Following the death of millions in terrorist attacks across the nation, the US government is readying the American Peace Initiative, a broadcast signal that interrupts the brain's synapses and makes it impossible for anyone to perform an illegal act. Graham Bricke has 14 days before the API goes live, 14 days to pull of the last perfect crime.
The Last Days of American Crime by Rick Remender is a near-future, hardboiled crime book, perfectly peopled with the staples of crime fiction. Bricke is an aging con man, an ex-drug addict looking to pull off the perfect score one last time. He's an old-school thief, aided by Shelby, a tattooed seductress, and her fiancé, Kevin Cash. Both are young, technologically savvy thieves, and each has their own share of problems that could undo Bricke's careful planning.
In addition to unveiling the API, the government is converting its currency system from cash to credit. Graham works as a security guard at one of the banks responsible for taking in paper money and converting it into electronic currency via a machine that charges cash cards with funds. Graham wants to steal one of these machines, which, if hacked correctly, could create an unlimited source of wealth. The only problem is, Graham offended a Mexican gang member by setting him on fire, and now the entire gang wants him dead.
Remender's script hits all the right notes. He brings the reader deep inside this den of thieves and killers as they plot America's very last bank heist. It's a dark, brutal affair rife with sex and violence. Major American cities are in revolt, consumed by riots. Mexico and Canada have begun using lethal force to defend their borders from the mass exodus of US citizens seeking asylum. The political undercurrent strikes a timely chord given the safety-versus-privacy concerns post-9/11, particularly amidst the recent controversy surrounding the TSA body scanners and pat-down regulations. While never an overt subject in the book, these political themes beautifully inform the story and its characters, giving them a powerful motivation to find some measure of security in the death throes of democracy.
Greg Tocchini's art is a gritty affair. Stylistic and painterly, it has a very cinematic feel to it. It's rapid fire, punchy, and not a panel feels wasted. There is a very strong sense of motion in the book's illustrations, which push the reader along as the hours tick down toward America's last crime. This job—this perfect, final score—is the last hope Bricke and his accomplices have. It's a strong tonal foundation for the book, and Tocchini's coloring matches it well. His colors are nicely subdued given the book's tone, as if America, in its darkest hours, has desaturated the world with its grimness.
The Last Days of American Crime is a terrific genre-blending work, punching up the traditional crime book with a very plausible take on tomorrow's technology. With Graham and Shelby, Rick Remender has created a very likeable set of antiheroes to root for, each bringing their own share of damaged goods to a nicely constructed plot filled with double-crosses and sleight-of-hand. It's a well-written, beautifully illustrated heist novel that's as cool as Ocean's Eleven or Elmore Leonard's finest works, if not darker, bloodier, and more brutal than either.
Reviewed by Michael Hicks on April 12, 2011
The Last Days of American Crime