The Last Band on Earth #1 Review

By | Tuesday, June 09, 2020 1 comment
The Last Band on Earth #1
The last time we looked in on Elaine M. Will's new work here was back in 2016 when I reviewed her then-new book Dustship Glory. Today I'm looking at her most recent work: The Last Band on Earth #1. Here's how she describes it...
Nat and her bandmates in The Dead Layaways want to go on tour, but the demonic entities who run their city have other ideas...and the dark cloud that hangs over everything stifles their creativity. Is there really nothing but endless wasteland beyond the city limits, as the demons claim? If so, where can a fledgling band perform?
I'm not usually big on comics that try to incorporate a lot of music in them. Since you can't hear the music, creators often rely on referencing song titles or lyrics or some other verbal element. And because I almost never listen to music in that way*, it tends to fall flat for me. Fortunately, that's not really the point of Will's story here. The point, as the description above suggests, is that a group of demons seem to have captured the entire city and the band has hit a dead end, so they want to get out.

As this is just the first chapter, most of what is here is basic set-up. Introduction of the characters, the setting, and the basic premise. Like Will's other books, that's all handled very well. You get a good sense of what the entire town is like, and who the band members are. Despite the town being run by demons, though, the scariest part of the book so far is the depiction of every musician's worst nightmare: a bored, uninterested audience.

It's a little too early to tell how deliberate this is, but I read this very much as an allegory for the stifling oppression that comes with living in a small town. That overwhelming sense that everyone is not only perfectly content to go about their humdrum, ordinary lives but they take personal offense that anyone might even consider an alternative. You know those schoolkids in "Another Brick in the Wall" -- marching along in lock step, put through a meat grinder to become "putty-faced" clones? That's what small towns do to you. Personifying that oppression with demons makes complete sense, and the prologue becomes downright frightening after you start to realize that context.

I first read Will's work as a serialized webcomic. I don't recall the specific publishing cadence she used, but I'm sure it wasn't more than a couple pages a week. By contrast, Dustship Glory came out as a single, complete graphic novel. This is the first work of hers I've read in the serialized pamphlet form. Offhand, I don't know what her intentions are with her publishing schedule here, but I'll definitely be curious to see how she handles the larger storytelling in this format.

I always find Will's work worth reading. Both her individual efforts like this and the collaborations she's done with her husband, Mark. Last Band on Earth is no exception, and my only complaint is that I have to wait until she publishes the next chapter. (Well, that, and I'm going to have to have a talk with her about how drum kits are actually laid out! Artists never get that right! 😊) The digital version is available for 99¢ and she can probably sell you a printed copy if you ping her on Twitter.

* I really don't focus on lyrics very much. I usually listen to singers as if they were just scatting. It's only after I decide that I really like a song musically and listen to it a few thousand times that I eventually get around to finding out the lyrics. I'm also horrible with names in general, and since I never pay attention to the lyrics, song titles often elude me.
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Matt K said...

"going to have to have a talk with her about how drum kits are actually laid out"