Sean Maher's Quality Control

Friday, August 05, 2005

Last of the Independents: Oh lord, stuck in LOTI again!

Thanks to an unusual turn of events this week, I was able to pick up some trades I'd been meaning to move from my "To Buy Someday" list to my bookshelf. One of these was the original graphic novel by Matt Fraction and Kieron Dwyer, Last of the Independents.

What a blast! It's a familiar bank-heist-turned-wrong story, but Fraction writes some great characters and smartly gets the hell out of the way in a number of compelling pantomime scenes that Dwyer knocks out of the park. There's also a bit of a Western twist that really works, lending a bit of a legendary feel to the story.

My favorite character is Billy, the big strong guy on the team with a mind like a child. Fraction's dialogue for Billy is funny and affecionate without ever overdoing the gag, and Dwyer's designs for him are likewise just enough to make the point, leaving both creators a lot of room to fill in an actual personality. In a "widescreen" comic like this, I wouldn't usually expect a lot of subtlety, so this is a nice surprise.

Really, touches like that are all over the book. The pantomime scenes I mentioned range from hectic chases and shootouts to a quiet two-page spread of our Hero and his Girl in bed that fills in a lot of touching information about their relationship without a word. Elsewhere, Fraction inserts short one-liner captions across Dwyer's layouts that cleverly underscore (or presage) points from other scenes. "Cole and Justine in love," for example, says all it needs to while highlighting a wild spirit the two characters share. My favorite of these captions comes in the final battle, when a dead character "says goodbye." It's got a bit of action-movie-cool, a bit of emotional resonance, and a bit of humor all at the same time. One panel, one line. Slick work.

Basically, this is a great heist yarn with strong characters, clever dialogue, lightning plotting and some of my favorite Dwyer artwork. I was looking forward to Matt Fraction's upcoming 5 Fists of Science already, but now I'm really hungry for it.

All the images above are from Dwyer's layouts - the actual printed book is a darker, more brownish-redish shade and has some more white detailing. More of those pages are at the Newsarama interview with Fraction here, and you can download a PDF preview from the AiT/Planet Lar website here.

Oh, and the trial shift I mentioned I got at that restaurant? Turned out it was training. My shift is tonight. Feeling good, baby.


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