In a world where terror stalks the steps of church and the only assurance in life that the only good Krovinite is a dead Krovinite, Tom Waltz, Casey Maloney, and Dusty Yee take us onto the front lines to experience first hand that war really is whatever the Merkonian equivalent of Hell is in this first issue of Last Fall. Following the time tested tradition of “us vs. them” mentality, a group of Merkonian soldiers (from the planet Merkonia) are fighting a losing battle against the enemy Krovinites (the home team on planet Krovin). The Merkonians are there because Krovin is rich in a natural fuel source. While the Krovinites were once a primitive and backwards species, they've since upgraded and have started giving the Merks a run for their money. The rest of the story is about as subtle as the introduction.
Dropping straight into the middle of a fire fight, the Merks appear to be losing, we're introduced to Marcus Fall. Fall has had just about enough of this bullshit and proceeds to single handedly dispatch each and every one of the attacking Krovinites (while defying orders to retreat). He's reamed out by his commanding officer and lauded by the people who are really in charge. But he also doesn't really care about either. He's a man who has had his whole life taken away in one way or another by this war. And while his frustration and confusion take the form of intense interplanetary racism, he's really just a sad man who's lost his direction.
Subtlety is not writer Tom Waltz's strong suit. From the background of the war (future colonialism!) to the way that it's fought (future terrorism!) it all feels very obvious and topical. But then, this story doesn't claim any higher agenda. It's a contemporary war story set in a galaxy far, far away. The similarities to real life probably make the characters more relatable if anything. That's not to say Fall is someone anyone should want to emulate. He's not even sure of who he is himself, but it's not hard to assume there's a guy overseas right now with similar feelings towards the people he's told are a threat to himself and his way of life. Now I've never been to war, but I've watched Full Metal Jacket a couple of times and Waltz hits all the marks on the different characters in the platoon. There's the always shouting commander, Sintar who wants his little bit of authority to be respected. Theres the green and hopeful Lockwood who misses his girl back home. And then there's the emissary for the church (the leading force behind the force) Roland who's kind of a dick but really seems to believe what he's saying (and being told). The interactions between all of these characters feels believable and though they definitely fit into little archetypes, they play their roles nicely. He even makes Fall simultaneously likable and kind of reprehensible. He's damaged. He wasn't always the way he was, and it'll be interesting to see if he can fix himself.
Casey Maloney does a stellar job on the art side of things. The scenes of Fall going crazy on the Krovinites are really well done. The action just blasts you in the face. There are two panels in particular that stand out. The first is actually two panels itself, but the lack of a gutter makes it flow seamlessly. Fall is runs up and then stabs a dude in the throat. It's kind of grim (though I guess this is war) but it's also kind of awesomely rendered. The second really well done panel of action is when Fall jumps from the turret. Maloney's use of the faded out character to portray movement isn't new, but he does make it feel fresh. The rest of his action is great, but the expressions of the characters (especially the ones that involves eyes) are where he hits the hardest. Sintar looks like his eyes are about to pop of his head when he yells at Fall for disobeying orders. And Roland's eye rolls feel anything but static. Fall's own ocular movements are indicative of his inner turmoil. He mad dogs at Sintar when he's being yelled at and his skepticism with Roland takes the form of a squinting and raised eyebrows. Then, after his dream/memory, he wakes up redefining the term wide-eyed. Though he tries to hide them, his emotions force their way out through his eyes. Dusty Yee's colors compliment the art well. There are a lot of colors going on, especially during the fighting, but they're not overbearingly different. Theres a nice seamlessness in his work. But his Krovin night sky blows the rest of it out of the water. It's easy to see how Fall could fall in love with it. Especially on the last page.
The story of Marcus Fall and his descent into the man he's become is certainly interesting. He's lost his life to war he was forced to fight and now he copes by slaughtering an indigenous people because he feels they're partly to blame. Knowing why he feels this way opens the door for Waltz to explore a little more of what this means in the grand scheme of Fall and how his life will either change for the better or the worst. With great art by Yee and Maloney, it'll certainly be a good looking trip. This issue sets the ground work, and it sets itself up for some pretty promising things. Sure it's a little heavy handed at times with it's themes. But that also means it has the potential to do some pretty interesting things. Hopefully the next four issues deliverer. If you love rhetoric and have ever asked yourself what the War on Terror would be like on an interplanetary scale, then pick this book up.
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