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Last Man: The Stranger Paperback – March 31, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Adrian Velba is a gladiator-in-training. He lives in a medieval magical land that values tradition, and the annual gladiatorial Games are what he (and everyone else) looks forward to all year. When the Games finally do roll around, his partner gets sick and it seems like all hope is lost. Adrian wants to win the games to help out his mother, but he can't enter without a teammate. Out of nowhere, the rough and tumble fighter Richard Aldana appears, and Adrian is in the right place at the right time because the older man needs a partner, too. The unconventional duo proves successful, mainly because of Aldana's rough fighting style that completely eschews magic. This first installment in the graphic novel series, created by an all-star French trio, does a superb job of setting the stage for the epic battles to come. Adrian is a lovable protagonist, and Aldana is a mysterious fighter who will be a great mentor figure for the fatherless Adrian. Teens will be left on the edge of their seats rooting for the pair. The black-and-white illustrations are well done, engaging, and easy to follow. And while a few different story lines are introduced, they are not confusing. The fantasy world where Adrian, his mom, and Aldana live is well developed, but there are definitely some more questions that beg to be answered in the following installments. VERDICT Recommend to graphic novel fans looking for something new—they will not be disappointed.—Morgan Brickey, Marion County Public Library System, FL
"Last Man is irresistible. Blending elements of manga and bande dessinee with a loose boldness and a flair for fantasy, this series is a winner." ―Paul Pope, author of Battling Boy
"The art is particularly striking, with loose, flowing lines and spare details that make the fight scenes truly sing, while in close-up range, the characters’ features tighten into focus, creating uniquely lovely portraiture." ―Booklist
"Fight scenes are buoyed by the use of minimal contours, with Balak, Vivès, and Sanlaville drawing on their respective experiences as animator, cartoonist, and video-game designer to give the action a visceral flow." ―Publishers Weekly
"Recommend to graphic novel fans looking for something new―they will not be disappointed." ―School Library Journal
"Sharp black, white, and gray illustrations work smoothly with the text, often featuring key wordless events that evoke the coziness of Adrian’s relationship with his mother or the mostly silent physicality of a fight." ―The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
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Speaking of Aldana: another reason I love this book is that not only are genres mixed in the art, but in the story, too. It's fantasy in that fighters use magic in the ring (summoning tornados, lightning, etc.), but it's also a lot like a Western--"Fistful of Dollars" or "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" or, like I said, John Wayne movies: tough guy comes into town with a mysterious past whom all the ladies adore and all the men hate. Aldana comes from our world, it seems--he doesn't use magic, and has never fought against people who do. Yet somehow, he can beat them...because he's Just. That. Tough.
The dialogue's fun, too--Aldana and Marianne have the banter of You totally annoy me but I want to jump your bones. And I love the different fighters. Every one of them is such a character. Really, the writing crackles with energy. And the art, too. I just wish Book 2 was already out so I could see what happens next. So frustrating to have to wait until the fall. Ugh.