Y: The Last Man
My enthusiastic journey into the realms of graphic novels continues, this time into Brian K. Vaughan’s series Y: The Last Man. It is a set of sixty comics, fifteen volumes, or five deluxe collector’s editions of A-grade greatness. Vaughan brings the same great comedic yet profound writing to this series as he does to the Saga series. But this time, the series is set not in space, but on Earth. Though definitely not the Earth as we know it.
When a deadly plague strikes Earth, every living thing with a Y chromosome falls down in a bloody, heaving mess (oh, yeah, best to tell you now that this series definitely puts the graphic in graphic novel; there’s a lot of blood, violence, nudity, and some sexual violence) – all, it would seem, except Yorick Brown and his trusty, poop-throwing monkey sidekick Ampersand. The story follows Yorick, who is accompanied by a government agent and brilliant geneticist as they try and discover the cause of the plague, attempt to find his fiancée (last seen in Australia), as well as uncover the secret to his survival.
What I loved about Y: The Last Man was the humor. I wouldn’t have thought that an apocalypse could be so entertaining, but Vaughan et al. make it exactly that. Yorick is a whiny slightly depressive boy, not quite the all-round Abercrombie and Fitch model that Hollywood would’ve cast. He’s a bit of an idiot and is in no way useful when it comes to some of the situations that they find themselves in. Because news, of course, spreads that there is a man who survived the plague and suddenly Yorick is being hunted by the Israeli army, a Japanese spy, and a Russian astronaut. Things get good too!
Unlike other apocalyptic dystopian books, this series has to deal with not just a random selection of the population dying but, rather, the entirety of the male species dying. Because of this, it raises some interesting questions about politics, airplanes, society, and extinction of life as a whole.
The first thing that the women do is elect a new leader. Because the President of the United States and most of his cabinet were male, this role then falls to the next viable candidate: the Secretary of Agriculture. It is a less than subtle jab at the fact that there are not many women in US politics. There is another such a jab when the idea of flying to another country comes into the story. The majority of pilots were male, so flights across the Atlantic (let alone anywhere else) are few and far between. Again, though this subject was only covered on one page of text, this one comment made me think just how powerful this series is and just how much it has to say about the world we live in.
There were some parts that I found less believable and, in some parts, a little far-fetched. Yorick and his team run into a band of Amazons, a band of women who have been reveling in the extinction of man by burning down sperm banks and wreaking havoc among those who hold out hope for the return of mankind. Though I have no doubt that tribes would be created if this were to happen in real life, I did find the Amazons a little crazy, as I really don’t think women would lob off their left breast in the modern world. That said, the interactions that the main characters had with them were more entertaining due to them being so extreme. I shrugged off my initial ‘that wouldn’t happen’ disbelief with an audible scoff and then sunk straight back into the action. I couldn’t help myself. I needed to know if they would survive!
All in all though, Vaughan’s world and the journey that I took with Yorick and Ampersand was a joy. I had to make sure that I had all five compendiums at my fingertips before I started reading because much like Saga, and Pringles, once you pop you can’t stop.
Note: Although I enjoyed the book overall for its humor and fascinating premise, Y: The Last Man does have its critics. In anticipation of the TV adaptation of the book, for instance, feminist writer S.E. Fleenor addressed her concerns about the story in a SYFY WIRE article.