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The Last of the Greats #1 - Should You Really Take Candy From Aliens?

At one of its most basic levels, what
science fiction does is ask “Wouldn’t it be cool if…? questions. “Wouldn’t it be cool if there were humanoid robots?”
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we could travel to other planets?”

“Wouldn’t it be cool if an advanced
civilization came to earth to share their knowledge with us?” is
one of the most often asked questions, usually followed quickly by
“Wait, would we really want them to?”

The Last of the Greats, a recent Image
comic by writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Brent Peeples, attempts to
answer that question with a slight superhero twist. Considering what
happens in the first issue, I’m going to have to say the answer is a
firm no. Things don’t look that great for humanity.

The “Greats”of the title are some
type of advanced alien race who come to earth and grow majestic,
superhero bodies with apparent superpowers. They set straight to
ending war, curing cancer, the usual benevolent alien stuff, but they
also want centralized control over all of our weapons and won’t
really tell us why they’re here.

Of course humanity’s most common
reaction to our new alien overlords is hate and fear. It’s a classic
case of didn’t do the research on the aliens’ part. Over the course of 20 years the puny
humans manage to murder all but one of these supermen. The book
opens, for example, with an alternate Sept. 11, 2001 scenario in
which terrorists fly a plane into one of the Great’s stone skyscraper
“ark” homes instead of the World Trade Center. People cheer as
she dies.

I’ll be honest, the Sept. 11 connection
feels a little unnecessary. Its main purpose just seems to give the
book a controversial or sensational opening. I know it’s been ten
years, but that doesn’t seem like a button that should be pushed so
cheaply.

The rest of the book is about a few
humans confronting the “last” of the Greats at his fortress of
solitude in the center of Antarctica. Some are there to ask him for
his help with an alien invasion, some have other motives. It’s mostly
one big talking heads sequence, punctuated with some moments of hyper
violence and a few flashbacks to how the Greats came to Earth, in
which the last of the Greats stridently and arrogantly lectures these
humans for rejecting the gifts the Greats were there to bestow. But
even as the guilt trip gets its thickest it starts to become clear
that all is not as it seems, and maybe the humans weren’t so wrong to
mistrust the Greats after all.

This is the kind of book that reaches
for the amazing wide-screen visuals of, say, The Authority or The
Ultimates, but the artist is on a slightly lower level and it’s not
as jawdropping. It doesn’t help that, with a few notable exceptions
like an alien armada scene, a lot of what he is drawing is a bit
pedestrian. Again, this is mostly a book about people standing around
somewhere talking. But the art is competent and attractive
throughout.

The writing is a bit of a mixed bag. I
liked the big idea and the twists and turns in the story, but some of
the dialogue was a little stilted and shrill (maybe inevitable
for a comic-long guilt-trip) and there aren’t any characters I really
felt I could relate to. The two primary humans just seem to be there
to take up “against the Greats” and “sympathetic to the Greats”
arguments.

This isn’t a book I’d recommend for
everyone, but if you like asking those big science fiction questions
it would be worth your time to check out this book and see its
answer.

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