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on 26 December 2013
Over the last few years I've read quite a few comic book tie-ins for films, TV and games, as more creators increasingly look to use the medium as a distinctive and cheaper way of telling new stories (especially prequel tales, like TLoU: American Dreams) from a fictional universe rather than simply adapting the story we already know (a practice referred to as transmedia storytelling by the industry and 'aca-fan' Henry Jenkins). The problem with a lot of these additional stories (whether produced in comics, books, games or webseries) is that they often feel restricted by the stories of the major films/games/TV series they're attached to: few add much to our understanding of the characters, seem to carry much consequence for the 'main' story, or keep enough of what we love about that story whilst establishing their own identity and going in novel directions. In the worst cases, there seems to be little point to them beyond providing promotion for the main release.

The Last of Us: American Dreams doesn't entirely escape the difficulties that come with creating a new story that adds something to our experience of the game whilst not being unrealistically touted as 'required reading' before we pick up the PS controller (no doubt Naughty Dog knows that only a small fraction of people who play TLoU will ever read the comic). For one thing, anyone who's completed the game and knows how things turn out between the comic's main characters, Ellie and her friend Riley, may be surprised and perhaps disappointed at where the comic's story ends and may find it all a bit slight (although I'm sure the game's first single-player DLC will pick up this thread). At the same time, though, American Dreams is one of the strongest and most interesting comic tie-ins I've read, and it definitely establishes a distinct identity. If the game left you wanting to know more of Ellie's story (and I don't know why it wouldn't!), you could do much worse ahead of the DLC's release than give this comic a go. It's only 4 issues long, pacey but not especially complex story-wise, and not as dialogue-heavy as, say, the similarly post-apocalyptic Y: The Last Man, so it's a quick read and is not worth paying over the odds for. It probably goes without saying, but this story also does not feature Joel, so anyone looking to see more of Joel and Ellie's relationship would be disappointed in this instance.

Without spoiling too much, American Dreams is essentially a teen story (it starts out as Ellie arrives at a new [military] school and endures bullies, punishments and the tough business of finding a friend, but thankfully moves out of this setting by the second issue), dealing with teen rebellion, anger, and the two girls' desire to carve out meaningful identities and future adult lives for themselves. These familiar themes gain added poignancy from the post-apocalyptic setting, where life is usually brutal and short and truly caring adults and mentors are hard to come by. As the short story unfolds over the course of one night, Ellie's friendship with the seemingly more self-assured and streetwise Riley provides a nice way of exploring these ideas, especially when the story takes a turn that is admittedly predictable but also credible and well-executed.

Stylistically it will not be everyone's cup of tea, but Faith Erin Hicks' artwork suits the story well: she's done teen stories before and her style is quite similar to fellow Canadian comics creator Bryan Lee O'Malley's art (Scott Pilgrim, Lost at Sea). She handles the quiet and haunting moments of the story effectively, and even though the vibrant visions of nature reclaiming the streets that were so memorable in the game are disappointingly substituted for images of grey desolation and emptiness, the backgrounds are generally decent and their spareness makes the action easier to follow. The one place where the comic's style does really fall down for me is the inevitable encounter with the infected. The Runners and Stalker lose their menace in the transition from the game's realistic visuals to Hicks' cartoonish images - the more gruesome Clickers would have been a more effective choice.

Hicks and Neil Druckmann, the game's creative director and writer, handle the writing, preserving Ellie's spiky personality whilst understandably writing her as a more inexperienced character than we see in the game. There are a couple of moments that don't quite work for me from a logical standpoint, but nothing too jarring. Julian Totino Tedesco's cover artwork is an absolute treat, and he captures Ellie's appearance really well.

I imagine that the comic could be comfortably read before, during or after playing the main game. It doesn't spoil anything in the game's story (or, more importantly, contradict it), but instead enhances it, albeit in understandably pretty modest ways. The upcoming DLC is likely to have a far greater impact on how well it feeds into and complements the game, but for the moment it feels like a solid extension of the story and much less like a redundant cash-in than many comic book tie-ins. Big fans of the game may well want to check this one out.
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on 6 May 2014
The Last of Us: American Dreams reveals to us, the story of how Ellie met Riley. While not a necessary read in regards to the main campaign, but if you intend to play The Last of Us: Left Behind, I would suggest reading this graphic novel prior to playing Left Behind. Left Behind is essentially a direct sequel to American Dreams, so somethings maybe lost to the player if they don't read the graphic novel prior to playing Left Behind.

