Originally published in 1990 by Marvel Comics’ Epic imprint, this post-apocalyptic series by John Wagner, Alan Grant and Mick McMahon last saw print in 2004 thanks to Com.X.
But now 2000 AD publishers and long-time Wagner/Grant/McMahon royalties payers, Rebellion, are bringing a new edition next April out, just as its story about America after a nuclear war becomes more relevant than ever.
Written as the Reagan administration came to a close, The Last American looks both backwards and forwards at the USA and the vein of hawkish self-destruction that lurks in the American psyche, as well as the moribund culture that aids and abets corrupt and venal politicians.
Twenty years after a global nuclear conflict, Captain Ulysses S Pilgrim emerges from suspended animation to see what remains, joined by three robot companions who accompany him on his journey to discover if he is, in fact, the last American alive. It is unclear why the war occurred or even who started it, but soon the isolation begins to take hold of Pilgrim’s mind as he realises, Planet of the Apes-style, that they did, indeed, destroy it all.
It’s bleak as all hell – a fitting tribute for the end of the Cold War, but McMahon’s artwork is worth the entry price alone.
It’s also interesting because these three were like a late 1980s British super-group that was set to take America by storm, but this – their first great creator-owned project – split up one of the most successful writing partnerships in comics history.
After years writing Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog together, The Last American was what finally brought the ‘TB Grover’ writing partnership of Wagner and Grant to an end, if not to actual blows. Grant went off to work in America on Batman, Wagner went off Dredd and onto a crime spree with titles such as A History of Violence and Button Man.
Meanwhile, their efforts to make British comics more creator-friendly, with post-Deadline comics like Toxic, didn’t exactly come to pass. And 2000AD just remained… there.
Rebellion’s already scooped up all the rights to Ian Edginton and Matt Brooker’s Scarlet Traces, which they’re also reprinting the first volume of next year. However this is just a reprint of The Last American and the creators still retain ownership and control.
Interesting moves by 2000 AD’s owners though, especially after they recently bought the massive archive of post-1970 titles and characters from IPC/Egmont…