Dystopias, dystopias everywhere. We've got so many dystopias in comics right now we have to find new kinds of dystopias to tell stories about. While sudden cataclysmic infertility in sci-fi isn't completely new ('Children of Men' being the obvious example), BOOM!'s 'Last Sons of America' gives it a unique focus. When American women find themselves incapable of having children, a new, lucrative, and dehumanizing industry develops; the mass, often compulsory, adoption of children from impoverished international communities by America's wealthy. The story aims at two adoption professionals in a Central American country, working fruitlessly to make a living in this dangerous industry. The book, first of four, is mostly set up of the two men, brothers, and the world they inhabit. As sci-fi goes, it's played very plausible, with very little outside of the premise to establish it in the genre. The real world themes are dense as well, effectively illustrating a fantasy example of the exploitation of the world's poor by America's wealthiest, reflecting on the very real world examples harshly. Our protagonists, while not cartoonishly cynical, are unapologetic about the way they make their living, performing their ugly duty with only the barest of reluctance.
The book is well paced, the dialogue solid and believable, and everything fits together with a professional confidence. After review after review of ugly work-for-hire licensed books, it's nice to read something crafted by sure hands, that looks and sounds like it should. The art is solid, moody with heavy black inks. Color is good too, strong and simple.
However, despite this mild praise, the book didn't move me. It's weird to have it feel so undefined, but nothing about the book besides it reading smoothly gave me much to grab on to. Part of it feels like the premise, heavy with analogous criticism of American treatment of the world's poor as an expendable resource, feels more like a high concept set up for a straightforward thriller premise than having very much to say with it. The characters, while mildly interesting, are mostly defined by their relationship to their business, resulting in action that feels detailed but unengaged. I could give the second issue a chance. Hell, four issues is short enough that it wouldn't be a significant waste to read the whole run just to be sure, but as strong as all the parts were, they just never formed a compelling whole for me. Pleasant to read, but not much in terms of deep hooks to pull me along.
Maybe it really boils down to getting fatigued by dystopia. If any of you are followers of this site's podcast, you'll know that more than a little eye-rolling has accompanied the announcement of book after book set in high-concept bleak tomorrows. While 'Last Sons' is respectably subtle about its take, the book fits in a weird category where the dystopian element both is necessary to the plot, yet still feels like window dressing. I don't dislike the book; I just don't get much out of it.
Apologies for the vagueness, and read the book for yourself if I sound unsure of my opinion. Nothing about this book is bad and supporting the professional effort is worthwhile. Make up your own mind, but for me the only real compelling reason I feel to personally read the second issue is to more firmly make up my mind about this book, one way or the other.
Last Sons of America #1 Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson Artist: Matthew Dow Smith Colorist: Doug Garbark Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11/11/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital