The cover to the first ish of Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini’s The Last Days of American Crime (Radical Comics) lays it out: dangerous dame lying provocatively on her back, gun in hand, an ashtray full of Camel cigarette butts at the bottom of the picture. This is noir crime territory: a hard-nosed criminal protagonist, a girl that nobody should trust, a caper that inevitably will go horribly wrong. We know the last because the first of this three-ish mini-series opens with a shot of our anti-hero Graham Bricke lying bleeding on the pavement with a gun at his head. How he got there, of course, is the core of the story.
Graham, who we first see in action setting up a Mexican gangster’s imminent incineration, has timed his big job to go along with a Big Brotherly nationwide initiative designed to slam “domestic terrorism.” Though scripter Remender keeps the specifics of this not-too-distant-future government act vague in the first issue, one important plot point is certain: it includes the abolition of paper money, which ruins the type of old-fashioned heist that was Bricke’s specialty. He recruits two young “geek kids” to help him, one of whom turns out to be the shapely lady from our cover, natch, all the while trying to duck out on the Mexican’s gangster’s henchmen.
Remender is suitably ruthless in establishing his story and main characters: hard-drinking Bricke is a professional in his field, though he’s not without a sadistic streak. Trouble girl Shelby is inevitably playing more than one side, while her sarcastic boyfriend is the kind of overly self-assured idiot that you know won’t make it out alive by the end of the story. Artist Tocchini has a good handle on the story’s smoky smoke-filled milieu – he does a gritty club bathroom sex scene that’s aptly seamy and a bloody shoot-out sequence outside a desert trailer park that would’ve rated the drive-in version of this tale an “R” if the early shots of Shelby’s naked breasts and Remender’s believably foul-mouthed dialog hadn’t already done the deed. Nicely nasty adult comic book pulp, in other words, for those who find Ed Brubaker’s Criminal a smidge too genteel.