Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Last Days of American Crime #2 Advance Review

It has been quite some time since the first issue, but the second issue of The Last Days of American Crime hits the stores tomorrow. In case you missed the review of the first issue, this series created by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini, is literally about the last days of crime as two joint efforts by the United States government are about to eradicate crime to commit by switching to electronic money and with a broadcast signal that affects the brain making it physically impossible to commit crime. Our protagonist Graham is planning a grand heist to go out and retire in style, but the clock is ticking for him, so he gets in bed (figuratively and literally) with some strange accomplices. This where the second issue picks up, and thanks to the fine folks at Radical Comics who sent an early review copy to us, where the review will start after the jump. I will try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but be warned that some might slip through.

The Last Days of American Crime #2

Story by Rick Remender
Art by Greg Tocchini

The main difference between the first issue and this second one is that in this one Graham leaves the spotlight for the rest of the characters to develop more. We get peeks into the lives of the rest of the characters, into the other opposing crime fractions, and more into the personalities of Shelby and Kevin, the two hackers that Graham is working with in his scheme. There's a whole lot of plot in these 50 something pages (the rest of the 64 pages are pin ups and bonus material), with hardly a panel wasted by Remender. There are very cinematic touches, such as the car chase scene and one very brutal fight that could have easily been stretched out to pad the book, but at only three issues, every page has to count, and the creative team makes sure of that.

Like I said, there's a lot going on, and it involves with the final preparations to the big heist. We see Graham (or Rory, which is the fake name he uses) at his day job, as a "rent-a-cop" security in a bank, a position that he takes advantage of to prepare the heist. It is a very well done scene that shows that while Graham may not be very book smart like his partners, he is willy and crafty, playing all sides against the middle while he escapes intact. He also has a sadistic side: we see how he messes with his co-workers and with his boss for his own causes, but you get the feeling that he gets a pleasure out of it (such as the little morning after surprise he orchestrated for his manager Shawn). At the same time, there's something that Graham is not revealing, albeit not even the reader is sure of what exactly it is. He's a man looking out for himself above all, but there's a hidden agenda that we can't see yet that gives him more depth.

The other big part of the comic is Kevin going to pay a visit to his family, to pick up an important component for the heist (a laser cutter to open the bank safe). If Graham is a man quick on his feet that improvises his plans, or that he goes through a lot of effort to put them into motion, Kevin is the exact opposite. He seems like a master planner, thinking three moves ahead of everyone else, and even when he does find himself in a corner, there's a sense of grace in his actions as he effortlessly makes an exit. When he goes to ask something from his father, a mobster who has gone legit, things go as you would expect and Kevin exits in the messiest way possible, leaving a trail of blood in his wake. He is ruthless, though there's also a hidden layer that we see when he comes across his step-brother.

At this point though, something from Graham's past (as seen in the first issue) catches up with him. I don't want to spoil exactly what, as it is a nice twist brought by a seemingly closed plot thread that reopens itself nicely, bringing yet another player into the mix. Shelby is captured and Graham is left for dead, but he escapes to rescue her from her captors. Of course this threatens the plan, but there's a sense that he's starting to care for her. The book ends in another cliffhanger, with only four days into the broadcast and Kevin being an unknown factor. Much like the first issue, Remender does not go deeply into the science of how the broadcast is going to exactly affect the brain to stop crime (something which I am grateful for, as it would only weigh down the book), but we start to see why this happened. There's one scene where the TV is on and there's hints as to a terrible event that made such an impact in the lives of the American citizens that something like this is seen as needed by some, while others obviously question the political motives of such a move.

Remender's plot is tight and moves fast and furious, with lots of players to keep track, each acting with it's own motivations. It may be a bit hard to keep pace at first, but I found myself enjoying the book a lot more on the second read, when I had a better understanding of what was going on in each page. There's many great lines and moments, not to mention action scenes and even some funny gags, all peppered with ultra violence that a crime book like this warrants. All around, it is a very complete book, though I wish we could get some more development in Shelby, who didn't do much in this issue besides acting sexy and being captured.

Tocchini once again delivers the art in this series, and as I mentioned in the first review, his art brings a sense of grit and dirtiness to the scenes. He can obviously dial it back, such as the parts of the comic that are set in Kevin's father's mansion. Tocchini has an incredibly sharp eye for dynamic angles, and it makes the pages a pleasure to read, effortlessly dragging your eye from one panel to the next one. I did find that the some facial features could have been more well defined, the main characters are very consistent, but some of the secondary ones made strange faces sometimes. While still good, I enjoyed his art more in the first issue.

Verdict - Buy It. Still really good, although I noticed a dip in the quality of the art. In hindsight, I probably should have given the first issue a Must Read, as it grabbed me more than this one. That being said, this issue is still a nice and complex tale of despicable people, backstabbing, sex, and crime building up to the big heist. I'm really looking forward to the final part; this issue kept me interested all the way through and has me eagerly expecting the conclusion.

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brandon said...

I read the first one and liked it. Not looking forward to the next issue not coming out until July (at least) though. ugh.

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