I’ve been a fan of writer/artist Faith Erin Hicks since her OGN Zombies Calling. If I recall correctly, I picked it up on a whim my first time at San Diego Comic-Con a few years ago, and fell in love with her storytelling ability. She somehow manages to make every character relatable and sympathetic, and there’s great depth in her cartooning style. I’ve pretty much read everything she’s done since my first exposure to her, and when I saw her name in relation to a dark, horror video game title, I was rather surprised. It’s not her normal playground, but I’m glad I gave The Last Of Us: American Dreams a chance.
This 106 page full colour TPB collects the recent four issue mini-series based on the game of the same name that was released not that long ago. Dark Horse have a good history when it comes to video games, and although the medium rarely translates well to the silver screen, there have been some great comics based on video games in the last few years, such as Udon’s always good value Street Fighter series, plus the Horse’s own efforts which include franchises such as Mass Effect, and Dragon Age. The publisher have also released some rather pretty art books which are must haves for lovers of concept art and world building, on such games as Bioshock Infinite, Remember Me as well as The Last Of Us.
American Dreams expands that world further. Written by Hicks and the creative director of the game, Neil Druckmann, with art by Hicks, this is set before the events of the game. The writing pair set the world up elegantly. In the first dozen pages, we know who these characters are, and what world they’re living in. Essentially, the city is barricaded by a giant wall against hordes of diseased citizens called, “infected.” There’s also a rebellious faction calling themselves The Fireflies who are against the new police state, despite the good intentions of its militaristic leaders.
After some initial friction, and lots of swearing, Ellie, the angry new girl, and Riley the more experienced and sarcastic girl team up to escape their new “home.” Riley is about to turn 16 and like all those before her at that age, will be forced to become a soldier for the good of the surviving community. She doesn’t want that life so she escapes the compound with Ellie and introduces her to the older Winston, who lives in a tent in a very rundown shopping centre.
Hicks’ art conveys the emotion of each scene splendidly and isn’t afraid to use silence when necessary. The city that the mischievous pair traverse is deserted thanks to the infected, which are kind of like fast zombies, although there’s not highly detailed exposition within the story itself. On the back cover, however, is a nice setup (19 years ago a fungal outbreak killed most of the world’s population).
Being largely unfamiliar with the game, this tale stands on its own, and by focusing on two teen protagonists, and their interaction with each other, the scary world, the infected, and the hardcore Fireflies, Hicks and Druckmann have crafted a believable world in which people question their values and determination. Fans of The Walking Dead will surely be fond of American Dreams, and Hicks’ artwork is, as always, a pleasure to behold, and the few extra pages of her sketches is a pleasant bonus. At first glance it may seem that her style may not suit the gritty and intense story being told within these pretty pages, but there’s great raw emotion and dynamism at work here. When characters shout, or get frustrated or scared, Hicks superbly renders all those feelings.
The Last Of Us: American Dreams is available from October 30, and you can see a preview here.