Hey guys, quick SPOILER warning here. This is an in-depth look at the first issue of the four-part Last of Us comic American Dreams and I go into detail on some of the comic's content. I do this in the hopes that it'll paint a picture in your head and you'll be driven to find how the comic itself compares.
The first issue of The Last of Us' comic American Dreams by Dark Horse is now on shelves and I know what some of you are thinking. "The Last of Us has a comic?" Yes, yes it does. American Dreams is a four issue series introducing us to the post-pandemic world featured in the game and one of the protagonists of The Last of Us, Ellie. Drawn and written by the alarmingly talented Faith Erin Hicks and coscripted by Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckman.
Now to explain the title of this impressions piece. It was rumored when The Last of Us was first announced that Ellen Page would be doing the voice acting and motion capture for Ellie. Ultimately that proved untrue, as Ben 10's Gwenny Tennyson, err... voice actor Ashley Johnson is taking on the role. Still, the stigma of Ellie not quit fitting in the setting has remained -- as if she was a device being used to make the player feel comfortable and grounded in an otherwise unfamiliar world.
Luckily, the first issue of American Dreams goes a long way to fix that, and it all starts with Faith's style. As we join Ellie, she's younger than the girl shown the The Last of Us' trailers, but more than that she's drawn in a way that create's disconnect between the character here and the character in. It's this small dissonance that allowed me to see the character in a new light. For me, American Dreams was a new beginning with The Last of Us -- and it may make all the difference.
From there it was on like Donkey Kong. Ellie's bus ride to her new military boarding school, which I had trouble discerning was just what school was anymore or a special school for trouble children in a post-pandemic world. Err, I digress, Ellie's bus ride was my favorite part of the book. This ordinary, every day event of taking the bus to school so quickly becomes horrifying. The look on her face as a man is "scanned" and found, we assume, to be infected is poignant. She's riding the bus to school and is forced to deal with the reality of the infection that has town apart the world. She steps off the bus, she says goodbye and turns her back to the one person in the world she seems to know and she walks into a new life. Well damn, I guess I'm hooked.
The rest of the issue seems to go out of its way to establish an array of subject material likely to be found in the game. Ellie is strong willed and can take care of herself, reinforcing the idea that she'll be a reliable companion who the protagonist of The Last of Us won't have to watch out for. There's the militia that runs the city, the infected outside the city's walls, and a third party -- The Fireflies -- which are a glorified group of rebels. Well, at least glorified by the children at Ellie's school. This backstory fill-in can at times feel forced, but a necessary evil, I suppose.
Then there's the establishment of the brutality of the world. Teased on those first pages with the soldiers scanning a passerby for the infection, it really hits home when Ellie has to wash a jeep as punishment for fighting. That single panel yet again strikes resoundingly with the setting. A jeep covered in blood, grafitti on the walls practically shouting an assortment of mixed emotions at allie -- curse words, cries for help, gibberish, "The End is Very F***** Nigh" -- and then Ellie standing there with a wash cloth. Small, strong, yet so clearly broken. Her cleaning of the jeep is almost violent.
Just as it feels like we're discovering a state of normalcy in American Dreams, Ellie escapes it and the issue ends. It's not even the first time in the issue, and I have a feeling it won't be the last. Is there even such a things as normalcy anymore? So this is who Ellie is, huh? She's nothing like Ellen Page after all.
The Last of Us: American Dreams #1 is currently on shelves or available online for $3.99. Issue #2 will be released May 29 for the same price.
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