Posted by Don MacPherson on January 1st, 2010
The Last Days of American Crime #1
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Greg Tocchini
Letters: Rus Wooton
Cover artists: Alex Maleev & Greg Tocchini
Editor: Luis Reyes
Publisher: Radical Comics
Price: $4.99 US
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from this new title, but the preliminary artwork I saw piqued my interest, as did writer Rick Remender’s involvement. He’s been quietly carving out a reputation as one of the industry’s most solid writers, and he’s demonstrated some skill at exploring unconventional subject matter. That’s certainly the case here, as he combines a dystopian tone, a convincing crime-drama feel and the makings of a fun heist story to arrive at something compelling and unique. There can be no doubt, though, that a good deal of this limited series’s appeal will stem from its visuals. Artist Greg Tocchini establishes a bizarre atmosphere with some almost psychedelic colors, and he drenches one of the key players in sexuality so effectively that one can’t help but understand the poor choices the protagonist makes based the powerfully alluring and dangerous presence of the femme fatale. Furthermore, Radical continues its experimentation here with a longer format for its episodic comics, and it makes for a satisfying, dense read and a solid value for the reader’s money.
Graham Bricke’s a career criminal who’s lived a long, rough life, and he’s tired. As the United States stands on the brink of an economic transformation, moving from cash to digital dollars exclusively, he sees an opportunity for the ultimate heist, a final job that will set him up for the rest of his life with plenty of cash and a comfortable existence out of the country. To pull it off, though, he’ll need partners, and that’s where Kevin Cash and his girlfriend Shelby come in. They’re brilliant when it comes to hacking, but Cash is arrogant. And Shelby… she’s damaged, dangerous and irresistible. Once work leaks of a government plot that will make the caper impossible, the trio finds itself under a seemingly impossible deadline.
I’ve seen Greg Tocchini’s work on various super-hero comics over the past few years, and while I’ve found his stuff to be capable in the past, it’s never really wowed me. The Last Days of American Crime changes all that. He brings a riveting approach to bear here that looks something like a cross between the gritty noir leanings of Paul (Potter’s Field) Azaceta’s style and the slick, deco beauty of Phil (The Infinite Horizon) Noto’s work. Tocchini establishes a psychedelic tone throughout the book, not only with his oddly bright colors but some skewed but interesting perspectives as well. Of course, the most dominant visual in the book is Shelby. She exudes sexuality and allure in every panel in which she appears, and that’s clearly what the writer intended for her. Tocchini does an amazing job of conveying what a sexually charged monkeywrench the character is in the works of the plot and Bricke’s life.
Perhaps the best thing this comic book has going for it is its value. Remender, Tocchini and the publisher offer up 48 pages of interior story and art for $4.99 US. There’s so much story and art here, after a while, one gets the feeling one’s reading a graphic novella rather than one episode of a three-issue series.
Just as Shelby’s form serves as the most interesting visual in the comic, so does her psyche serve as one of the most fascinating elements in the story. Remender manages to portray her as both aggressive and submissive, as both a victim and a hunter. The way she so easily manipulates Bricke, even as he’s aware of it, conveys a certain kind of strength, but a subsequent scene, in which they have sex, boasts a chilling moment when she begs him to choke her in the throes of passion. It’s a powerful and telling bit of characterization.
The only respect in which Remender’s script is lacking is when it comes to the exposition. the socioeconomic catalyst for the heist and the government plot to eliminate criminal behavior aren’t nearly as clear as they could be. The premise for Bricke’s job is pretty convoluted, and it makes for some dense and dizzying background details. 7/10
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