In a split second every male on Earth is dead. Not just humans but males of all species. All of a sudden a little under half the population falls dead, spitting blood. What is the world that emerges from this catastrophe?
Y The Last Man examines that post-apocalyptic scenario through the eyes of the last human male, Yorick Brown, and his companion monkey Ampersand. What's interesting is that the series doesn't fall back on an immediate cliche; the world doesn't suddenly improve because all of the war-mongering, competitive asshole men are dead. In fact Brian K Vaughn's script explores the idea that the problems facing humanity today come from our very humanity - that the violence and the hate and the anger isn't gender-specific.
There are a couple of ways to approach a last man on Earth scenario, and one would have been to have Yorick discovering a planet of pussy just waiting for him. "I wouldn't fuck you if you were the last man on Earth" suddenly becomes literal, and suddenly gets put to the test. But that isn't the way Y approaches it. Yorick is dedicated to his girlfriend, Beth, who is in Australia. But even if he weren't, the sudden disappearance of all men doesn't make him any more attractive to the remaining women. This isn't a sexploitation situation, which is what makes Yorick's occasional beliefs that he's going to get studded out all the funnier.
In Yorick Vaughn and Guerra have created an intriguing, likable character. He's immature and self-centered, but not in a mean-spirited way. He's an escape artist, something that seems at odds with his deep desire to be committed to Beth. He's goofy and funny; the story jumps ahead a few months in order to skip all of the sadness and ugliness of the first few days and to establish Yorick as a guy who bounces back. He's got issues and problems and he's hiding away some of his feelings, but he's not a moper. That's welcome - having the central character be dark and grim would be about par for the course, but Vaughn was too smart to go there.
The other leads are more mysterious. 355 is mysterious in a fully intentional way; an agent of the secret Culper Ring, she gives away little of herself, including her name. Dr. Mann, meanwhile, is more mysterious in that her character hasn't yet been much explored.
One of the things I really like about Y is Guerra's art. Here inked by Jose Marzan Jr, she has a crisp and clean storytelling style; too many modern comic artist have lost the simple art of storytelling, and going from panel to panel can be disorienting at best. I like Guerra's style, which is exactly at my sweet spot between realism and cartooning. And she's great at making dialogue scenes - and Y The Last Man has a lot of scenes of people standing around talking - pop.
Vaughn's writing is incredible; I find each character to be completely unique, and I love the way that he allows Yorick to make any joke at any time. This keeps levity in the book without making everything else jokey. Characters and situations are serious, but Yorick is allowed to riff and have it be in character. He did a lot of that in his short time on Lost as well; Vaughn is a master at making the comic relief not feel like the comic relief.
Having read the whole series I'm intrigued to see how many storylines Vaughn plants right in the first issue. I don't know if the whole series was planned out (and I remember some lulls in the middle, so I suspect not), but the best stuff is already being hinted at right from the start. That's smart serial storytelling.
So what did you guys think? For those who, like me, are rereading please be sensitive that there are first timers among us. Let's keep the discussion to this volume, and not make portentuous posts that could spoil.
Also, we should decide on when to reconvene for the next volume. I originally said one a month, but that might be too slow. I'm trying to be aware that some people don't want to spend 20 bucks a month on the title, but many libraries will have Y available. I think every two weeks might be the perfect rate, but you let me know.
For now let's assume we're meeting back in 2 Sundays to discuss volume two, Cycles. For those reading from individual issues or the large hardcover collections, that's issues 6 through 10.