Teenage wasteland: The Last of Us: American Dreams comic review

By BRIAN KESCHINGER
On January 30, 2014

Title: The Last of Us: American Dreams

Writer: Neil Druckmann & Faith Erin Hicks

Artist: Faith Erin Hicks

Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Grade: B+     

It's many writers' dream: creating a deep universe with a rich cast of characters acting out a storyline that translates well across the entirely different mediums of comics and video games.

The Last of Us: American Dreams, a four-issue comic mini-series co-written by Faith Erin Hicks and Neil Druckmann, creative director of The Last of Us (Playstation 3), is one of those rare stories that transcend a single medium.

The story of The Last of Us: American Dreams serves as a prequel to the video game's narrative and acts as an excellent supplemental storyline. The comic follows Ellie, a 14-year-old who has just been reassigned to a new school after causing mischief at her former institution.

Ellie is the same gritty yet loveable character that I've come to adore through playing the video game. Her comments are snarky and she loves to break the rules, but her emotional vulnerability belies her rebellious nature. 

The miniseries delves into the origin of Ellie's friendship with Riley, a lively, explosive 16-year-old who feels caged at the school and feels the need to find something more for her life. The story follows the duo's first interactions with the Fireflies, an anti-government militia group, and their leader, Marlene. After Ellie catches Riley sneaking out of the school one night to enter the city, the story really takes off.

Because artist Hicks co-writes the comic, her panels echo the emotion and events portrayed throughout the story. Ellie is impressionable and looks to Riley for guidance. Hicks makes this evident through Ellie's facial expressions throughout the comic - you feel her reaching for Riley's advice.

Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg uses lots of blues, grays and browns across the panels, but accents the series with bright, neon orange that pops off the page during action scenes. The color palette along with Hicks' detailed environments and accurate representation of character expressions makes this series very appealing to the eye.

As a standalone work of fiction, the miniseries struggles to separate itself from the original video game, offering minimal new material. Even though the comic is a prequel to the video game, it's difficult to fully appreciate this story without completing the video game first because the comic provides a backstory and context to subtle details of the game.

The Last of Us: American Dreams is fan service in the purest form, but it is fantastic.

Experiencing the comic's plot serves as a stimulating background for those who yearn for more after completing the game - making this miniseries the perfect bridge between the original game and the new downloadable content (DLC) launching Feb. 15.

The Last of Us: Left Behind, the first and last DLC for the winner of six game-of-the-year awards, will take place after American Dreams, but before the original single-player campaign. Left Behind will be a life-altering adventure for Ellie and Riley and will delve further into their relationship.

Though the mini-series leaves much to be desired if you're unfamiliar with the original storyline, The Last of Us: American Dreams is a great story of adolescent rebellion that breaks the mold of poor video game tie-ins.

 

email: arts@ubspectrum.com


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