It was construed as the perfect heist: a trio of bandits stage a bank robbery in orchestrated fashion—perfect execution, clean swipe, fast getaway. But little did they know, they had stolen a stash of money belonging to a gang of notorious mobsters. Now the real action begins.

Reissued in a landscape format, Last of the Independents presents a neo-crime noir western thriller from the creative team of Matt Fraction and Kieron Dwyer. The book begins by establishing the setting as a small town “somewhere out west” and then launches into a bank robbery in progress. In storm the anti-heroes: calculating old-timer Cole engineers the master plan; cool, suave Justine handles the guns; eager Billy as the legman revs up the getaway car. Their plan runs smoothly down to the last detail as they siphon $8 million dollars, running off scot-free.

Or so it would seem. It turns out that the money traces back to kingpin Vincenzo Francone, who was using the bank as a drop point for his own exploitation, which then ignites a violent shoot-out between cowboys and mobsters.

A throwback to films like Charlie Varrick and similar action flicks of the 1970s, Fraction and Dwyer have created a taut thriller infused with action, intrigue, and suspense. Following the slick crime caper, Pascal Thorpe, an envoy for the Francone family in Las Vegas, musters his mafia of men in black to track down the trio with relentless fury. In between cuts, we catch insightful glimpses into the background of the major characters, including the budding romance between Cole and Justine. The innocent naiveté of Billy, who has an unspecified mental disability, adds a layer of complexity that keeps this trio grounded as more than just typical thieving gangsters. Sepia tone-colored pages create a vintage parchment feel that creates the ambience of a classic Western film. Climactic action drives the momentum of key scenes with dynamically-rendered wordless panels. Save for brief narrative captions with occasional dialogue amongst the characters, the plot unfolds like a silent film, with vivid character interactions and captivating action sequences. Tension escalates with each passing scene as the stakes are raised, propelling the story right up to its adroitly-executed and explosive conclusion.

With its retro style, Last of the Independents captures a small-town crime that metastasizes into a large scale disaster. The novelty landscape format creates a cinematic experience as thick bordered panels unite to advance the narrative action in a series of shots. While the characters could use more development, this graphic novel still offers a wildly entertaining ride for those who indulge in fast-paced crime thrillers loaded with rip-roaring chase scenes and shoot-outs, thereby adding a unique blend of genres to any library’s adult collection.

Last of the Independents  
By Matt Fraction
Art by Kieron Dwyer
Image, 2020
ISBN: 9781534315921
Publisher Age Rating: M

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

  • Jerry

    | He/Him Information Strategist, San Francisco Public Library


    By day, Jerry Dear, APALA member and Information Strategist at the San Francisco Public Library tackles research questions in the Periodicals department. He also teaches in the Library Information Technology department at City College of San Francisco. By night, he serves the Asian American community and ventures into the vibrant literary arts and graphic novel scene. In whatever time remains, he indulges in comics, anime, manga, and Asian American literature and film.

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