In regards to the story American Dreams tells, it is a nice brief insight to how Ellie came to Boston and when she met Riley and Marlene. As I have mentioned previously, American Dreams is not an essential read if you only intend on playing the main game, so in that light American Dreams is an average story on its own, with no real great depth, but tied with Left Behind the story is fantastic, especially for fans of the original game.

Faith Erin Hicks art, in my personal opinion, was the one thing that drew me out of the experience when initially of reading American Dreams. I found that her art style and interpretation of Ellie and the world of The Last of Us, was a bit too cartoon like. I think Fiona Staple's art style may have enhanced the initial experience. However with that said, you begin to warm to Faiths style, and it soon becomes a vital part of the overall experience.

Overall, American Dreams does not tell an amazing story, but it is a nice little companion to The Last of Us, especially Left Behind. If you have no interest in playing the DLC, then you're missing nothing by skipping this graphic novel. I would say this is a book only for those looking for a nice little addition to The Last of Us.
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on 13 April 2017
Love the art style, the story is good!
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on 22 June 2017
Very good condition!
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on 26 December 2013
I really enjoyed this story that manages to be unique and interesting while following a common theme: post-apocalyptic earth where a virus has infected the majority of the population turning them into some kind of crazed zombie-like people who chase after and eat non-infecteds. The story centres around two orphan girls who sneak out and venture out into the city to see if they can find a future for themselves besides the one the orphanage will lead them too, fighting in the army. I read everything Faith Erin Hicks writes/illustrates and her work here is top-notch. She has really raised the level of her bar in the last couple of books, bringing nature scenes to her art in the last Bigfoot book and this novel here has her distinctive characters with detailed cityscape backgrounds. The book itself is hard to rate though, because while I loved everything about it; it is quite confusing at first (though not hard to figure out as you go along) and everything is left open-ended because this graphic novel is the prequel to a video game. I'm not a gamer so I'll never find out more that way. This book most certainly should have included an introduction to give readers the background information that someone who plays the game would already have known. It is however a genuinely intriguing story. I'm thinking/wishing that if the game (never heard of it before) is popular enough to generate a prequel graphic novel perhaps this will also generate enough interest to continue on with the story in graphic format; I'd like to know more about Ellie and Riley.
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on 22 March 2014
I loved American Dreams! After playing Left Behind I wanted more and this was perfect! A great price too as it's all four comics in one book!
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on 17 January 2015
As a huge fan of the The Last of Us and a keen graphic novel reader I may have been expecting too much from this tie-in. The rave reviews from IGN and the comic book community seem misplaced in my opinion.

The story races along relying considerably on unspoken facial panels to display context. The dialogue is jarring, quick and laced with profanity which seems out of place. Action sequences are brief and lacking drama.

It's not bad as such, simply average but quite readable. The artwork is an to a diluted version of DMZ without the detail.
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on 3 December 2013
Great story and can't wait to play the DLC and see how the story with Ellie and Riley ends. I mean, we know how it ends, but I want to see the road until there.
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on 2 July 2015
This is a great prequel to The Last Of Us, or more specifically the Left Behind DLC, which are some of my all-time favourite games. I really love the drawing style and it is all very beautiful to look at. The story is good too, it's nice to see how Ellie and Riley were before anything very bad happened to them. Only downside is that it's too short!
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on 17 February 2017
After playing through The Last of Us, I was so excited to find out there was a comic revolving around Ellie and her friend Riley. The artwork is fun, the story easy to digest however I couldn't help but feel like something was missing? Having played the DLC (Left Behind) I didn't feel that the comic included any new details that hadn't already been explored. I'd be happy to purchase for £5 or so but in hindsight £13ish is quite steep for this content, it took me approx an hour to read. It's a worthwhile purchase for a die hard Last of Us fan, however if you're after a brand new story - you may want to give this a miss but wait until it's cheaper.
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