From the mid-eighties up through the early-nineties, the comic industry was flourishing with writers and artist creating sharp, satirical, and anarchistic works. Rising comic publishers and imprints such as Vertigo and Dark Horse Comics hosted numerous famous trailblazing comics. However, if there was one comic run that was grossly overlooked, it’s The Last American (published under Marvel’s overlooked Epic imprint).
In true Empire fashion, The Last American deals with a post-apocalyptic America that’s been completely eradicated (minus one person) by a nuclear war. However, this isn’t the nuke-olyptic story that you might expect. There aren’t any zombies, mutants, or war-lording tribes. In fact, there isn’t anyone except for one man and a few scene-stealing robots. It might sound like a comic book devoid of characters or action would make for a boring story. But it doesn’t. If anything, it makes it more interesting and connects us to a human feeling of loneliness, and a desire to find and connect with others. And while it does take itself seriously (in a good way), it also has fun with the plot and can be quite humorous.
The humor might be the story’s greatest strength. Wagner and Grant know how to make a good satire while keeping a human and touching quality to it. Not only that, but they’re also intent on mixing things up and preventing it from having a monotonous moment. One great example is the humorous song and dance scenes.
If the story doesn’t remind you of the late 80s/early 90s, then the artwork definitely will. Mike McMahon has one of those art styles that doesn’t try for any realism. You might like his block art style and you might dislike it, but there’s no denying that he has plenty of talent behind his modern style. The Last American is definitely of its time, but the style has aged into charm. Not to mention that the colors are both outer worldly and in good taste, as none of the colors bleed into each other or get confusing.
Com.X does a fine job collecting the four issue graphic novel and doesn’t botch anything up. If I do have one major complaint, it’s the forewords, which often feel like hobo ramblings (except for Garth Ennis’s usual quality introduction) rather than anything insightful or witty.
The Last American is a fine example of a post-apocalyptic story, and is now one of my favorite comic book stories from one of my favorite comic book writers (Alan Grant). If you like Judge Dredd, The Dark Knight Returns, Dark Horse Presents, or American Flagg!, then you should definitely consider putting this on your shelf.