Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic adventure for the PlayStation 3 looks brilliant, but I haven't developed quite the excitement for The Last of Us that many of my colleagues have. I'm a little post-apocalyptic'd out — the idea of traipsing through another story about how men become monsters in extreme circumstances leaves me lukewarm.
Particularly worrisome was the idea of the thirteen-year-old sidekick, Ellie. From what I'd seen up until now, she seemed at best a liability, and at worst an opportunity to really explore just how horrible humanity can be (look, they're beating up a kid!). Maybe I just needed to get to know her.
That's what's going on in Dark Horse's The Last of Us: American Dreams, a four-issue limited series co-written by the game's creative director Creative director Neil Druckmann and Faith Erin Hicks, who also handles art duties. This is the story of Ellie, a little girl lost in world that's losing its way.
The series opens with Ellie's arrival at a military boarding school, a place that offers children protection from the chaotic outside world with no mind for the cruel environment that springs up around large groups of lost children — it's like Jim Henson's Prison Babies in there. Ellie doesn't take well to cowering behind guarded walls, and bullying by other inmates only sharpens her resolve to escape.
There's a scared little girl inside of Ellie. We've seen it in the game trailers. We see it on the first page of the first issue. Her eyes open, she's understandably frightened, but she doesn't close them. I expect those eyes will see some horrible things over the course of the three remaining issues, as Ellie discovers the world she so desperately wants to be a part of.
Faith Erin Hicks' art style is so perfect for this story. It's a children's cartoon with a gritty edge, a wonderfully apt way of depicting the hopeful mind of a young teenager as dark reality encroaches, bright-eyed ideals frayed at the edges. I can't wait to see how she handles the story unfolding over the next three issues.
The first issue of The Last of Us: American Dreams went on sale yesterday. Even though I've only seen a quarter of her story, Ellie is starting to win me over.