/ Cory Doctorow / 5 am Tue, Jun 23 2015
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  • Last Man 2: epic French manga gets even better

    Last Man 2: epic French manga gets even better

    In March 2015, Firstsecond books published its English translation of the first volume of Lastman, the spectacularly successful French martial arts comic; they're bringing out the rest of the books on an aggressive schedule, with Book 2: The Royal Cup coming out today.

    Last Man 1: The Stranger introduced us to Richard Aldana, a newcomer to the sleepy, medieval village where the annual martial arts tourney is held. Through a set of desperate circumstances, the mighty Aldana was paired with the scrawny Adrian, whose mother skipped her own meals so that he could eat something. They were paired for the tournament and emerged from the first matches victorious, even though Aladana knew nothing of magic and lost them points by interrupting rival fighters during their spellcasting.

    In Last Man 2: The Royal Cup, we pick up the action with the quarter-finals, and now it's Adrian's turn in the ring, using Aldana's training in addition to his lessons from the local dojo. Lastman's creators have many things going for them, but this is where they really shine: I've never seen martial arts sequences in still images brought to such life.

    As the tournament goes on, we learn more about the mysterious Richard Aldana -- as hinted in Book One, he's not just from another part of the world -- he's from another world altogether. What's more, his secret has slipped into the hands of an unknown enemy, who has stolen away his bag and learned things he'd do anything to keep from getting out.

    This volume of Last Man moves out of the smart and fast-moving realm of Book One and into altogether new territory, with intrigue, sex, high-stakes fighting, and mysteries within mysteries. The "A" story -- who will win the tournament? -- blends perfectly into the "B" story -- what about Richard Aldana, and what about Adrian's own family? It ends on a magnificent cliffhanger and promises great things with book three, The Chase, which comes in October.

    Reading series in translation has a tremendous advantage in that the publishing schedule can be pushed to breakneck speed, with mercifully short gaps between volumes. French manga is a perfect mix of the sensibility that English-language readers discovered in Heavy Metal with the best of Japanese manga, like Deathnote.

    Last Man 2: The Royal Cup

    -Cory Doctorow

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