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#PlentyOfPulp: THE LAST BOOK YOU’LL EVER READ #3 (Vault Comics)

THE LAST BOOK YOU’LL EVER READ is horror comics under the Nightfall imprint from Vault Comics! Vault runs a couple of horror books every year that come out during the Halloween season and this tradition is branded Nightfall. To be fair, the books are 4 or 5 issue series, so they take almost half a year to come out - but I honestly find it charming and cool, I love it and I want to have its freakin’ babies, I’m serious! Just use that cool concept and branding a little better, Vault - it’s a little annoying that all of this isn’t more in play at the Vault Comics website. It’s a delightful logo and the imprint, but if I have to dig deep into your Media and Downloads page to find a YouTube video explaining what this imprint’s mission is, you’re missing out on some opportunities with your marketing, compadres. There exists such a thing as the casual comics reader, and you have to make things less impenetrable, not more. This is a wonderfully zero-ads comic, with previous issues featuring only some select house ads for other Vault offerings, and I appreciate the lean and mean approach, but somewhere in the 3 issues of this book bearing the Nightfall logo the concept could have been explained.

Okay, that complaint aside (and what a non-complaint it really is! “tell me about your good comics better!”) Vault has been coming up on my radar frequently lately, with some solid comics featuring impressive talent. In the case of THE LAST BOOK YOU’LL EVER READ the talent is Cullen Bunn, who has been exploding over the last few years, contributing significantly to the indy comics boom we are currently enjoying. The artist is Leila Leiz, a phantom with little little information available even at her publishers’ websites (her own website only has a placeholder Coming Soon banner). Giada Marchisio and then Vladimir Popov provides colors and Jim Campbell is the letterer.

This is a first for me, reviewing a single issue online where I haven’t reviewed any previously. I realized that I had self-imposed a rule at some point and it was a dumb rule, so there you are and here we are. I have been reading and enjoying THE LAST BOOK YOU’LL EVER READ and with this 3rd issue I will share some thoughts that may encourage you to join me. A book that drives you mad if you read it! That’s a goddamn pulp notion if I ever heard one!

A woman has written a book, some quasi-sociological thing that seeks to salaciously explain the decline of civilization. It’s a tremendous hit even as it actually appears to be hastening said breakdown of society. In the first issue, we’re introduced to the concept and characters; Olivia Kade, author of “Satyr”; Connor Wilson, bodyguard; Willow, personal assistant. We see the violent psychosis the book apparently triggers in some readers as a signing goes horribly wrong when a fan presents a blood-drenched copy for inscription, then assaults the author. Two pages of exposition take a less static approach to the classic talking-heads news announcer clips by moving it to a radio show, which I guess is less static, kinda. The phrase ‘cultural upheaval’ implies this information virus is getting out of hand.

The second issue takes us further along the book tour, furthering the concept and developing the characters, if not so much the plot. Connor gets a lot of play in this issue, all action scenes of one kind or another. Some more cryptic hints come across about all this apocalypse stuff, and there’s a whole lot more demonstrated about Olivia’s character, including what she and Connor would look like making the beast with two backs.

The third issue continues but now the sense of inevitable doom is here and I don’t recall quite when that happened, even as I flip back through and re-read all three in a sitting. It’s there now, though you don’t realize it at first through the animal musk being put out by Connor. Sexual tension radiates from him; he can’t keep his eyes off Olivia or keep his mind from reliving their smoking hot sex in his head. Shit then goes sideways and it becomes chaos in a fast-zombie movie (for the record, death is not a super power, and these aren’t zombies but freaky crazies). What the third issue does so well is ratchet everything up; the tension, the mystery, the stakes, the pace. We’re seeing Cullen Bunn writing with complete confidence and I find myself wondering how I ever considered this guy mid-list. He obviously has a plan for the story and I am along for the ride!

While managing to remain well off the grid, for which I have complete respect, artist Leila Leiz makes this comic as much her own as Bunn. She renders Olivia in this completely adorable 1920s flapper style and hair bob, all pouting lips and huge blue eyes and somehow putting me in mind of the Morton’s Salt girl, all grown up. There’s an extra loving touch to how Olivia is rendered that makes her seem more vulnerable than other characters - whether this is an artist’s trick or an unconscious preference, it’s effective visually. Leiz conveys the inhuman quickness and agility of the insane (devolved? possessed?) tormentors enjoyably in the action scenes and she handles the human drama deftly. Her covers are eye-catching and highlight the adorably photogenic Olivia.

I am not sure how many issues are planned for this series or of it’s even meant to run past this first story arc. Again, Vault not doing much to make the basic information easily available. However, those kind and patient folks at your local comics shop will have a better idea, should you ask them. Go on and grab the 3 issues of THE LAST BOOK YOU’LL EVER READ that are out so far and pre-order the next couple that complete the story. I am sure quite soon you’ll be able to pre-order the softcover collection, if that’s more to your fancy. I hope you try the book, and I want to hear what you think, especially if you try it because of my recommendation.

Until next time, you trendsetters and tastemakers, you!

Plenty of Pulp, by Max Cage, for Wednesday Pull List

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