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The Royal Cup (Last Man) Paperback – June 23, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—This sequel to The Stranger (First Second, 2015) picks up right where the narrative left off with the Royal Cup tournament underdogs, the young novice Adrian Velba, and the mysterious rogue fighter Richard Aldana. With Richard at his side, Adrian is gaining more confidence in his ability to battle in the ring and he is more of a competitor as the team heads to the championships. Richard, too, is becoming more familiar with the intricate rules surrounding the Royal Cup and does what he can to propel them to the final battle. Also, things begin to heat up between Richard and young Adrian's mother, Marianne. This does not distract him from the last Royal Cup fight, which is certainly epic. Even before the final match, people are becoming increasingly suspicious of Aldana, and he must distance himself before he gets in too deep. Action scenes propel this underdog fight story again. The black-and-white illustrations are well done and captivating. Teens will be rooting for Richard and Adrian. They make an odd couple, but they learn from each other every step of the way. Enough questions are answered in this second volume of the graphic novel series, but there is still an abundance of mystery surrounding the older man, and it looks like Adrian's mother has some tricks up her sleeve as well. VERDICT Teens of all ages will enjoy this mythical journey but will have to have read the first installment to understand this entry fully.—Morgan Brickey, Marion County Public Library System, FL
About the Author
BASTIEN VIVES studied illustration and animation at the Ecole des Gobelins. After movie-making classes, he dived into comics, and his first title came out in 2007.
BALAK (aka Yves Bigerel) works as a storyboard artists, 2D animator and TV show director in France. He works with Marvel Comics on the new digital Infinite Comics brand, as a storyboard artist (Avengers VS X-men with Mark Waid, Guardians of the Galaxy with Brian M. Bendis, Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted with Jason Aaron and Jason Latour).
MICHAEL SANLAVILLE graduated from the Emile Cohl school, and later the Gobelins, after which he followed twin careers in animation (at the Xilam studio) and in comics with Casterman publishers.
The Royal Cup is the sequel to The Stranger, and the second volume in their Last Man series.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Royal Cup, Vol. 2 of The Last Man series is not a self-contained story. Without knowledge of the events that transpired in Vol. 1, The Stranger, the reader would probably feel like they were thrown into the drink without a life preserver and wearing cement shoes. Given, however, that most manga fans will have picked up Vol. 1, already, and not have missed a thing, this graphic serial, takes the reader in media res, immediately after the events of The Stranger. Not a beat was skipped. You could crazy glue the two books together and have a seamless story. Adrian, his mother and the Stranger, haven’t moved an inch.
The writing is a little more fluid than in the first volume; meandering little, carrying itself well given the subject setting. The battle for the Royal Cup takes up most of this installment and it’s a fantastic improvement over the first volume. Combined with the hyper exaggerated art, the focus on strategy comes to the forefront, the trust between Adrian and the Stranger, build as they coach each other in deficiencies, and the story flows a lot smoother because of it. Little snippets, though, are left out in open and the twist “ending” actually had me intrigued to see what happens next.
As serial stories progress, I (for one) have the expectation that characters will evolve and progress. This happens in the slower pacing of the Japanese style, in order to focus on the rather elongated fight that encompasses the majority of the vignette that makes up The Royal Cup. Offside, as has been mentioned, trust and love rear their heads and move the characters in closing and opening relationships; emotions runs high in this installment, and the characters, especially the underdeveloped ones from the first volume, hold their own in this one.
The artwork, once again was opulence given form. This is a graphic novel in which the graphic shines through. Skillfully weaving detailed backgrounds, and more punch to the fight scenes, with the elegance of simplicity in the characters shows the art team in becoming more comfortable with the world and its inhabitants. The exploits of Adrian, our young hero, display simple form set against lavishly drawn royal scenes, much like a child’s view of an overwhelming world. It is so vivid I felt what Adrian must have felt, often seeing the world through a “worm’s eye view” (in which the camera is placed at a low angle looking up). Our stalwart young hero’s adventures seem to just be beginning by the end of the book.
Fans of Dragonball or Dragonball Z, manga, fight comics and those who want to display the art form, The Royal Cup is the graphic novel you must pick up
where I am completely drawn into the world without prejudice or reservation. Beyond classics like The
Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, there are smaller series like Sword Art Online and The Wheel of Time
where my analytical self shuts down and just enjoys what’s in front of me. The Last Man Series
published by First Second is one of these wondrous moments for me, and I find myself diving into it as
deeply as my love for a certain YT-1300 CEC Light Freighter. The first volume was fantastically
interesting and detailed in a way that led me to believe that the world we saw was the whole shebang,
but in each successive installment the world has expanded outward with plot and scope, and inward
with depth of character and some real thought-provoking twists. All of this laid down with a heavy dose
of SciFi that strangely stays mostly unnoticed and becomes naturally intertwined with the world until it
all just makes sense.
Normally I like to break down between the art and script, but I really can’t seem to pull it apart. This is
what I think of when I think of art: where the technique is so masterfully applied that you can no longer
see it. Think of the difference of a student film protagonist and Sir Anthony Hopkins. The young actor
you can see using sense memory, reacting on the line, and projecting. Hopkins just is. The technique
has become invisible and all that’s left is the art. This is what I feel the Last Man has achieved, and I
really don’t want to mess with the harmony. Balak, Sanlaville and Vives have combined in a story that
looks gorgeous on the page, borrows from styles and genres in a way that feels natural and focused, and
manages to give a wide array of characters a life and depth that is incredibly rewarding to read.
This may sound odd, but this series to me is as if Dragonball Z happened in the real world. It’s the
dedication to making the world so damn believable that gives me that sense, everyone we meet is as
fleshed out as many main characters in other books, but serve just their time to add to the current
narrative as the Velbas manage to get closer to catching Richard. This volume finally gives us a good
look at who he is, and why he ended up in the tournament with Adrien in the first place. There’s still a
mystery of what precisely the incident involved, the creators are not getting soft on us and suddenly
opening the floodgates on him which keeps just enough mystery involved to be on the pleasant side of
frustrating. We get to see the Velbas handle a big city after their adventures in Nihipolis, and the scope
widens considerably as we are brought more into the know as to what their world actually is. Marianne
seems to be quite comfortable with this larger world, and it begs the question of “how…?”. She is a
refreshingly strong and complex woman who steps right into the sh*t when needed. Adrien will be
exposed to the most as you read, and the delicateness and maturity in which they handle the reality of
his experiences is something not seen in a lot of comics. It’s a simple dedication to storytelling that
makes the images come to life in front of you.
There have been a few clues dropped throughout the series thus far about the city the Velbas hail from
and what it means to this larger world that they’ve entered, but the final three pages of this volume are
ground-shattering in their impact, and much like everything else in the series are drawn and written
brilliantly. I’m so excited for July’s release of the next volume already.
The three contributors (the writer, layout/storyteller, and the artist) each deliver truly spectacular work, and it unifies into a magnificent whole. Definitely worth reading. Though the series itself spans multiple books, the first two create a good stand-alone read, so I would recommend doubling down.