If you mix Heist with a dash of Sin City and American Psycho you might end up with a shallow version of Rick Remender (Punisher, Fear Agent) and Greg Tocchini’s miniseries The Last Days of American Crime from Radical Publishing. The plot is simple enough: a small-time con, Graham Bricke, sets up a bank robbery, where the stakes are a device capable of adding endless amount of funds to charge cards. Graham enlists the help of fellow con, Collins, but needs two others with special skills. Enter the hacker, Shelby, and her boyfriend safe-cracker, Kevin. Graham’s score is complicated by a significant socio-political event: in the wake of a massive terrorist attack on US soil, the government has created the American Peace Initiative. The A.P.I. is a radiowave broadcast meant to disrupt a person’s ability to volitionally conduct a crime. Graham’s job must be completed before the A.P.I. broadcast or the team would be unable to finish it. The series counted down the events leading up to and concluding the heist.
Remender’s closing salvo crackled with suspense. He masterfully wrapped up Graham’s associations with the Mexican mafia as well as expanded Graham, Shelby, and Kevin’s backstories. We learn that the ex-con, ex-user Graham is really a momma’s boy at heart. He hopes to use the money from the score to cure his mother of Alzheimer’s and to assuage his guilt over getting his brother, Rory, killed years before. Perhaps due to Tocchini’s art and the fact that Graham spent so much time bandaged up, aesthetically, Graham was reminiscent of Marv from Sin City. Older, introspective, a weak spot for women, red-necked but clever – Graham was heart and soul of the caper. After reading some of his work on Frankencastle over at Marvel, you can appreciate that Remender has a gift for writing character’s that are by nature good but are comfortable with thrusting themselves into violence to suit their needs.
The most interesting and engaging character of the bunch was Kevin. In Issue #1 there were glimpses that something seethed under the seemingly cool exterior of Kevin’s character. It became evident from the events of Issue #2 that Kevin was a sadistic and disturbing presence. But clarifying the earlier ADD diagnosis that didn’t quite fit his persona, Kevin is finally revealed to be a sociopath: much more cunning and dangerous than Graham ever anticipated. Imagine Patrick Bateman of American Psycho intruding on Graham’s plot and joining the fray just to see how much havoc he can wreck at the end of the day.
In contrast to his depiction of male characters, Remender does not have the touch for writing Shelby, the female protagonist. Initially, Shelby, as rendered by Tocchini, seemed young, gutsy, and a potentially hazardous femme fatale. But Shelby’s character began to shrink: fragile, untrusting, and sad, the quadruple-crosser became more clichéd with each episode. Ultimately, Shelby was nothing more than a junkie with daddy issues needing to be rescued. If you are appalled by how women are depicted in comics, Last Days does not provide counter-evidence in any way. If the series hopes to make a successful transition to the big screen – and why wouldn’t it? – they will have to inject a bit more substance and strength into Shelby’s character in order to balance the heavy dose of testosterone oozing from every page.
Much credit for that oozing testosterone must be given to Greg Tocchini who did not hold back at all in depicting a dilapidating Los Angeles and the mix of cultures and powers that clash under the pressures of a rapidly deteriorating nation. The pages reek of the smells of sweat and blood, the stress of the plan emblazed across Graham’s face, The Last Days often felt like the proverbial last days. Together, Tocchini and Remender used the winding clock to their advantage, pulling all their characters and subplots together into the crucial and successful climax at the heist.
Ultimately, a story like The Last Days of American Crime should have serious longevity. It is a successful collaboration with the right scope and the right entertainment value. Last Days will keep your blood-pumping and maybe drive you to work on that anti-mind-control device – after all, Government is crazy, and you never know when The Last Days will come!