The Comic You Should Be Reading This Week: ‘The Last of Us: American Dreams’ #1

The Last of Us is coming in June, and many of us can’t wait. Fortunately, to whet our appetites, Dark Horse has teamed up with Naughty Dog to explore the past of Ellie. And it’s a great book that stands on its own.

Written by Neil Druckmann, one of the key writers on the first two Uncharted games and a key designer at Naughty Dog, the book opens with a wordless sequence as Ellie is brought, via armored bus, to military school.

Ellie is an orphan, adrift in a world that’s much harder and meaner than even what she was expecting, and she’s trying to harden with it. Druckmann communicates how hard and violent this world is not by telling us but with demonstration. By the time we hit the sixth page, Ellie’s seen a man shot dead in the street, been rejected by a father figure, and gets beaten up for a Walkman.

Faith Erin Hicks handles the book with aplomb. She has a careful, cinematic focus on the book that communicates the plot simply and directly: Her art frees Druckmann from having to explain everything through dialogue, while giving the book a dark atmosphere without going over the top:

Hicks’ use of layout is just as clever: Often Ellie is confined or blocked off within the frame. Christina Strain’s coloring also stands out for a dark, subdued palette that avoids being murky or bland.

Even if you’ve got no interest whatsoever in the game, this is a comic well worth picking up. It’s a story told simply and with skill, making Ellie and her friends all the more engaging, and simply good comics, period.