Review by Frank Plowright
In a disturbing near future a plague has infected humanity, killing most and severely affecting some of the few survivors. The healthy population exists in walled enclosures, protected by the army, and while Ellie has known no different life, the one she has grates on her. The protection is dictatorial and overbearing, and personal freedoms are a secondary concern.
A nice aspect about The Last of Us is that there’s no need whatsoever to know it’s a prelude to a video game. It stands up alone as a decent adventure story as we follow Ellie around, exploring her life both behind and outside those protective walls, learn what the zombiefied humans are, and that there’s perhaps another way to survive without enduring the indignities of army rule. Co-written by game creator Neil Druckman with Faith Erin Hicks, also responsible for the art, American Dreams mirrors the pacing of the game, where little can happen for a considerable time before all hell breaks loose. For those who’ve played the game, at thirteen Ellie is quite a bit younger than the character they know, as is Riley, the story detailing how they first meet, but Joel is nowhere to be seen. Ellie’s portrayal is faithful to a developing personality on a rapid learning curve, and Hicks conveys the shock and vulnerability well with her art.
This is nicely drawn and provides a tour of the world, but no more than that. There is no really memorable moment pulling the story away from its genre origins, and the feeling is that to get the most out of American Dreams you have to be invested in the characters to begin with.