of this got pretty old after a while.

With a plot that got overlooked in favor of sex and 'splosions and art that was nothing special, I can't recommend The Last Days of American Crime.  What few good qualities this one had were far overshadowed by too many negatives.

Grade: D

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