'The Last Book You'll Ever Read' #1 is Not the Last Issue You'll Ever Read
We review the new first issue from Cullen Bunn, Leila Leiz, and Vault Comics, consider our wretchedly feral world.
Do you read Sutter Kane? Are you bored with him or simply looking for the next gnarly book to boil your blood? We suggest you crack the pages of Olivia Kade's sensational bestseller, Satyr. As depicted in The Last Book You'll Ever Read, her new work is stirring ravenous feelings in her readers. It's helped them discover the beasts within, and they feel encouraged to bear their teeth and let the animal out.
Cullen Bunn and Leila Leiz's first issue recalls In the Mouth of Madness, but it's certainly not a carbon copy. Outside Kade's windows, the city is turning on itself. The comic opens with a mugger made meat, predator becoming prey. Kade seems to have tapped into something eldritch and awful. Humanity is shaking off civilization, embracing their primordial nastiness, and satiating their bloodlust. Is she to blame? Or is she merely a prophet of an inevitable apocalypse?
The answers are not here, and they may never come. What's compelling is how The Last Book You'll Ever Read connects with that bubbling dread percolating in all of us right now. We turn on the television, we doom scroll through Twitter, and we witness the very worst our species has to offer. Bunn and Leiz crank the insanity to eleven as a means of capturing the unbearable anxiety many are feeling right now.
The comic's middle portion depicts an author signing gone murderous. Our point of view is Kade's, with one awkward reader stumbling to greet her after another. Table signing chit-chat is always the most squidgy, but it's also tinged with sweetness, enthusiasm, and yearning. Kade's met them all before, but they've never met her. They just want that connection. And then comes the muncher, who wants to connect via consumption.
Leiz handles this sequence deliciously. The reader exchanges are trapped in six panels below the long line that spreads over two pages. The muncher is introduced in the fifth panel as she passes a wet, bloody book to Kade. The final panel reveals the muncher looking gaunt and ill. On the page turn, the muncher lunges, and the cops (who were conveniently waiting in line themselves) come to the rescue. And then! We get a couple pages of their seemingly controllable struggle behind Kade and her publicist as they gab about what a close call that was. It's no big deal, just another whacko, until the muncher scores a jugular hit on the cop.
Through six pages, Bunn and Leiz pull us through a swing of intensity. It goes from weird to "oh no," to "huh, crazy," to "oh shit, damn." The Last Book You'll Ever Read captures the seesawing unease of the end times. As the world crumbles, these folks can't comprehend where their concern should fall on the DEFCON scale. Is it time for the bunker, or can they afford another night of carry-out zonked before the television?
Leiz has a scrawly, sketchy style. The roughness in her lines accentuates the horror oozing across society. The muck seems to infect every design, suggesting potentially gory demises for each player. No one appears long for this world, not even Kade.
Bunn is no stranger to mythology, and he's only getting started with The Last Book You'll Ever Read. What we see here is just a hint. What's truly fueling humanity's regression to their bestial selves is unclear. It appears like basic Lovecraftian naughtiness, but based on The Sixth Gun and Harrow Country, as this comics' pages unfurl, we're bound to encounter a much wilder reasoning.
Or not. And maybe what Bunn is chasing in The Last Book You'll Ever Read is a conversation around violent entertainment. We can't escape it. The argument is old, and as consumers of the grimmest fiction, we're eager to shed responsibility from the art. We started killing the second we came into being. Spooky stories didn't make us do it; they helped us explain it, or at least, confront it.
Whether The Last Book You'll Ever Read is hoping to challenge our horrific obsession or only add to it is still up in the air. The comic feels grotty but in the most captivating fashion. It's a vicious introduction, coarse to the touch. Troubling and familiar to the genre, but containing the potential for grander declarations. It's not my last issue, that's for damn sure.
Quickie Review: The Last Book You'll Ever Read recalls the best, under-appreciated John Carpenter movie, and that's a damn fine thing. Leila Leiz's art is gruesome and skillfully layered. Bunn is working off familiar mythology and grasping for a much longer, more profound discussion. I want to partake in it. 8/10
The Last Book You'll Ever Read #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Leila Leiz
Colorer: Giada Marchisio
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Synopsis: Civilization is a lie. Hidden deep in our genes is the truth. And it is slowly clawing its way to the surface. Olivia Kade knows the truth, and she has become the prophet of the coming collapse. Her book, SATYR, is an international bestseller, and it is being blamed for acts of senseless violence and bloodshed all over the world. Olivia’s own life is in danger from those who have read her work. Determined to conduct a book tour, she hires security professional Connor Wilson to act as her bodyguard. She only has one requirement: he cannot read her work.