The story of Last Man is what really caught my attention with the first volume, The Stranger. We enter a world that’s still relatively developing set in a European story book under monarch rule. Then we meet Richard Aldana. A man clearly from our world. He’s got a motorcycle and he doesn’t dress, talk or act like anyone else. He doesn’t know the customs of the culture he’s living in and so he’s very much the “stranger” he’s been billed as. In the last volume we see his partner Adrian, who happens to be a kid still learning to fight, step into the ring to face the two remaining students from his school that are in the tournament after an embarrassing loss by Richard. Frankly, not even Richard thinks he can do it and basically assumes they’re out of the tournament.
That’s where we pick up on the story, but wouldn’t you know it… Adrian is full of surprises. He manages to beat the kid that makes fun of him, picks on him and is dating the girl that he likes. Furious at his loss he tells his girlfriend to go in and destroy Adrian, but she can’t. Instead she ends the fight and gives herself a ring out giving our unlikely duo a win.
From there the story continues developing much in the way it did in the first volume. Richard and Adrian find unlikely ways to continue winning until making it to the finals. Things take a stranger turn when Richard’s bag is stolen by one of the champions and a secret is found out about him. Richard and Marianne’s relationship continues to develop and let’s just say that this becomes the most interesting aspect of the story. I won’t tell you the ending, but much like the way the first volume left you on the edge of your seat, so too did this volume… maybe more so.
What’s particularly great about this volume of Last Man is that we’re beginning to see more of the big picture, but not so much that we lose focus on the story playing out before us. Our creative team is very aware of the episodic nature of their story, but it takes a real talent to deliver a volume that stands on its own and be rewarding, while also building the larger narrative.
The pacing of the story is perfect. We’re not just getting more fighting like the first volume. There’s more character development and really the fighting moves quicker in this volume. You don’t want to just see more of what happened in the first volume because that was the point of the first volume, we want to see something different and they deliver. Instead the victories here are used to add some kind of depth to our cast. Be it Richard believing in Adrian finally, or Adrian proving that he’s a small kid that can really throw down; I would say that Marianne proves she’s more than just a protective mother, but we knew that already. As much as the world was built up in the first volume, it’s surpassed in this volume and yet we still haven’t scratched the surface.
The art remains consistently gorgeous. Again the only thing I can think of equating it to is the European storybooks. Disney’s Cinderella is probably the closest American style I can think of. In fact, Marianne even looks a little like her, which I absolutely love. The character designs continue to be great.
The action, which there is some outside of the fighting, is dynamic and very fluid. There’s a very organic feeling to the way the characters move and fight. When Richard puts a guy in an arm lock, it looks legit. The anatomy is realistic, but more importantly it looks painful. The fighting has a weight to it. Even Adrian’s punches. The artwork really gets you excited about this story and keeps you hyped all the way until the end.
I was very impressed by this volume. I really enjoyed The Stranger and while I’m not surprised that I enjoyed The Royal Cup, I am surprised that I loved it for different reasons. These books are connected and vibe the same, but there was clearly a different goal for each volume. There was a different part of the narrative that the creative team wanted to tackle and accomplish and to that I say kudos. This is a brilliant edition to the series that has left me looking forward to the third volume. I can’t wait to see what they manage to pull off.