Incomparable. That's a good word to start with when trying to evaluate The Last of the Greats. Marketed on a wild first issue, this mindbender borders on the superhero genre, but not enough to lend itself to anything else out there. It definitely marches to the beat of its own drum, and that drum bangs out percussions of violence, sex and atypical family dynamics.
The story pulls its tension from an unremitting series of twists, so delving too far into the unorthodox story would spoil the better parts. The general premise revolves around a race of nameless super-beings sent to Earth to prepare the human race for a mysterious forthcoming event. They take on our forms, and attempt to make us a better society by curing disease, ending wars and being generally good saviors. That is, until they demand control of the world's weapon stocks. It's then that the human race turns on them, and successfully kills off the godly race in panic and fear. Unfortunately, true to the prophecy, the aliens arrive on cue ready for conquest over a now protector-less mankind.
It's here that Fialkov chooses to open The Last of the Greats, following a group of human delegates who have tracked down the lone super-being, the titular "Last." They beg for his merciful help, and they find out very quickly that Last is kind of a dickhead. As the imperfect centerpiece of the series the leftover Great is clearly not interested in helping a population responsible for murdering his siblings, and if even he would be willing, the help wouldn't come cheap.
The Last of the Greats derives success from the plot not settling in, even if the ideas it stumbles upon are fertile enough to justify its own storyline. This series just simply does not quit, and continues to challenge itself issue by issue. The entire thing fucks with expectations, not only in the aforementioned twists, but also how it will introduce fantastical plot elements and then quickly bypass them to continue the momentum. It reminds me a bit of Lost, and how people often commented that every time that show answered a question, it brought up two more. However, the developments don't feel fake or forced, rather it's something akin to a "what if" writing exercise where a writer take's their premise and does something completely bonkers to shake themselves out of clichéd thinking. It's just happens once every 20 pages here.
Brent Peeples is an unknown commodity, but I will go out on a limb and say his star will rise quickly. His style is pretty adept in evoking a traditional superhero feel, but can bend quickly to go in the twisted directions Fialkov takes the script. Peeples is an artist without many flaws. His physiology is on point, architecture is sturdy and the characters portray emotional adequately. He fails to blow you away with a particularly technique or quirk to his approach, but the foundation is so strong it does everything the story needs to.
Incomparable. It's unlike anything else. The other meaning of that word implies something of vast quality. Sadly, this five-issue offering is not perfection on paper. In order to throw so many mindfucks at the reader the plotting gets a little clunky between the second and third acts, and a sense of general direction is lacking from the series even in the final twist. Some over-the-top elements feel somewhat forced, as if the creative team just put them in there so it would create fan buzz due to its outrageousness. The central question of the series, what is the nature of the Greats and how does it relate to the shrouded agenda of Last, is unanswered from issue uno to cinco.
To be fair, there is a bigger picture in mind, and the forthcoming Return of the Greats is poised to open up the mythology. But not without your help. Yes, you, reader. This is a new series with a couple of emerging talents at the helm, it needs strong numbers to justify its existence. Based on what I've read, The Last of the Greats deserves a chance to continue its wildly inventive story.
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.