Review by Ryan Matsunaga
The Last Days of American Crime #3
While Marvel and DC might hold claim to some of the most memorable comic book characters, I fully stand by the belief that the best stories have always belonged to the shorter series. From Watchmen to Transmetropolitan, a lot can be said for condensed, concentrated stories. The Last Days of American Crime, a 3-issue (approx. 180 pages total) miniseries, is definitely looking to fit into that latter category.
Penned by Rick Remender, who’s done work for Marvel, IDW, Image, Dark Horse, and now Radical, and drawn by Greg Tocchini, Crime tells the story of an America in the not too distant future. The government, buried under very real threats of crime and terrorism, has turned to a radical solution. They’ve successfully developed a broadcast signal, the API (American Peace Initiative), that will make it impossible for anyone in the country to knowingly commit an unlawful act.
In their bid to create a utopian America, the government has chosen to distract the populace by also installing an all-digital (and very traceable) currency system, making cash worthless and in the process, threatening the livelihood of criminals everywhere.
Graham Bricke, a character whose name and demeanor could easily have been pulled from an issue of Sin City, is a career criminal looking to get one last score during the titular “last days of American crime.” Of course, his motivations aren’t quite so simple, as we find out through the series. His plan though, seems incentive enough however, without exaggeration being the most lucrative crime in American history. He plans to steal and hack one of the boxes that charge the currency cards, giving him access to an unlimited amount of funds. It’s a deceptively simple idea however, one that will require a great deal of help to pull off. To complicate this, Bricke becomes aware of the government broadcast when it’s leaked by the media, putting them on a very strict timeframe of less than seven days.
The third, and final, entry into the series finds Bricke on the cusp of the API broadcast, and running out of time to get his affairs in order. Luckily though, series writer Rick Remender seems comfortably on top of the situation. The book very nicely brings its subplots to a peak. Whether it be Bricke’s dealings with the Mexican mobsters, his relationship (and past) with his mother, or Shelby and Kevin’s backstories, there’s a lot that needed resolution, but Remender handled it all rather brilliantly. With great dialogue and impressive staging all-around, there are some really awesome moments in the issue. And while none of it really lives up to any of the bigger moments from the issues past, there’s still a lot to enjoy in this finale. Sure I would’ve liked to see something a little more ambitious; but it was nice to see their plan finally go into motion, and all of the characters and setups intertwine and resolve.
Unfortunately, his character arcs on the whole aren’t quite so neat. As I mentioned before, Bricke could just have easily found a home in Sin City, and Remender seems to have trouble pulling any of his leads out of the muck of cliché and treaded ground and into anything too original. The archetypes work for the most part, but in a story with such a unique twist, I really would’ve liked to see more. Kevin’s character definitely got a chance to shine in this issue however, with some extended development and a great resolution to the backstory Remender laid the foundation for in issue two. It definitely didn’t reach the heights of badassery we saw previously, and it may have not been too shocking, but it’s a fitting culmination for an interesting character.
On the whole, the climax of the story felt smooth, natural, and compelling. While I feel like the overall resolution was a bit lacking, and the twists and turns maybe be a little too familiar, I was more than happy to go along for the ride.
What definitely keeps the issue, and the series on the whole, from falling prey to stereotypes and unwelcome familiarity, is the adrenaline of the narrative. It moves at such a frenetic pace, without sacrificing focus or storytelling. Much of this must be due in large part to some excellent, excellent artistry by Greg Tocchini. With a vibrant mix of color and grit, Tocchini’s style fits the series so perfectly. Like much of American Crime, it’s not anything we haven’t seen before, but by God it’s still great.
While it’s certainly no Transmetropolitan, American Crime definitely ranks up there among the scores of stories in a similar vein. Its unique spin on the crime genre, with some awesome sci-fi overtones, make it an extremely enjoyable read. It might not be an instant classic, but for such a contained, condensed story, it’s a hell of a read.
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