Last Man is my favorite graphic novel series from 2015-2016, hands down. If you haven’t read the first four installments, halt, turn around, and march back to the home page before I start discussing volumes five and six. This series is too good to miss and you really don’t want to start in the middle.
Volume five finds our heroes Adrian, Marian, and Richard stuck between a rock and a hard place. Marian and Adrian are about as far away from the Veil as they can be, but at this point, they aren’t returning without something to show for it. In Adrian’s case, he is both fascinated and repelled by this outside world full of fighting, drugs, and glamour. It sucked him in just as quickly as his partner Richard did in volume one, while Marian came to the outside world to find Richard and appease her son. After rescuing Richard from jail just to lose him again in volume four, the team is finally back together.
Volume six finishes out the fighting tournament subplot in Paxtown and allows the previous background plot concerning the sinister force known as the Royal Guard to come to the forefront. Unbeknownst to Marian, Adrian, and Richard, who have been consumed with fighting for their lives—first in the tournament and then against the Guard afterwards—these forces have been around for centuries and they’re at work in both of their disparate worlds. Characters rise from the dead due to the twisted scientific experiments of the Guard, and friends and foes who were put down in prior installments come back to haunt or help our heroes in these two volumes.
Throughout the series, the relationships between Adrian and Richard and Adrian and his mother are like that of Luke to Obi Wan and Luke to Yoda, respectively: one introduces him to the world of fighting, and the other finishes his training by unlocking the hidden power within. This becomes further emphasized towards the end of volume six, but there are also many fun plots in play as seemingly trivial events from previous volumes continue to crop up.
The Last Man series is an amazing artistic and storytelling force. The writing combines the gripping martial arts and mysticism of Dragonball Z with the graphic stylings of an American comic book or hero’s journey. This results in a stunning French manga that is unlike anything else on the shelves today. The art is both soft and sharp: there isn’t any color to be found on the pages, but the artists do incredible things with shadows and shading to create amazing depth, especially in the fight scenes. The artists and writers are incredibly in sync with each other throughout both volumes, which works to create a wonderfully plotted and different style of graphic novel that teens will devour first for its freshness, then stick around for the plot and character growth.
The content does skew towards the older end of the teen spectrum after volume one, with drugs, nudity, and fighting all making an appearance in the later volumes, as well as some truly Byzantine attitudes towards women that are thankfully annihilated by one of the characters. I believe this series should find a place on library shelves due to its fantastic storytelling and unique style. It will be especially popular in libraries where Naruto, Dragonball Z, and One Punch Man are popular and circulate well. Last Man will give teens a new super-powered hero to root for and a host of villains to root against.
Last Man: The Order and Last Man: The Rescue, vols. 5-6
by Bastien Vivès, Michaël Sanlaville, Balak
vol 5 ISBN: 9781626720503
vol 6 ISBN: 9781626720510
First Second, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: Teen +