BEAR ALLEY BOOKS

BEAR ALLEY BOOKS
Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The Last American

The Last American arrived in print almost two years after the end of the Ronald Reagan administration and the beginning of George Bush senior’s term in office. The second issue arrived on shelves around the same time American forces launched bombing raids in Iraq ahead of a ground invasion that began four weeks later. Operation Desert Storm was the most televised war the world had ever seen with live coverage of missile strikes and air raids launching from aircraft carriers. Americans were filled with nationalistic pride and the President’s approval ratings soared.

And in comic shops The Last American painted the bleakest possible picture of war and its consequences. In this case a Third World War which involved the use of nuclear weapons. A soldier named Ulysses S. Pilgrim is placed in suspended animation in the hope that he will survive the impending nuclear holocaust. Awakened twenty years later, he begins scouring New York looking for survivors only to find an unremittingly dark and desolate landscape of broken and twisted buildings, burned out cars and the bones of thousands upon thousands of victims.

Accompanied only by three robot companions, Pilgrim is the last man alive, brooding over the horror of it all. America has gone and his purpose—to restore order if chaos reigns or exact retribution should there be an enemy in control when he awakens—has gone with it. America is invoked through songs, from “New York, New York” juxtaposed against the desolation Pilgrim finds to George Washington rapping about democracy, but this really is twilight’s last gleaming and every hope he has that others have survived is dashed.

Mike McMahon’s blocky, geometric artwork is a perfect match for the twisted, rubble-strewn wastelands that Pilgrim and his mechanical pals inhabit.

The Last American was one of the last collaborations of the John Wagner / Alan Grant writing team, which was tearing itself apart by the tail end of the Reagan era. So, too, was America’s great enemy Russia. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and 1991 saw the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was over and national pride at its height, leaving The Last American in its dust and uncollected until Com.x published a trade paperback edition in 2004, shortly that company, too, imploded.

With Putin’s Russia reclaiming its place in world politics and Donald Trump as America’s 45th President, the Doomsday Clock ticks ever closer to midnight. Perhaps these inspired but particularly bleak outpourings on the futility of war are due to find an audience this time round.

The Last American. Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08544-8, 11 April 2017, 144 pages, £17.99 / $24. Available from Amazon.

No comments: