The Last of the Innocent by Ed Brubaker (with the artwork of Sean Phillips) may be my favorite story yet of their highly praised and remarkable Criminal series. This is the dark and seedy noire style graphic novel of a man from the poor side of the streets who gets everything he ever wanted only to find out he never really wanted it at all. Brubaker and Phillips interludes, in flashbacks, or homage, to the early Archie comics is warped and fun.
The question is this. What if Archie chose Veronica over Betty and marries her, only to find out what the rest of us always knew? Veronica is a scheming two faced bitch and he would have been happier with Betty all along. So what is a small town boy to do?
Riley Richards is the popular young man in school. With his best friend (and always high and able to eat anything buddy) Freakout and tomboy pretty girl neighbor Liz, life for Riley is good in Brookview. Then very rich and very beautiful Felicity comes to town and everything changes. Riley falls hard for Felicity and it isn’t long before he is doing everything she wants. But what Felicity wants is to piss off her overbearing and over controlling father so she convinces Riley to marry her. One pre-nup later, they move away from Brookview and Riley takes a post in the family business. It isn’t long before he realizes what a mistake his life has become. When Riley’s father falls ill he returns to Brookview and finds that things have not really changed all that much. Freakout is still addicted to whatever he can get his hands on and Liz is still the very pretty girl next door. When he also realizes that Felicity is cheating on him and trying to get rid of him, Riley realizes there is only one thing he can do. But can he get away with it. Can he get rid of his wife. Get the money. And somehow end up with the girl next door?
Brubaker has written the Twilight Zone. Where the all American boy becomes the all American murderer. But at what cost? What will Riley sacrifice to keep what he wants and get what he believes he deserves?
For those of us who grew up with the Archie comics this is some warped perverse fun! Did anyone not believe Jughead (Shaggy too1!) wasn’t some kind of doped out loser with a super sized case of the munchies? Brubaker brings Raymond Chandler to Riverdale in The Last of the Innocent and sets him up in a corner lot, on the hill, overlooking the dark shadows of the town. It is terrific! He has injected humor in this one and that is what has been missing from the rest of the Criminal series.
A terrific collection of comics making up one really great story!