The Last Book You’ll Ever Read
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Leila Lenz
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Published: September 20th, 2022
Publisher: Vault Comics
Length: 192 pages
Olivia Kade is a self-styled provocateur, bleak and flippant about the end times. In The Last Book You’ll Ever Read, she stubbornly embarks on a doomed book tour, ignoring all the warning signs that her writing may be inspiring real-world darkness.
She is the author of Satyr, a bestselling essay in book form, basically just her manifesto about the bleak state of the world. The problem is that her book seems to inspire fits of animalistic behavior in her readers. It’s hugely popular despite being nothing but doom-and-gloom proclamations, and now her public readings are getting a bit dicey. The book opens with a scene where a literally rabid fan attacks her, ranting about something called the Wilding.
Olivia won’t be silenced, though, so she hires a security team and soldiers on, with the caveat that her new head of security must not read her book (never mind that he’ll hear plenty of excerpts at her readings). As you might imagine, this does not go well.
This book is nothing but a series of repetitive, violent escalations. Olivia goes from town to town reading from her book, and we’re treated to the same passages over and over again. This doesn’t make her book seem any more compelling. Instead, it just cements her work as the sort of misanthropic rant vomited online by sweaty, unpleasant characters on a daily basis. She’s the type who could sour the buzz at any open mic night with her apocalyptic “poetry” and clove cigarettes.
After every reading, people inevitably freak out and attack her or her party, oftentimes gruesomely eviscerating their victims. The book turns them into cannibals and/or raw meat eaters, because that’s bloodier and more disgusting. Olivia still insists on continuing her tour despite everything devolving around her. Somehow, bad publicity and personal safety never really seem like a concern in her quest to inflict her writing on everyone in the world.
As the world comes apart at breakneck speed, she falls into bed with her head of security and wonders whether or not her book really caused the end of everything. She insists that she just wanted to have a dialog, not inspire cannibalistic violence, but the core of her argument is that “things are bad all over and people need to stop being so repressed,” so it feels petulant.
The book ends with a whopper of a non-ending that was probably meant to feel literary and artistic, but instead reads like the author didn’t know how to wrap it up. It just sort of stops with the final moments teasingly unresolved as thought that makes them more interesting.
It doesn’t help that the art is wildly inconsistent. The covers are great, and there are panels or sequences that stand out throughout the book, but the characters don’t look like the same people from page to page or panel to panel. The effect is sloppy and distracting.
Unfortunately, this book didn’t work for me at all. It was “edgy” and unpleasant, and I couldn’t find anything redeeming about it in the end.
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.