The Last Man, Vol. 6
By Balak, Sanlaville, Vive̒s
It is with fever pitched action, fisticuffs and gun-battles that draws the first arc of The Last Man to a close. Needless to say the stakes have never been higher, and the 5 volumes leading up to The Rescue almost, if possible, seem tame by comparison. A grittier, more dark overtone hovers over this installment and being deep in the heart of the enemies lair, with two of their tow in captivity (hence the rescue), this tone expands greatly on the intrigue and plot facets, present in the last graphic novel, The Order, and ramps them up a notch. Neatly tying together most major plot threads, The Rescue by Balak + Sanlaville + Vive̒s is a strong jumping on point for new readers, and a satisfying conclusion for those who have kept up with the series.
The writing has never been more finessed throughout the previous 5 volumes. A firm grasp of character, and their respective adversaries, give this a solid in road into the psyches of the protagonists and antagonists alike. There is no more room for guesswork at this stage in the game and it shows. The characters speak naturally, act as if you’d expect them to, and respond in kind. The sheer synergy of character to voice resonates throughout this graphic novel and the actions of both sides, desperate on both accounts, is simply astounding. A lot of this is dealt with by placing word over action or actions over words when necessary. Not a word or act is wasted – everything moves towards the unexpected twist at the endgame.
The art, as always, is slick and clean – incredibly well rendered for the topics it covers. The realistic backgrounds and stylized manga characters, is as beautiful and well composed as they were earlier in the series. There are no qualms here, about stating the art is worth the price of admission. Skillful lines and shading, often deep shading, depict fantastically, the crime ridden world the characters interact in. The style is taken with lettering (or dialogue balloons) in mind and the graphic novel reads both pictorially and word-wise well. The most powerful impact is placed on the fight scenes; seemingly because this graphic novel is one big multi-faceted fight. Kudos must go to the art team for keeping the art fresh and dynamic – even at this stage of the game where they could sit back and coast. It would be easy to let this happen, but the art keeps giving more and more of itself, almost topping the previous five volumes.
Overall, for fans of the Street Fighter series, manga in general, and battling martial arts amidst mystical and technological wonders – the ingredients of many a fine story – should pick this up. You won’t be disappointed, especially at the twist ending. For new readers this is an excellent jumping on point in the series, and for old, well, our journey begins anew.