With a new introduction by Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay’s The Last Dragon returns to print with a new edition. Is it good?
The Last Dragon (Dark Horse Comics)
Originally published in 2011, Dark Horse Comics has reissued the graphic novel by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay. The story of The Last Dragon centers around a young woman, nicknamed Tansy, who tries to save her town from a ferocious beast.
While the bulk of the graphic novel is focused on the central character, Jane Yolen does a great job world-building. The opening pages tell a great history of dragons in the land, allowing the readers to feel as though they’ve stumbled upon an ancient history book. The readers get to know the predatory nature of the dragon before meeting the human characters, and this sets the tone for the book. This dragon is not a friendly creature, but a wild beast, willing to eat anything that it can catch in its jaws, and the opening lets the air of danger hang over the rest of the graphic novel.
Where Yolen’s script really succeeds is in building its characters. With just a few lines, Yolen breathes life into the protagonist, Tansy, and her family. By giving Tansy and her sisters two names, Yolen conveys a sense of culture in the town Meddlesome, while also hinting at their nature, with the herbal names playing on their character traits (Sage, for example, is a bit of a dimwit). Tansy is an engaging protagonist–knowledgeable but inexperienced, warm but distant, she’s instantly likeable and her journey is easy to become invested in. Jane Yolen’s character work extends to the supporting cast, including the con-artist Lancot. With his dashing good looks and swagger, Lancot appears as a potential hero to save Meddlesome and its populace from the ferocious beast. While it would be easy to subvert the hero trope by positioning Lancot as a coward and a fool, Yolen opts for the more nuanced route as Lancot reveals himself to be a man who has simply become disillusioned with the world.
Rebecca Guay’s artwork makes The Last Dragon stand out from other books on the shelf. The linework throughout the book varies in its level of detail depending on what Guay is portraying, with more detail showing in close-ups, while looser lines show themselves in some of the wider establishing shots. The colors here are a fantastic fit for the story, neither hyper-realistic nor distracting. Guay opts to use a softer palette, and often the colors will meld together, giving the book a dreamlike quality. Guay also has a great sense of lighting and how that can affect a scene. Whether it’s the wonder of sunlight piercing through a glade, or the warm fires of an inn casting their glow onto Lancot’s frame, Guay makes sure that the lighting conveys the appropriate mood for the scene.
The pacing of the story is a credit to both Yolen and Guay, as the artwork and script flow quite naturally, and readers may find themselves turning the pages at a fast clip. The read never feels rushed as the pacing changes gears when the story needs room to breathe. This is perhaps most noticeable in the pages leading up to Lancot’s arrival in the story, as the story begins to build to the climactic fight with the dragon.
The letters by Clem Robins really play into the type of story being developed. The lettering takes on different characteristics based off the role of the text. The captions are presented in a Gothic style font that blends in perfectly with Rebecca Guay’s artwork, while the dialogue utilizes a more modern appearance which adds immediacy to the story. Guay’s artwork is one of the main draws to the story, and Robins makes sure that the balloons and blocks of text never obscure the visuals of the book.
Is It Good?
The Last Dragon is a visual feast that recalls classic fantasy fiction. Jane Yolen’s story doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but it does show how entertaining the genre can be when conventions are played with. Rebecca Guay’s artwork provides a timeless feel to the book as well as providing the tempo for the story. The Last Dragon is a beautiful and fulfilling read that leads its audience through a wondrous tale of adventure and wit.
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