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The Stranger (Last Man) 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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Top Customer Reviews
You can often tell when the artists have had some experience in animation. The art isn't focused on being overly-detailed, but rather places emphasis on fluidity. That's not to say the detail isn't incredible because it is. The panels transition very smoothly for the most part, and this really aids the visual experience during the action sequences. There are several panels that opt for a "minimalist" (if I'm using that term properly) style, which eludes details particularly during the flurry of motion. I like that in my comics. In addition to that, the characterizations are well done and every dialogue/personality feels organic. There were actually parts that had me actively rooting for a character or being somewhat bummed out by a certain outcome in the story, which is a good thing for a first volume. It builds anticipation for the next part. Other than that, I also noticed maybe a couple of nods to shounen manga and (obviously) martial arts flicks, so that's pretty cool.
In a nutshell, it's a great comic book that definitely has me interested enough for upcoming volumes. Brief and mostly introductory, but seems to be paving the way for an excellent story with perhaps a few unexpected twists. I say check it out.
Our tale begins with a boy, Adrian, training, and getting his butt kicked by his classmates. His struggle and strong desire to succeed, combined with his relationship with his mother make him an endearing character to follow. The tournament is about to start in their village and Adrian can’t find a partner. A skilled stranger comes to town, becomes Adrian’s unlikely partner, and the games begin.
The back and forth of wins and losses combined with the engaging magic system of their fighting styles delivered an exciting story. The side story of Adrian’s mother and the two men with romantic interest in her was funny, even when it was over the top silly. By the end of this edition, I was eager to continue the tournament and see what new revelations we’ll see of the fighting style the stranger brings to town. For anyone remotely interested in this genre, I recommend picking it up. It’s funny and has a depth to the story and fighting system I didn’t expect.
Last Man #2, The Royal Cup is out now, and Last Man #3, The Chase is out this fall. I’m excited to see where the story goes!
A review copy was sent by the publisher. Review posted at timothycward.com