Y the Last Man

I’ve been collecting and reading comics for quite some time now but most of what I read are older issues and the odd short series of comics that for one reason or another (lousy content or overly optimistic print runs) have made it to the cheapie bins or bundled for sale at comic shops. At the same time, all of my graphic novel reading to date have been either fan favorite one shots (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Dark Knight Returns, etc) or cheap reprints of yesteryear (DC Showcases and Marvel Essentials). But taping into the scuttlebutt of some the current ongoing series has seriously whetted my appetite for something more modern. So about a year ago I decided that I was going to give a new series a try, but which one?

There are a fair number of such series that have gained almost unanimous universal acclaim, but the one that really peaked my interest was “Y the Last Man”. One reason was that it reminded me of the great Richard Matheson “I am Legend” novel (filmed as “The Last Man on Earth”, “The Omega Man” and recently with Will Smith in a movie using the original title) which is a mix of science fiction and horror. In both cases we are confronted with a world altering event which (purportedly) leaves one man left alive on Earth.

Y the Last Man, written by Brian K. Vaughan, differs in that his cataclysmic event was some unknown cause that struck down every last male on the entire planet while leaving all females unaffected. The story is about the one last man, Yorick who, along with his companion male capuchin monkey are the last males on Earth. We witness the turmoil of women across the globe having to reassert control over governments and institutions all handicapped by the instantaneous deaths of all male participants. As rich as the context already is for great story line fodder, Vaugh immediately sweetens the pot with the introduction of covert agencies, one of which assigns a Yorick a personal protector in the guise of agent 355.

Spanning 10 graphic novels (60 issues, 2002-2008) richly drawn by Pia Guerra, the series moves along at a quick pace as Yorick is forced to hide his true gender while seeking out his girlfriend who happened to be on the other side of the globe when the ‘event’ occurred. Having to cope with all sorts of impediments along the way including a newly formed band of amazon women, a scientist claiming to be able to repopulate the earth with men, multinational forces hot on the trail of Yorick, and a band of pirates, to name just a few, almost each issue features drop dead cliffhangers and mind blowing unforeseen scenarios. I was amazed at every turn and enjoyed the ride. My one peeve is the somewhat inadequate explanation of the ‘event’ itself, but the many stories and characters encountered throughout the series more than make up for that.

As a pick for my first significant, modern, entire series comic read, I don’t think I could have done better. I’ll certainly be reading more Brian K. Vaughan material in the future.

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