Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 29


by Balak, Sanlaville, and Vivès
Genre notes: fighting, adventure, romance, French shounen
12 vols — 6 release in English; series not yet attached to new publisher T-T
ISBN: 1626720460 (Amazon)

Last Man is pretty easily one the most exciting series published in the last decade. Beyond being lithely and gorgeously illustrated by Sanlaville and Vivès (Vivès did A Taste Of Chlorine, which I mentioned a few posts back), the story is pulse-poundingly exciting. What begins as a magic fighting tournament in a rather fantasy realm turns into a cross-dimensional adventure when a theft speeds the recently arrived outsider Richard Aldana out of town in a hurry. Young Adrian and his mother give chase and things get out of hand real fast.

And the result is compulsively readable.

The artists portray so much elegance of motion that even heavy, stomping, oxen men move with a kind of liquid energy. Certainly more like a crashing wave than something more gentle, but still. More lithe figures like Adrian exhibit the same sense of weightlessness as the dancers in Vivès earlier work, Polina. The backgrounds, too, are skillfully devised with all manner of unexpected detail. A dragon here, a crowd reaction there. Altogether lovely.

But even better than that—and if you can imagine for a minute the essentiality of fluid combat choreography for this kind of story and then consider that this is better than that—the illustrators hold utter mastery of the characters’ expressions. Their faces are simple but convey a wealth of intents and meanings. Child protagonist Adrian shifts from guileless to guarded to curious to excited to determined to overjoyed, and the purpose behind his countenance is never in doubt. Richard Aldana also modulates between a host of feelings and moods and interests. There is, at all times, the overt story being told through dialogue and action, but simultaneously there is another story told across the faces of this book’s participants, a narrative born in looks and in eyes and in mouths and in shoulders and in the space of physical proximity, one character from another. This is a rich tapestry and this trio of creators demonstrates mastery of all the elements of their stage.

A valid question right now for the US reader is Is it worth it to jump onto a series that publication woes have placed in indefinite limbo? The series is 12 volumes long but it may be that in the US we will only ever get translations of the first 6 volumes. I'd say a guarded, Yes, that it's worth it. Even though vol 6 does end on a pretty cataclysmic cliffhanger, it also wraps up pretty decisively the first major arc of the series and in that sense feels mostly complete. It's not a great feeling to be left hanging with only 50% of the series but that 50% is so well done (despite occasional missteps) that I'd happily recommend the series to any adventure-lovers with the caveat that they know going in that they're reading an incomplete work. [Really, what I'd love is for entire series to be published in four oversized omnibus editions like the Hellboy Library Editions, to give the series its due.]

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