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Last Days of American Crime is Hard-Boiled Crime Tale

Review by Ryan K. Lindsay

Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini deliver a tightly wound and hard boiled tale of crime and devious characters set in the final days where people can even commit crime before new legislation renders the free thought of doing wrong obsolete. Graham has three weeks to nail the final score that will set him up but his new partners in crime, and a landscape full of deviants and violent fools, are out to stop him. The Last Days of American Crime is a great crime book and you certainly need to check it out, hit the jump to see why.

Radical Comics publish this book, and while some complain that they are simply a striphouse for failed/prospective movie pitches, there is no doubt that this crime flick would look superb on the big screen. And it looks like it now will, with Radical announcing Sam Worthington is going to star in the movie with F. Gary Gray directing it. But before it all goes down on your local screens, it collects really well in this book.

The nasty kicks off straight away as Graham tortures some poor fool in a dirty bathroom. Tocchini delivers a world where your eyes feel four kinds of filthy just having glanced through the peephole into what happens there. The lines aren’t completely formed and the colours drip off the page like someone slapped a fistful of brown onto the palette. This is a Grindhouse crime comic that feels like a ’70s peek into the future.

The infliction of physical pain to others quickly segues into grinding a salty palmful of emotional pain into someone else’s face full of open wounds. Grahame flirts with a girl at the bar and after a very dirty romp in the bathroom, she drops him like a bad habit. It’s a cold scene and one that pays off so well when we find out this girl is Shelley Dupree and she’s Graham’s new partner along with her boyfriend Kevin Cash.

With only two scenes, Remender has established the way these characters operate within their world. We also see the level of trust anyone in this narrative should have. Through actions we get internal understanding of these players and that’s just good writing.

America is about to swap from cash to electric money and Graham is going to steal one of the machines and make out like a laughing fat cat. His heist gets fast-tracked when America sets out to broadcast a neuro-inhibitor that will stop anyone from being able to commit what they knowingly understand is wrong. This act of governmental control of crime means Graham either pulls this job now or literally never.

The unlikely trio set up the tale and, with this introduction established, the story races from one violent set piece to another. Remender works hard to fill his tale with characters and twists and criminal violence, all [of] which you have not seen before. And he’s pretty successful nearly all of the time. This world feels full, and broken, and every turn leads into a more terrible dead end.

Motivations of characters can be hard to pin down because they seemingly change constantly. The only reliable knowledge is that these people want to survive, that’s the only information we have for sure. You get the feeling they’d each do absolutely anything to survive and throughout this tale, they usually do. Allegiances are paper thin and not worth the alcohol-soaked breath they are muttered on.

It’s a feat of strength from the creative team that even with the seesawing affections of these men and women they still remain likeable, well, at least the ones you are supposed to like. Kevin is a dick the whole way through, but Shelley becomes an exercise in how much you can hate a girl and yet so completely want to protect her. It’s conflicting and written so very well.

After the characters comes the violence. Remender writes some brutal stuff, but it’s the way Tocchini depicts the sadistic in a very unique way that will capture your attention, even if it is through squinted eyes. Heads come apart like stomped-on china dolls and blood spurts across panels; this is a comic that doesn’t shy away from what crime yields.

Tocchini’s art ranges from amazing to somewhat underwhelming and it seems to depend on his level of zoom in the panel. The longshots look so gritty and perfect that you understand this world completely, but it’s in the close shots the characters lose depth of reality. Tocchini’s faces rarely feel completely formed and it is off-putting in certain circumstances. The structural features are inconsistent and distracting, which is a shame, because as far as tone goes, Tocchini scores an A for this book.

The spiral of bullets and blood that round out this tale provide a delicious ending, even if the very final coda tastes a little too convenient.

There’s no doubting the thrills this book is full of on nearly every page. Remender and Tocchini deliver one of the best and most unique crime books to be published in some time. They also deliver a standout character in Shelley, who both looks iconic [and] captures each and every page she is on.

This collection also assembles the various covers and it must be said that Alex Maleev’s work here is brilliant. He evokes the old-school pulp paperback covers without being beholden to them. He takes them that next step further in content while keeping the tone in sync. These covers are pure art, no doubt about it.

Verdict – Buy It. The Last Days Of American Crime is the sort of book you won’t regret buying if you like any sort of harsh fiction about the worst kind of people. This book delivers visual violence like you won’t have seen from any other artist and the kinks of the tale will keep you guessing right up until the end. Pick up this book and marvel at the heist of the decade.

Click here to go to this review at The Weekly Crisis.

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