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‘Last Man: The Show’ – Graphic Novel Review

You don’t know a person ’till you fight them.

There are times when I’ve been completely swept up in a piece of text, a show, or a series of artwork 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 really thought-provoking twists.  All of this laid down with a heavy dose of sci-fi 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 studentfilm 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 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 with 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.

Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor



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