Last of the Independents

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Kieron Dwyer
104 pages, sepia and white
Published by AiT/Planet Lar

The problem with hype is that it’s almost impossible to live up to. So unless you’ve been under a rock for the last couple of months, you’d know that AiT/Planet Lar was publishing a graphic novel called Last of the Independents by Matt Fraction and Kieron Dwyer. You’d also know that according to the hype, it’s supposed to be excellent. And it’s more than understandable if as a result of all of this you’re feeling more than a bit wary. Having now read Last of the Independents, I feel that I can say that when it comes to the hype… it was actually dead-on correct.

Cole, Justine, and Billy have decided to rob a bank. It’s a pretty good plan, but there’s one small problem. It seems that there’s also a pretty big amount of money at the bank that is of the less-than-legal variety, and the owners of said money want it back. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Cole, Justine, or Billy is going to just hand it back over. Organized crime shouldn’t be so assured that the last of the independents are going to just fold under pressure…

Last of the Independents are like those movies that used to get aired on Sunday afternoons all the time; western-themed action adventures with protagonists of dubious legality but hearts of gold. (Well, unless you’re on their bad side, of course.) Ultimately, it’s a fun romp using character archetypes that give you enough to latch onto in terms of familiarity. Last of the Independents has a strong emphasis on the action, and it really works. It’s almost like Fraction is putting all the elements in that he things are fun—horseback chase scenes, shootouts at the local store, a climactic battle at an amusement park—and making sure that he’s got a story that can fit them all in. There’s a fair display of wit in Fraction’s scripting as well; great one-liners fly fast and furious, but Fraction makes sure that the dialogue succeeds in believability as well as hilarity. It’s an important distinction that a lot of writers miss, but there isn’t even room to doubt with Last of the Independents.

Dwyer’s art in Last of the Independents is a perfect match for the script; macho yet not afraid to get emotional, with a high level of action in the foreground at all times. Using sepia-colored inks and printed landscape on parchment paper, Last of the Independents would already be pretty striking looking no matter who drew it, but Dwyer makes sure to keep it visually exciting. In a book where so much of the action is a reaction to a previous event, Dwyer does a really nice job with reaction shots of the characters. Emotions shine through on the page, and he’s able to make everyone look nicely distinctive from each other. And, of course, he’s good with the action, too. There aren’t many comics these days that have people on horses being chased by cars, with shotguns firing back and forth, but Dwyer makes it look like the easiest and most natural thing in the world to draw.

Last of the Independents is the perfect alternative to the Sunday matinee; just curl up on the couch with a drink and a copy of the book and send yourself to a slightly different era of good guy and bad guy. If Last of the Independents is old-fashioned because it’s willing to have a lead character that looks more like Donald Sutherland than Brad Pitt, I say bring it on. In the end, thoroughly fun.

1 comment to Last of the Independents

  • AC

    You write: “Last of the Independents are like those movies that used to get aired on Sunday afternoons all the time; western-themed action adventures with protagonists of dubious legality but hearts of gold. (Well, unless you’re on their bad side, of course.)”

    Actually it’s not like that, it is that. The movie to which you’re referring is called Charlie Varrick (1973), starring Walter Matthau. Charlie is a cropduster–the back of his overalls and his van read: “the last of the independents.” Charlie and company rob a bank that has a safe full of mob money, but Charlie’s got a heart of gold.

    Sound familiar?