cover image The Stranger

The Stranger

Bastien Viv%C3%A8s, Micha%C3%ABl Sanlaville, and Balak, trans. from the French b

A budding spellcaster hooks up with an out-of-town pugilist in hopes of winning an annual fighting tournament in this swift and addictive opening installment of the French comic Last Man. At age 12, Adrian Velba is finally old enough to enter his town's annual Games, but he lacks a requisite partner until Richard Aldana, a muscly vagabond, suggests they join forces to compete and subsequently causes a stir with his gruff hand-to-hand combat and shirking of local tradition. Fight scenes are buoyed by the use of minimal contours, with Balak, Viv%C3%A8s, and Sanlaville drawing on their respective experiences as animator, cartoonist, and video-game designer to give the action a visceral flow. As Richard mows down the competition (and takes a shine to Adrian's mother), Adrian finds himself in serious contention, up against a medley of colorful and formidable opponents. They could even go all the way, unless some mishap or backdoor scheming derails their ambitions. Readers eager to find out won't have to wait long%E2%80%94the next two books in the series are due later this year. Ages 14%E2%80%93up. (Mar.)