Marcus Fall is a sergeant in the Merkonite ground forces, which use colorful power armor (Maloney’s charmingly bulbous designs look like something from a 1980s cartoon.) to fight the inferior Krovinite forces. Fall is a reckless, but efficient, fighter. His refusal to follow orders or show even token respect to his superior officers makes his continued service feel a bit implausible, but perhaps a high enough kill count makes one exempt from disciplinary action in this army. Fall is, perhaps, the weak point of the story for three-quarters of The Last Fall; he feels like a character who is consciously trying to be a loose cannon, and his motivation – rage brought on by the death of his wife and son – feels perfunctory, as the flashback scenes featuring these characters rarely sell his love for them. The first time we meet his late wife Oleta, they are arguing about prayer. Fall, apparently, never really bought into the religious fervor that the rest of his species appear to possess.
The primary characters around Fall seem to snap into the role in which they are needed at the time. His commanding officer, Ground-Lieutenant Cole Sintar, swings between seeming imminently reasonable to being selfishly irrational. Fall’s late wife mostly allows him to exposit about being a soldier. His late son lets him do this with smaller words. (Maloney’s art provides an interesting mix of cartoonishness and coarse ugliness in the present-day war scenes, while making the peacetime flashbacks appear idyllically perfect.) The best character moments, then, are reserved for the members of Fall’s squad, who feel, as they should, imminently more normal than Fall. Fall is on a mission; they are doing a job. And, this is where I was hoping The Last Fall would spend most of its time, following Fall and his squad as they maneuver through this war and its grey areas. When such too-rare moments happen, they make everything fit: they make Fall feel human. (Or Merkonite, I guess.) If The Last Fall were a movie, I’d leave the theater thinking that the studio had insisted on adding scenes that would check off some war movie boxes and explain the themes directly to the camera, so that no one in the audience would misunderstand what it was saying.
By the time I wrapped up The Last Fall’s climax – an ending that crams most of the necessary plot exposition into the final issue – I’d been through boilerplate philosophizing about war and sacrifice, and I’d been through some really great action scenes and sincere character moments. You can tell when Waltz is trying to say something to his audience; however, it’s when he’s not that his characters really shine. Putting it down, I realized that what The Last Fall had turned into was not the story I wanted to read; it’s the prologue to the story I really want.