Badass Comic Club #2: Y THE LAST MAN - CYCLES

Let's talk about the second volume of Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra's opus about a world without men.

The recap page in the softcover version of Y The Last Man: Cycles presents some really interesting stats that I wish had been included at the end of the last volume. Facts such as how 95% of all commercial pilots, captains and truck drivers died in the event that killed every single man on Earth. Facts such as how 99% of the landowners on Earth died in that same moment, as did 99% of all electricians, mechanics and construction workers - although 51% of all agricultural workers remain alive*. That information - knowing that almost every single human whose expertise is maintaining our infrastructure is dead - helps explain the condition of the world during the events of the comic. 

And so despite the fact that it's been months since the mysterious event that killed of 2.9 billion humans in a swift second, the world's still sort of a shambles. But things are slowly starting to come together, and it's against this backdrop that our leads Yorick, Agent 355, Dr. Mann and Ampersand the monkey begin their trip west, hoping to figure out what happened to all the men. Of course this being a roadtrip story, things don't go as planned. 

One of the things I really like in Cycles is how Vaughan establishes Yorick as sort of a dick. He's a judgmental jerk when he learns the truth about Marrisville (interesting: there's a real women's pen in Ohio at Marysville. Not sure why the name was changed for the comic. Was Marysville too on the nose as a name?). There are a couple of jokes that he makes this collection that raise warning flags for me (his crack about 355's necklace looking like Al Sharpton's medallion was one). But I like that about him - he's got a lot to learn.

He begins learning it in Marrisville. His knee-jerk judgment of these women (who we learn were treated worse as criminal offenders than men) is proven absolutely assholish when they stand up for him in the face of actual danger. Yorick doesn't come to Marrisville and protect the women from the Daughters of the Amazon, they have to protect him. That's a nice way of wrapping up the story - inverting the standard 'stranger comes to town and saves the day' narrative. 

I also like how the story dealt with Sonia, Yorick's potential love interest. Their story was sweet, with an excellently bitter ending. The series is setting up larger emotional stakes at this point, and the relationship between Yorick and his sister is intriguing. Also intriguing: the hero of our story is named after a fool, while his sister - shaping up to be a villain - is named Hero. The back and forth between them at the end of the story was incredible, and in the end Yorick, while he wasn't the hero who stopped Victoria, was the hero who chose to break a cycle of violence and killing. In a lot of ways that's a theme of the series running forward - in a changed world do these characters have the strength to change themselves?

What I also like is how Vaughan works the political stuff into the body of the story; by having Hero recite the facts and figures about female imprisonment in the United States he allows us to see the basic injustices, but at the same time he has his characters refute the injustice that Hero herself seeks. The women of Marrisville have been wronged, but they will not wrong another because they know it will not change their situations.

What did you think? Please keep in mind that this is a discussion that includes people who are reading only the current issues at hand. Please do not spoil anything beyond issue 10 of Y The Last Man

We'll meet back here in two weeks to discuss the third volume, One Small Step (issues 11-17). There was a helluva cliffhanger at the end of Cycles, and just wait until you see how it plays out.


* All stats are for 2002, when the book was initially released. I doubt we've come that far since then, but just in case.