The Last of Us: American Dreams #1 (Dark Horse)

This must-read prequel to the upcoming video game from Naughty Dog Studio follows an orphan sent for quarantine at a military school in post-pandemic Boston.

 

 

25 pgs. full color; $3.99
(W: Neil Druckmann and Faith Erin Hicks, A: Faith Erin Hicks)
 
Taking place before the events of the game The Last of Us from Naughty Dog Studio, game creative director Neil Druckmann has teamed with rising comic artist Faith Erin Hicks (Zombies Calling, Friends with Boys) to present the story of Ellie, a thirteen-year-old orphan and survivor of a parasitic fungal outbreak that has wiped out most of the world’s population. A newcomer to the mandatory military boarding school, Ellie hates toeing the line. While her acerbic attitude quickly earns her enemies, it also gains her a friend—fellow student Riley. Equally curious and wily, Riley knows the way outside of Quarantine and is fascinated by a rebel group known as the Fireflies. Ellie and Riley decide to stick together, and to see what lies beyond the walls in their broken world.
 
This smart prequel to the most anticipated video game of 2013, American Dreams explores Ellie’s backstory and her first steps on the road that led her to her companion Joel. Being much more a comics person than a gamer, I had to look up the buzz behind this game. The graphics look gorgeous, but after reading this first-of-four comics miniseries, I think I like how Faith Erin Hicks portrays Ellie better. The screen shots I saw had Ellie look much more wide-eyed and scared, unlike Hicks’ scrappy and hard-tested character. Hicks’ portrayal is much more in tune with Ellie’s character description, which according to IGN and Naughty Dog was “heavily influenced by Mattie Ross from True Grit” and who is “capable, even aggressive” when with her companion in the game.
 
Faith Erin Hicks got her start as a webcomic artist doing Demonology 101, and transitioned from hobbyist to full-time artist five years ago. On her Tumblr account, she said that to emphasize Ellie’s lack of agency, she “made her physically smaller than everything around her, people, environment, cars, whatever, until she confronts Riley later in the comic.” Her style is scratchy and rounded, with great backgrounds and lighting. Hicks’ attention to detail is especially important in a book about a post-plague dystopia, and the cracks in the bricks and peeling paint in all the buildings emphasize that everything really has gone to Hell. Ellie may be safe inside the military barracks, but she lives no life of luxury, nor does anyone else.
 
In sum, even if you’re not interested in games, this comic looks promising all on its own. And who doesn’t love a good post-apocalyptic story with a scrappy tween at the center? I’m happy to stick along with the ride, and recommend you check it out as well. | Elizabeth Schweitzer

 

Click here for a preview of The Last of Us: American Dreams #1, courtesy of Dark Horse.

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