The 1980’s were a Golden Age for comics. Watchmen, Dark Knight, and Maus are considered not just masterworks of the medium but classic works of literature in themselves, that stand on par with any novel. But in all the rightful praise those three works, and creators like Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Frank Miller and Art Spiegelman, got, some works fell through the cracks in what was an extraordinary decade, in terms of creativity, in comics. One of those works was The Last American, originally published by Marvel’s Epic imprint in 1990 and now reprinted by Rebellion.
Birthed out of the nuclear fear of the 1980’s, The Last American tells the story of Captain Ulysses S. Pilgrim, awakened by a group of robots (who become his companions) 20 years after a devastating nuclear war which has left the USA in ruins. Nobody knows who started it, or even if any side ‘won.’ However Pilgrim can console himself as the first man to survive prolonged suspended animation. It may well be, though, that he’s the last man on Earth.
The Last American is an alternative to Judge Dredd, where a nuclear war left a viable population. Dredd was created at a time when a nuclear war was considered to be destructive beyond belief, but with high chances of survival. The Last American was written at the fag-end of The Cold War, when science had shown that nuclear war was, at best, civilization ending, and, at worst, the end of all human life on the planet. In an era where we woke up every day with the fear that either America or the Soviets would launch thermonuclear death at us, this is a comic that lives off that fear. Wagner and Grant tell this story of the last American getting to grips with the present he’s awoken in and it isn’t fantastic, like Dredd, but grim and terrible. This is a world of silence and bones. Rather than Mega Cities, though, there’s more to this post-apocalyptic world than it seems.
I said this was a work which deserves to stand with the best of a remarkable age where genre defining comics were produced almost monthly, and I stand by it. From Wagner and Grant’s sharp, satirical and bleak script, to McMahon’s superb art, this is a wonderful piece of comics that, in an age where the world is entering deep uncertainty, has ended up becoming as relevant as it was when first published.
Available to purchase HERE.