‘The Last Of Us: American Dreams’ Comic Book Differences And Similarities: How It Is Different From Episode 7

Often creators of varying pieces of media like movies, series, and game adaptations, live action or otherwise, opt to further the story of the original lore with spin-off comics, and this has been a common practice for quite a while. The spin-off comics either work as prequels or sequels to connect additional storylines that work as a base for the upcoming installments. A similar strategy was adopted when, even before the release of the widely acclaimed first “The Last of Us” game in 2013, creator Neil Druckmann paired up with artist Faith Erin Hicks to create the prequel comics to the first game titled “The Last of Us: American Dreams,” published by Dark Horse comics. The four-issue mini-series acted as a prequel to Ellie’s side of the story, which later acted as a foundation for the DLC expansion to the game “The Last of Us: Left Behind,” and a combination of both of these stories was adapted into live action in the recently released seventh episode of HBO’s “The Last of Us” series. We will briefly go through the comics and discuss how much they differ from the series itself.


Spoilers Ahead

What Happens In ‘The Last Of Us: American Dreams’?

The prequel comics narrate the story of Ellie’s past life and how she was introduced to Marlene. In the first issue, we see Ellie being transferred to the FEDRA military school in Boston, and a guard, who seems to know Ellie beforehand, warns her about not repeating her past mischiefs as he won’t be able to bail her out. In the school, Ellie gets beaten up by the bullies over her Walkman and gets rescued by Riley. Ellie takes a liking to Riley and follows her when she sneaks out of school one night.


Riley takes Ellie to her friend, Winston, who teaches her to ride horses. Meanwhile, Riley steals Winston’s handheld transceiver and intercepts a Firefly signal, which conveys that they have been flanked by the FEDRA. Riley, whose lifelong goal has been to join the Fireflies, urges Ellie to join her, and after a moment’s hesitation, Ellie does so. Unbeknownst to the Fireflies, Ellie and Riley manage to distract the FEDRA using smoke bombs, giving them a chance to escape. The teenagers get ecstatic over this but get detected by the FEDRA troops. Escaping them, the duo arrives at a secluded area where they encounter an infected stalker, and they narrowly evade getting bitten while taking it down.

Soon after, they are chased by a bunch of Infected and get rescued by the aforementioned Firefly group. Riley enthusiastically introduces themselves to the group but gets knocked out by a member, and just before Ellie meets the same fate, the Fireflies’ leader Marlene recognizes her and calls her by name. She instructs her troops to take the duo with them. In the final issue of the series, the two are taken by the Fireflies to a tunnel entrance, and Marlene releases both of them. She hands Ellie an envelope and asks her and Riley to go back to the military school. Riley is adamant about joining their ranks, but they are interrupted by attacking smugglers.


Riley and Ellie help the revolutionaries once again to decimate the smugglers, and Riley fancies her chances of joining once again. Marlene is displeased at Riley’s naive and boisterous attitude regarding the affair and restrains and pins her down. She threatens her with the horrors of their reality, and Riley confesses how she, too, had faced her share of dread when she had to kill her infected father. Ellie escapes her restraint and points a gun at Marlene to negotiate Riley’s escape, then asks how she recognized Ellie. Marlene lets go of Riley and lets Ellie know that she knew her mother, Anna, and about how she sacrificed everything to save her infant daughter’s life. Marlene was the one who ensured Ellie’s safety by enrolling her in the FEDRA military school and by watching over her through her contacts. Before the two agree to return, Marlene gives Anna’s knife to Ellie, which Ellie holds dearly in the last panel of the last page.

Similarity: Marlene’s Past Connection

Among the significant similarities, Marlene’s knowing Ellie’s parentage and trying to protect her by enrolling her in military school gets adapted in the series. In the first episode, we see Marlene catching Ellie’s ruse of using a fake name and admitting to entrusting her to FEDRA, and in the upcoming episodes, we are going to see a flashback sequence of Ellie’s mother, Anna, and her connection with Marlene explored too.


Similarity: Riley And Ellie’s Relation

Although the events in the comics spanned a brief period, Ellie and Riley bonded pretty quickly, and their relationship was more or less similar in the live-action adaptation as well. Riley stood up for Ellie against the bullies, and Ellie secretly looked up to Riley, which is also shown in the way Ellie tries to put up a false bravado in front of her in the seventh episode. Both are extremely protective of each other, as Ellie clashes with Marlene to ensure Riley’s safety.

Similarity: Ellie And Riley’s Trip To The Mall

Ellie and Riley sneak out of military school for the magically beautiful trip to the mall, which was also present in the comics, albeit in a different scenario, as the duo hasn’t gotten that close at that point yet. Raja’s Arcade and the mannequin were taken straight from their comic book counterparts. Interestingly, the game’s version of the fighting arcade game “The Turning” was inspired by Mortal Kombat titles, and since the series is an HBO adaptation, the makers had the chance to use the original game instead.


Difference: The Attack Of The Stalker And Its Aftermath

Unlike the comics, where Ellie and Riley manage to evade getting bitten by the Infected, the series introduces the tragic fate of the duo as both of them get bitten, and it is heavily implied that Ellie had to take an infected Riley’s life at the end.

Difference: Marlene And Riley’s Conversation

In the series, Riley proclaimed that Marlene approached her to recruit her after seeing her adept sneaking skills. In the comics, however, things didn’t go down that way. Marlene harshly rejected Riley’s requests and forced her to confront the horrors of a post-apocalyptic world where humans turned out to be each other’s worst enemies. Although she was testing Riley’s mettle, Marlene didn’t agree to endanger the kid’s life until the very end.


Difference: Exclusion Of Winston

The character of Winston has been completely omitted by both the series and the DLC chapter of the game. Although he served no major purpose, his resourcefulness helped Riley flaunt her expertise as a survivor. Also, consequently, the scene where Winston takes Ellie on a horse ride across the mall, which was a beautiful moment, was removed from the series as well.

Overall, both the comics and the DLC provided ample freedom to the makers to utilize character moments that otherwise can become inundated in the video game itself. The singular story seen through different mediums can be appreciated as a whole and distinctively as well.


See more: ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 7: ‘Left Behind’ DLC Differences, Similarities And Easter Eggs, Explained

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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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