In Money We Trust

                       In The Last Of The Innocent, we can see a great example of a perfectly composed comic, switching from cartoon to realism to create an identifiable character at certain points, and a unique character with his own identity in the rest of the story. Each of the main characters in the story represent the different personalities of Americans in the 21th century, each with their own secrets, and aspirations. Criminal: The Last Of The Innocent relates the story of how Riley Richards, a “self-centered prick”, murders his wife Felix, frames Teddy-his life long enemy- for the crime and then kills his best friend Freakout in an attempt to start a new life; but on a deeper side it reveals the secret life and dreams of the American society.

The sixth issue of the Criminal series, co-authored by Brubaker and Phillips, narrates the crimes committed by Riley Richards through his own eyes. It is not until Riley returns to his hometown to visit his sick father when he realizes he had taken an unwanted path in his life: His decisions have led him to be engaged with Felix, a rich, beautiful, arrogant woman, who cheats on him with his enemy, and whose sole interest is to feel wanted. When Riley arrives to his house in Brookview and finds it empty, he decides to go to his room, where the melancholy from past memories haunt his thoughts and make him realize that he was not living the life he had wished at an earlier age; a few days later he realizes he can have a second chance, if he kills his wife.

On one occasion, Riley induces Freakout to pass out due to the use of drugs and alcohol, creating a perfect window of opportunity to carry out his deeds at the same time he establishes an irrefutable alibi for himself. By killing his wife in the same place where she and Teddy had been cheating on him, Riley perfectly frames Teddy for the murder and therefore eludes the suspect list. In order to complete his well-crafted plan, Riley pays a visit to Freakout and before departing he places a hot shot knowing his friend will find it, use it and consequently die from an overdose. After everything has been done, Riley can finally write a whole new future, erase his past, and live life with Lizzie.

The Last Of The Innocent depicts the hidden dreams and lives of today’s American society despite the fact it is based in the early 1980’s. Riley represents the “self-centered pricks” individuals have become in a culture where sympathy has disappeared. The meaning of friendship has broken down into all the part that once composed the whole meaning. A friend, according to my understanding, is somebody to share your deepest secrets with, someone with whom you can be honest and talk about your feelings, a person who wants the best for you, and to whom you can trust your life. A friend is someone that cares, someone that loves you. A friend is not only someone you laugh with, or share certain interest with.  Unfortunately, today we call “friend” someone whom may be able to aid us, and when the help is over that someone’s existence marks no difference in our lives.

If we were to see this Crime strip as a comic book, laying aside all abstract meaning and taking into account the building blocks used to create it, it is evident that it is a perfectly well constructed comic. In Brubaker’s Crime, all the flashback and information given from Riley’s past is drawn in a more cartoony than the rest of the comic in order to make the reader more sympathetic, and identifiable with the main character, appealing to McCloud’s statement – “But when you enter the world of the cartoon… you see yourself”, and question “Why would anyone young or old, respond to a cartoon as much or more than a realistic image?”[1]. For this same reason, Riley at an older age is drawn in a realistic manner with the purpose of making him a unique character and impeding the reader to identify with him.

The rise in the importance given to money in the last century, and the decline in elemental values have lead today’s American society to discompose and become an environment similar to animal survival. Economic Darwinism has become a popular term to explain what we have created by giving an overwhelming importance and power to money. Milton Friedman shared the idea that the foundations for behavioral assumptions usually made in economics should be found in “economic elimination of the unfit”.[2] The Last Of The Innocent is a great written comics, that accurately depicts America’s adoration in money over everything, the lack of inter-individual sympathy, and the downfall of true friendship, depicting the real and crude reality of America’s society.


[1] McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. Ch.2 pg. 30 &36

[2]Sloth, Birgitte. Institute of Economics University of Southern Denmark “Economic Darwinism” <http://www.econ.ku.dk/okojacob/workpapers/ed.pdf&gt;

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