Comic: "Y - The Last Man"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Pia Guerra, Goran Sudzuka, Paul Chadwick
Plot: In one day, a mysterious plague kills every mammal with a Y chromosome, leaving the world in chaos with only two surviving males: Yorick Brown and his monkey Ampersand.
Review: The premise may sound like that of a science fiction movie utterly convinced of its own importance, but Y - The Last Man is one of the most consistently satisfying comics I've read over the past five years. As I write this, the last issue came out today and I only just finished reading it moments ago. Serial fiction such as television series or comic books always seems the hardest when it comes time to say goodbye. Unlike novels and movies, readers have been following the exploits of these characters every month for years, and it's certainly no exaggeration to say that after a powerful series like this a certain "void" in one's life is bound to be felt.
Early in the series, all Yorick wants to do is reunite with his girlfriend Beth, who was in Australia on an anthropological dig when the plague struck, but given that his status as the last man on Earth carries some importance, he is quickly saddled with a bodyguard, Agent 355, and sent to visit a geneticist named Dr. Allison Mann, so that he may be studied to understand why he and his monkey were the lone survivors of the plague. After Mann's lab is destroyed, Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann end up traveling the globe in search for answers, during which the reader gets a fairly in-depth tour of a world without men. From the chaos and despair immediately following the disaster to the reconstruction efforts, we see some of the vast changes that may take place in a world where all the men disappear overnight.
But this is more than a simple adventure story, a "what if" tale, or a vehicle for social commentary--above all that, it's a story of three characters, and how their lives are forever changed not just from the greater disaster, but from the intersection of their lives and how they've affected one another. And there may just be a sad and beautiful love story buried somewhere in there too. Despite the rather bleak premise, the series does have its share of humor, as Yorick is the kind of charismatic, witty character you'd like to be friends with.
The humorous moments never last long in Vaughan's world, however, because it's always just a matter of time before reality catches up to his characters. I suppose it's a testament to Vaughan's character-building abilities that I was quickly moved to tears and then anger over something that happened in the final story arc. I can't say too much without giving things away, but I will say that Vaughan's choice of timing is just plain evil. Vaughan finally delivered the moment I'd been waiting for for years, and then he had to go and break my heart with his stupid story. When a story manages to get that kind of emotional reaction out of me for something other than sucking with a vengeance, it must be doing something right.
Also, I feel I must point out that Pia Guerra is one of the most talented artists working in comics today. Her pencils are sharp and clear, with never so much as a wasted line among them. But most importantly, she manages to convey an amazing amount of emotion in her faces. Some of the most evocative panels in the book were ones that had no dialog at all, and Vaughan wisely recognized the skill of his storytelling partner early on and provided scripts that gave her plenty of moments to shine.
This is definitely one of the first series that comes to mind when I think of ways to get non-comic-readers interested in comic books, so if you haven't read this series yet, you've really been missing out. Pick up the first volume, "Unmanned", and see for yourself.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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