Review by Jim Ousley
Rick Remender has become one of those exceptional writers of recent years who comic book fans book fans hold to such a high standard that it’s always somewhat of a pleasant surprise to see him continue to surpass it. In Radical Comics’ The Last Days of American Crime, Remender weaves a dystopian fable where losers and killers battle other losers and killers for the biggest chunk of change in an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it chess game of blood, bullets, and sex.
In the near future, the United States government secretly plans to broadcast a signal that will essentially make it impossible for anyone to knowingly indulge in any kind of illegal behavior. Because of the obvious furor and chaos that would be unleashed from citizens if it was ever discovered, the government installs a new currency system using digital charge cards, thereby eliminating paper money, and creating a different controversy to serve as a distraction.
This is the whirlwind scenario in which we meet our protagonist, career criminal Graham Brick, a lifetime thug who never made the big score, tried to go straight because of his Alzheimer-ridden mother, but is now on a one way path to either Hell or salvation. Graham has hatched a plan to steal one of the new charging stations, after which he will high-tail it out of the U.S.A. and live out the rest of his days on unlimited funds. Unfortunately for Graham, the Washington Post has uncovered the plans for the anti-crime signal one week before it was to go live, thereby radically altering Graham’s timetable. He now just has a few days to gather his team and rock his big score, while the general populace tries to take advantage of one last chance at livin’ la vida criminal.
Across this canvas of socioeconomic upheaval and dark-side-of-humanity stuff, Remender creates what is truly the driving heartbeat of his story: the characters and their motives, wrapped up in insecurities borne of ugly childhoods, abusive relationships, and disposable loyalties. This is evidenced at the outset when Graham gets to know a woman in the bathroom of his favorite watering hole, only to discover she is the fiancée and partner in crime of Kevin Cash, the borderline psycho who he was there to meet in the first place. It only gets more twisted from there, as the story burns its wheels threadbare to the unexpected and immensely satisfying conclusion.
The artwork by Greg Tocchini paints Remender’s story with the appropriate amount of grime, all rough-hewn sketches and colors, giving the pages a nightmarish 21st century noir aesthetic. Each panel is a dynamic plot revelation, a bloody shock, or both, as the rhythm of the action and dialogue be-bops like Elmore Leonard set to an Ornette Coleman score. The presentation boasts no shortage of nudity, violence, and gore, so if any of these things put you off, I wouldn’t touch this with a Remington Express Tactical.
Despite being sprung from oft-repeated crime noir archetypes, it is the characters more than the plot that propel The Last Days of American Crime from an average crime tale into something that makes the pulse race like a getaway car, and it might have enough dirt to make you want to take a shower after reading it.
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