“Civilization is a lie.” That is the first line of the synopsis for The Last Book You’ll Ever Read. It is also the best way to sum up the latest series from Vault Comics. Written by Cullen Bunn, the horror title features art from Leila Leiz, colors by Giada Marchisio, and letters from Jim Campbell. Tim Daniel completes the creative team on designs.
Bunn chatted with The Beat about the book and his thoughts on humanity’s hidden (or not so hidden) dark side.
Deanna Destito: What was the inspiration behind this book?
Cullen Bunn: Some time ago, I wrote the words “Civilization is a lie” in one of my notebooks. I don’t know why that notion sprang into my head, but it struck me as interesting enough to jot down. I let it sit for a little while. Eventually, I returned to it and started layering new ideas onto that initial concept. I was just brainstorming, really, but I started to develop this world in which people were becoming more feral and animalistic and violent. They were becoming stronger, faster, and more aware, too. As I kept adding new ideas to the mix, I eventually stumbled onto the character of Olivia Kade, an author who had written a bestselling book about this apparent breakdown in societal norms. Olivia really spoke to me. Here she was, watching a collapse in the world around her, trying to make sense of it all. Soon, she rose to the top as our lead character, and the book she had written became something of the focal point of the story.
I guess this book just came about by letting my mind wander into some dark corners. What I pulled out of those corners became this story.
Destito: Do you believe that all people have a buried dark side that only needs a nudge to get out?
Bunn: I believe everyone has a “hidden self” that no one else knows. We might not even recognize it or understand it ourselves, even though we could see glimpses of it that come out from time to time. Maybe it surfaces only in extreme circumstances. And when it does surface, it might change us in shocking ways, maybe for a short time. Maybe forever. As for it being a “dark” side–sure, we all have that. But we might also have a more altruistic and caring and empathetic side, too. That could come out from time to time. At least, I like to imagine that’s the case. In the context of this story, the “uncivilized” side that consumes our characters might seem evil. Especially to those who are on a violent receiving end. But I think that’s far too simple. To the feral, maybe civilization seems evil.
Destito: I like the noir, almost retro vibe of the art. How did you decide on that aesthetic?
Bunn: I knew Leila would be drawing this book as I started scripting it, and most of the look of the series was left for her to interpret. I didn’t write out long descriptions about the look of the book. I almost never do. Instead, I sometimes set up a mood board, and then I try to write the panel descriptions in such a way that the mood I have in mind comes across clearly. In this case, Leila’s vision was absolutely perfect for the story!
Destito: How has it been working with this team?
Bunn: The team on this book has been simply wonderful. Leila is a great collaborator. Giada Marchisio’s colors are vibrant and exciting. Jim Campbell’s letters are on point. And the designer, Tim Daniel, makes the books stand out. Adrian and the editorial team give great notes and encouragement. The marketing and sales team has terrific ideas and really wants the book to do well. All the way around, every step of the way, this book has been a joy to work on.
Destito: You’ve said that the book isn’t about the “end of times” but more about a violent, terrifying new beginning. Why is that worse and scarier?
Bunn: An ending would at least bring peace and quiet.
In this tale, though, the world isn’t ending. It’s changing. And if there is one thing everyone absolutely loves, it’s change. Society is changing and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do about it. The collapse is occurring, and that is, at least in part, because of us. Our knee-jerk reaction to the change. Our rejection of it. As this story unfolds, we’ll be seeing people violently stand against the changes, violently turn against one another, violently turn against themselves.
We don’t know what we’re going to get from the world once these changes settle down deep in our marrow. The unknown scares the Hell out of me.
Destito: I’ve read the first issue and it’s perfectly disturbing and mysterious. What can you tease about the rest of the series?
Bunn: At the end of the first issue, Olivia is preparing to set out on a book tour. As the series progresses, we’re going to see that tour play out. Every step of the way brings a new revelation, a new threat, a new horror. The question will arise–is Olivia a prophet of these changing times? Or is she causing them? The people in her orbit will be struggling with their own feral nature. We’ll be seeing the world changing, sometimes in terrifying and even… cosmic ways. And the story simply gets crazier every step of the way. Every issue introduces some new twist or elevation of the situation we only thought we understood. I don’t think readers will have any idea how this story will end, not until we get to the final page.
The Last Book You’ll Ever Read #1 goes on sale today July 28. Check out a preview here!