Happy 34th birthday to writer Matt Fraction, currently chronicling the adventures of the Uncanny X-Men and the Invincible Iron Man. While Fraction’s a big-shot Marvel writer these days, my favorite work of his is the heist drama “Last of the Independents” from AiT-Planet Lar.
Here’s what I wrote about “Last of the Independents,” by Fraction and artist Kieron Dwyer, when I named it the top graphic novel of 2003:
Influenced by guy movies such as “Unforgiven” and “Charley Varrick,” “Last of the Independents” features bank robber Cole Claudle, just one big score away from retirement. When that robbery is much bigger than expected, Claudle finds himself fighting the mob and trying to keep himself and his friends safe long enough to escape.
If you want to experience the Fraction oeuvre, here’s a handy top 10 list of my favorites.
1. Last of the Independents
2. Immortal Iron Fist: With Ed Brubaker and David Aja, Fraction reinterpreted the Iron Fist mythos into a first-rate kung-fu thriller.
3. The Annotated Mantooth: A zany spy comedy with a gorilla and a giant robot. Back when I worked behind the counter in my comic-book store, this was a go-to sale.
4. Casanova: Casanova Quinn is thrown into the life of a double agent following his twin sister’s death. “Casanova” is a Steranko-esque, 1960s-style, over-the-top adventure.
5. The Invincible Iron Man: Fraction writes a cool, suave Tony that should fit right in to people’s perceptions of the character following the Robert Downey Jr. movie.
6. The Five Fists of Science: A steampunk graphic novel which features Nikola Tesla vs. Thomas Edison.
7. The Order: A short-lived Defenders spinoff that featured the superhero team assigned to California as part of the Initiative project.
8. Thor: Ages of Thunder: Fraction looks at Marvel’s Thor as related to the Norse myth cycle.
9. @HoboDarkseid: Not a comic, but Fraction’s goofy twittering as a hobo Darkseid was a reminder that the man is flat-out funny.
10. Uncanny X-Men: While it’s tough to bring anything brand-new to a franchise like the X-Men, Fraction has done a good job of making it seem fresh while still honoring the past.
Click past the cut for a full review of “Last of the Independents,” originally published in July 2003.
With “Last of the Independents,” a Western-style heist graphic novel, Matt Fraction has gone from promising newcomer to writer at the top of his game.
San Francisco-based AiT-Planet Lar, headed by Larry Young, has branched into children’s fiction, romance and nonfiction recently. But the company reclaims its position as the Steve McQueen of comics with this gunshot blast of a title.
Fraction and artist Kieron Dwyer create a widescreen format comic in sepia tone that recalls directors Sam Peckinpah (“The Wild Bunch”), Howard Hawks (“Rio Bravo”) and Don Siegel (“Charley Varrick”).
Bank robber Cole Claudle is one score away from a fresh start. But when he, his girl, Justine, and his friend Billy make their move, they find an unexpected $8 million.
Instead of a small score that no one will notice, this heist draws the attention of the mob, who had sent the money to the small bank to be laundered.
Fraction and Dwyer should get some serious option money from this project, which begs to be filmed. But, as usually happens in these cases, the book will be better, and this book is very good.
From car chases to horse racing to fisticuffs and gunplay, “Last of the Independents” brings the action nonstop.
A definite contender for graphic novel of the year, “Last of the Independents” is a full-speed guy movie with plenty of fights and explosions — but lots of heart, as well.
Fraction’s previous work, “Rex Mantooth: Kung-Fu Gorilla,” was serialized in the comic book “Double Take” and was collected as “The Annotated Mantooth” from AiT-Planet Lar.
Dwyer, whose career has moved from popular superhero work (“Captain America,” “Avengers”) to his own peculiar brand of humor (“LCD,” “Black Heart Billy”) has found a good middle ground here — fast-paced action together with visual panache.
“Last of the Independents” is a 96-page original graphic novel with a cover price of $12.95.
- Matt Price