The smartest guy in The Outhouse, Eli Katz, takes a look at the conclusion to Radical's The Last Days of American Crime.
Credits & Solicit Info:
THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME #3 (3 of 3)
Creator and Writer RICK REMENDER
Artist GREG TOCCHINI
Letterer RUS WOOTON
Cover A: Alex Maleev
Cover B: Greg Tocchini
Page Count: 56
Format: Full Color
The heist of the century is finally here. With his team together, his scheme in place and the score set, Graham, at long last, is ready to pull off the last and greatest crime in the history of the United States. But even if the plan goes off without a single hitch, what can he do when the American Government decides to activate their anti-crime broadcast during the job. Will the last day of American crime end with Graham and his team as millionaires, or will they spend the rest of eternity wondering where they went wrong?
The stunning conclusion to the critically acclaimed miniseries written by Rick Remender (Punisher, Fear Agent) with art by Greg Tocchini.?
THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME #3 provides a remarkably intelligent conclusion to this obscene, sadistic, and often flawed miniseries. The issue begins with a nasty, close-range gunfight where various body parts fly through the air, and then moves quickly to the climactic bank robbery where a series of betrayals adds to the book's already high body count. But LAST DAYS manages to transcend, or at least offset, the gratuitous violence by doing one thing right: it tells a heist story where the heist is actually clever.
In issues 1 and 2, writer Rick Remender sets up a vivid, near-future dystopia in which the United States resembles the worst neighborhoods in GRAND THEFT AUTO. Murder is rampant. People screw in broad daylight on the front steps of their homes. And gangs have chased away the police and taken control of the streets. In response to this lawlessness, the federal government has developed a broadcast signal, known as the American Peace Initiative, that will make it physically impossible for people to commit crimes. With only a few weeks before the Peace Initiative begins, a small group of hoods decides to pull off one last bank robbery and flee the United States.
The hoods are all deeply flawed and, for the most part, unsympathetic characters. Graham, who narrates the story, is an aging ex-con who works security at the bank that the gang plans to hit. Shelby is a coked-up femme fatale who doubles as a snitch for the FBI. And Kevin is a psychopathic rich kid, who enjoys the adrenaline rush from stealing money that he doesn't need. In issues 1 and 2, each of these characters schemes against the others, knowing that no one is trustworthy and that backstabs are inevitable. Much of the fun in issue 3 is that we finally see the daggers come out and these three characters double- and triple-crossing each other until only one is left standing. Indeed, the last half of the book has more twists and turns than an old mountain road.
But the best part of LAST DAYS #3, as I've already said, is the heist itself. The three hoods orchestrate a plan that is not only intelligent and cagey, but is also plausible. To avoid spoiling any of the surprises, all I'll say is that the heist works on the premise that most sleights of hand depend on: diversion. The hoods conduct a series of perfectly timed tricks that distract bank security long enough so that they can gain access to the main vault and escape with the loot. None of these diversions is too complex or too difficult to pull off and, as a result, the plan is brilliant in its simplicity. Remender has devised a heist that David Mamet would approve of.
As good as the heist is, however, there are a few problems with the writing in this book. One problem is that it makes no sense for a major bank, with a nearly gymnasium-sized vault, to hire an ex-con as a security guard. We learn in issue 3 that Graham, the so-called inside man, served eight years in prison for drug possession. It's unlikely that any bank, but especially a major one, would hire this guy to guard its front doors.
An even bigger problem with the writing is the dialogue. The script is meant to be darkly funny, but all too often the lines come across as stilted and overly crass. "You're tugging the hair off my sack here." "Smells like an alcoholic's asshole." "Some Irish cocksucker saint lookin' down on you." There's no point in identifying who says what here, because all the characters -- the cops, the crooks, the bystanders -- use the same nasty slang. The filthiness of the language is so relentless and over the top that it draws too much attention to itself and ultimately disrupts the flow of the story. Remender has developed a Mamet-esque crime caper, bur he has failed to write conversations with Mamet-esque wit.
While the writing is inconsistent, the art by Greg Tocchini is incredible. Every panel flows with energy and sparkles with detail. He makes a mundane scene in a trailer home look weird and cool by using an unusual perspective point to suck the reader's eyes into the picture. He draws the many weapons in this book with incredible precision to make the violence all too real. He places Shelby in coy, catlike positions so that she seduces not only her partners in crime but the reader as well. He makes the crumbling United States look bleak and yet still relatively prosperous -- a society that is in decline but still worth saving. In short, Tocchini distinguishes himself here as one of the best artists working in comics today.
THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME #3, as well as the miniseries as a whole, will appeal to crime comics enthusiasts and anyone looking for a gorgeously illustrated story. But because of its many shortcomings, this book is by no means a must-read.
Review by: Eli Katz
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