Archive for March 11th, 2008

Mar 11 2008

The Last Man Review

Published by under Book Review,Comic Books

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

I read The Last Man today, which made a biomask look pretty good with a hooded jacket. It’s a vaguely sci-fi story with some weird bits of fantasy mixed in. The premise is that the removal of an artifact from Lebanon triggers a curse causing every male on Earth to spontaneously suffer a death-by-eye-gushing. The only surviving man apparently survives because he has some magical trinket.

 

The character development was pretty flimsy. The male lead is a slightly more reckless but physically tricky version of Peter Parker. The female lead is a Secret Service agent– Agent 523, I think. (Naming a character after a number is painfully cliché)… I’ve seen reviews that praise TLM for this agent being innovative because she’s one of a very few strong black-female characters, but taking an extremely cliché governmental archetype (The KillBot) and making him a black woman doesn’t seem very fresh to me.

 

Most of the story has taken place in Washington so far. That is usually a cliché setting– second only to NYC, I think– but I’d excuse that because using government figures like the Secret Service pretty much requires Washington. Occasionally, the story took completely random tangents to Israel, which raised red flags about oncoming political sermons. However, in hindsight, Israel kind of makes sense as a setting because Israel’s women play an unusually important role in its national military. The story will probably make more use of the Israeli characters later, but right now it feels like characterization a la Heroes (keep throwing characters at us until someone sticks).

 

I enjoyed the writing, but tellingly I can’t remember any lines. By contrast, I remember five separate punchlines from The Hood, a comic I read three years ago. (One memorable scene: “You’d make a good FBI agent, Tommy. Do you want to be an FBI agent, like your uncle Carl?” “F*** that! I wanna be an Avenger”).

 

The villains were a major drawback. In this comic, we saw a neo-Amazonian cult and a gang of Republican widows that storm the White House with shotguns to take the Congressional seats formerly held by their husbands. (I’m not making that up. However, I should point out that the story has actually felt pretty even-handed when it makes political allusions.) The archvillain, the Amazonian leader, is wholly forgettable. The only thing I remember about her is that she once beat Bobby Fischer in chess.

 

The action has been pretty restrained so far. Frankly, I think that’s one of TLM’s strengths. I think it might help if the writing were as restrained. For example, the surviving women turn the Washington Monument into a memorial for the dead men. Because, you know, it’s phallic-shaped? Haha! Yeah. It was that bad.

 

The world-building has been moderately disappointing. There was one hilarious scene with a model whose job ended when all the guys died. But besides that, TLM has hardly ventured beyond the generic sci-fi dystopia. You’ve seen this before. Hell breaks loose: people go crazy, form gangs, commit suicide, etc. Except for men dying instead of women, the story seems eerily reminiscent of the N64’s Battle Tanx, which is as sophisticated as anything called Battle Tanx should be.

 

Verdict: I’d recommend giving The Last Man a look. Its execution is uneven, but I think that it has potential.

Oh, also. If you’re interested in working with comic books and/or visual design for superheroes, I’d really recommend it. There’s a few shots of the main character wearing a biomask with a hooded jacket and I think that the art does a really nice job of making someone with a mask look human. That’s always been one of my problems with masked heroes, that they look like machines.

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