Exclusive Preview: French Manga Series Last Man Debuts Stateside in The Stranger

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French cartoonist Bastien Vivès first gained recognition from the Angoulême International Comics Festival — an event that beats out San Diego Comic-Con International by roughly 70,000 attendees —for A Taste of Chlorine in 2009. The graphic novel presents a touching coming-of-age look at a young boy falling both in love with a girl and large bodies of water, rendered with a delicate touch that earned Vivès the New Face Award. This year, Vivès joined fellow artists Balak and Michaël Sanlaville to take home the Best Series Award for Last Man, an electric action Euro-Manga about an ancient martial arts tournament and the rugged action hero who storms it.

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Though Last Man has already entered into its seventh volume in France, publisher First Second will introduce the series—starting with debut chapter The Stranger—later this month to American readers. First Second, also responsible for publishing such gems as This One Summer, Battling Boy and The Wrenchies, will continue to release three volumes a year.

The Stranger follows a young boy, Adrian Velba, as he navigates a competitive fighting tournament that brings pairs of adults and children into a ring where combatants wield elemental magic and roundhouse kicks. Velba nearly bows out of the tournament after his partner falls sick, only for an enigmatic bruiser named Richard Aldana to fill the recent vacancy. Aldana raises eyebrows and drops blows with brutal abandon, ignoring the pomp, circumstance and rules of the hallowed event. Also: a pet honey badger named Oni. Already in development as a videogame and animated series, Last Man merges myriad styles and cultural touchstones into a wildly entertaining YA epic.

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