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Though we may commit tiny transgressions, most people do not view themselves as criminals. But how might the average American citizen react if, in a short, fixed amount of time, it would no longer be possible to commit any sort of crime at all?
"Last Days of American Crime," a three-issue miniseries by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini beginning in December, examines the cultural shift of a country without crime through the eyes of a man who is very much willing to break the law. The series is published by Radical Comics, and the first issue will be 64 pages with issues #2 and #3 weighing in at 56 pages each. Every issue of "Last Days of American Crime" will retail for $4.99. CBR News caught up with Remender to discuss the project.
The premise of "Last Days of American Crime" sets a heist story in the midst of "A Clockwork Orange"-style crime prevention scheme. In two weeks, the United States government will broadcast a signal that will essentially make the commission of crime impossible. "It seems like the kind of reactionary thing we'd see if the US was hit by another terrorist attack, if the technology were available of course. The idea of a switch that, once thrown, would erase all bad behavior, I think if it were possible, they'd do it," Remender told CBR. "I took that Orwellian world to the Nth degree and came up with an idea where the government has discovered a frequency that hinders a human from doing anything they know to be unlawful. Basically, this frequency makes it impossible for you to jaywalk, steal, cheat on your spouse, etc. If you know it's unlawful, you can't do it. But two weeks before they throw the switch, The Washington Post breaks the story and the country goes crazy."
Asked if there was potentially a sound argument to made for such a procedure, Remender dismissed the idea. "Safety is an illusion. Security is an illusion. Even if you could mind-control everyone to simply stop doing anything the courts deemed illegal, would you? What does it take away from the fiber of a human when the ethics he follows are no longer by choice but instead are forced upon him? How do humans react to being forced to do anything? Authoritarian figures are to be rebelled against in most cases, we all have an instinct to push and get free of control. I say there is no argument that I could buy."
The action focuses on Graham Brick and the last crime he'll ever need -- or be able -- to commit. "To distract everyone from their 'American Peace Initiative' signal, the government has been transitioning from paper money to cards, where all financial transactions take place on plastic. Graham Brick is a down-on-his-luck loser who has been working as a security guard at one of the facilities where they charge the cards with money, and he plans to steal one of these machines," Remender explained. "A hacker would set it to an infinite loop and they'd go off to the Bahamas and be able to charge endless amounts of money.
"And while Brick is content to bide his time and take the plan slowly, news of the upcoming anti-crime signal forces him to pull together a team of criminals on short notice to assist with the caper amid all of the ensuing chaos."
That chaos, Remender told CBR, represents the public reaction to the American Peace Initiative, or API. "You've got mass exodus to Canada and Mexico -- anybody with money is getting out, and people without money are rioting in the streets," Remender said. "Then you have a lot of people who are caught up in doing all the things they won't be able to do in two weeks. Basically, you've got two weeks left to do anything you know is going to be illegal, and to fulfill any greasy fantasy you have."
"Last Days" is Remender's first project with Radical. "Barry [Levine, Radical Publisher] contacted me looking for original genre pitches. I had one that I'd been itching to do for a long time in 'Last Days of American Crime,'" Remender recalled. "I knew this book was going to need a supremely talented artist and a publisher to get behind it with full steam. Barry loved the idea and told me to get any artist I wanted. I got Greg Tocchini. Soon Jeremy Berger roped in Alex Maleev for our covers and we had the dream team. The absolute perfect guys for a neo-crime book. Working with editor Luis Reyes, we've kicked the shit out of this story, its gone form great to amazing. I couldn't be more proud of it."
A film version of "Last Days of American Crime" is already in the works. Given the amount of world-building that seems inherent to the story, one wonders whether the movie will follow the same plot as the comic book. "The movie is the same story as the first arc of the comic. The novel we're doing will be the next story, same time period totally different characters," Remender explained. "I'm already working on the screenplay, figure while I'm neck-deep in the story for the comic I should use that momentum to do both. Barry has brought in a few amazing A-list actors and if it comes together it'll be the biggest crime move in years."