Publisher: First Second
Release Date: June 23rd, 2015
Richard Aldana, the mysterious stranger who entered the Games in the first volume of Last Man, continues to defeat all of his competitors, despite his outlandish refusal to use any magic, and to rely solely on martial arts. With young Adrian fighting at his side, he's beginning to look like a likely contender for the Royal Cup.Disclaimer: I received a copy for review from the publisher. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for it.
But in a breathtaking twist, everything changes: this world is not what you thought it was, and Richard Aldana is certainly not who he claimed.
I enjoyed The Royal Cup much more than The Last Stranger (review), but I also found parts of it problematic in my mind. Starting with the positive, this installment was much more action packed. It was so exciting to see Adrian fight and to see him on his own. You never lose the sense that Adrian is just a young boy, but I think it's refreshing to see him on the backdrop of the more experienced, older, and physicially bigger opponents. It keeps the story grounded and interesting in dynamic, setting it apart from similar graphic novels.
A lot more was going on in this book, but it never felt like too much or too rushed. We learn a little bit more about Richard but bearly. There's still the compeition going on. There's still the reation to Richard and to the duo being in the running for the Cup. The illustrations continue to complement the story well, drawing readers in and including just enough detail without showing too much.
What stuck out to me in particular about this installment, however, was the female characters. I still can't decide if I like what they've done with Marianne's character, but I loved that twist at the end. I can't wait to learn more about her and about her past. She's so badass! But at the same time, I didn't like how she sort of gave in to Aldana. I mean, maybe she really does have feelings for him, but gahhh. I didn't get the sense that she felt anything more than gratitude towards him for everything he's done for Adrian.
Then there's Adrian's friend Elorna, who is one of my favorite characters in this series. I am so happy that she stood up against her partner and did what she felt was right. She didn't care about the criticism. She didn't care about what others thought. She knew what she wanted to do, and she did it. She cared more about supporting a friend and being loyal than about winning, unlike Gregorio. She stands up to him and defends both Adrian and herself. And then even once she's done, she pulls a Hermione and punches him, showing him that she's in charge of her own actions and that she won't stand being insulted and being treated the way he was treating her. Yes, girl!
Then there's Alyssa, one of the other contenders for the cup. I was disgusted by this quick story line. I couldn't stand how women were being portrayed--which was only heightened when Marianne got together with Richard. I don't know...maybe there was a reason behind it, but I couldn't find it. It felt completely unnecessary and so undignified for women. It sexualized women without needing to, making us seem like rabid, sex-driven animals. Like no. I refuse to believe that such a tough contender would ever fall to that, even with the mysterious Richard Aldana.
Lastly, there's the mysterious Miss Sakova and the Queen (?), Elfira. I can't figure out which side she's on because at one point, I thought she was working against Richard, but then she was working with him. We don't know almost anything about her, but I'm hoping we'll learn a bit about her in later installments. And I liked how Elfira probably went against the rules to give some help. I don't know how I feel about it being yet another woman helping Richard, but I kind of like that she probably broke the rules to do so.
So mostly, my issue was with the mixed portrayal of female characters. The plot was interesting and engaging, even more so than in the first book. This was a really solid sequel, and I look forward to The Chase.