Brad's Reviews > Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned

Y by Brian K. Vaughan
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's review
Dec 26, 11

bookshelves: apocalypse, comic-books, curiousity-killed-the-bananas, graphic-novel, hopes-dashed-like-an-egg-on-cement, shite
Recommended for: The Fool on the Hill
Read from December 22 to 26, 2011, read count: 1

So there's this thing that happens in post-apocalypse stories that I need to talk to you about.

You know how in a zombiepocalypse story we occassionally receive hints that it might be better for the women to stay safe so they can make babies? Usually it's only hints, and the male characters don't seem to want to offend the post-feminist sensibilities of the women, so instead the women tote guns and put their wombs at risk of becoming a zombie-buffet. But everyone gets along-ish, and there are usually plenty of women and men, so it doesn't seem like fertility is the most important concern.

Or you get the big, bad group of fascist men trying to turn some poor girl into a "breeder" for the new human race, but she tends to rise up, spank their patriarchal asses, escape with her girl power intact, and hook up with some nice guy with whom she's fought for survival.

And in the bleakest of apocalypses there's no hope anyway, so who gives a shit about procreation? Everyone's dead or dying, cannibalism is running rampant, society has failed, and humans are doomed to extinction. The best the survivors can do is keep hiking down some road to whatever is further down the road with the world as nothing but the road.

But I've totally fucking had it now that I've read Y: The Last Man. This book really pisses me off to no end.

I'm fine with the Amazonian self-mutilators (I can buy an angry, post-apocalyptic group of violent women). I am willing to suspend my disbelief that Yorick and his monkey make it through the manpocalypse as the only surviving Y chromosomes. I'll yawn and tolerate the Yankee setting of yet another apocalypse. I'll cringe but cope with yet another bad ass, dreadlocked, African-American woman who's the most capable and violent person around. I'll even believe that spindly little Yorick can pass as a woman as long as he has his gas mask on.

But what I won't believe, what I won't buy, where I won't suspend by disbelief, where I am not fine is with the idea that Yorick would ever, EVER, be allowed to wander around the winter of homo sapienism with one body guard, risking his testicles for some stupid, pointless, selfish, idiotic search for the love of his life and his sister. His sperm, and Ampersand's, would be the most important substances known to womankind (not because he is a man but because of sheer practicality). He would be protected whether he liked it or not. He would be imprisoned. His sperm would be used to impregnate. It would be used to find an immunity for future boys. It would be used for the survival of homo sapiens. Period.

I heard this book was really great -- a must read graphic novel. At best it is okay ... if you look past the idiocy of Yorick's wanderings, his insufferable smarminess, that stupid fucking monkey, and the poorest characterizations of women you're ever likely to see. Why two stars then? Because it isn't quite as bad as the Luna Brothers' Girls -- though it is damn close.
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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Pinky Wicked smart critique, Brad!

Brad Thanks, Mike. Something I've done hasn't been called "wicked" since about 1993. I miss the overuse of that word.

Pinky And I hope it's clear that I was saying it in my best Mark Wahlberg voice.

Brad Mark Wahlberg, or Markie Mark?

Pinky Ah. The former, but in his Departed persona.

Brad I can hear it now. Wicked perfect.

message 7: by Miriam (new)

Miriam What happens to all the sperm banks? Are they destroyed in the apocalypse?

message 8: by Kat Kennedy (new)

Kat Kennedy Citizen Kane Applause

Well done, good sir! Well done!

Now, please step this way for sperm harvesting...

message 9: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker manpocalypse LOL!

Love the review. I tried Y when it first came out to ecstatic reviews, and never could get into it.

message 10: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric I appreciate the critique and you are of course correct. The last man is way too important to the world to let him even cut himself shaving. But then we wouldn't have a story then. Despite it's flaws, I've been enjoying the story. The style is certainly in theh cliffhanger vein.

message 11: by [Name Redacted] (last edited Dec 26, 2011 10:08PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

[Name Redacted] Miriam wrote: "What happens to all the sperm banks? Are they destroyed in the apocalypse?"

I just read the first five volumes. Many sperm banks lost power so their contents were destroyed. Others were ransacked and torched (along with any phallic monuments or other symbols of patriarchy) by the "Daughters of the Amazon", a militant cult which believes that the Goddess has finally purged the Earth of the Y-chromosome aberration and that women must build a new society by erasing even the memory of men. One of the interesting elements which they build on later in the series is the assumption, even by other women, that this cult is full of lesbians; the series implies, however, that such assumptions are incorrect. In a way, the cult works as a sort of critique of American religious fanaticism and the re-education camps/programs for homosexual individuals, as the Daughters try through physical force and psychological coercion to "cure" heterosexual women of their "depraved" lust for the now-absent men. There's also talk of (female) scientists working to develop a method of parthenogenesis which would enable women to reproduce without needing to revive the male sex (one of many nods to, I suspect, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "Herland" - of which this series may be seen as a response).

Many aspects of this series also seem intended to criticize post-9/11 America (lots of anti-Israel, anti-Republican, anti-Judaism/Christianity digs in here). It's this very weird, very un-subtle critique of many different ideas and groups.

I was a pretty harsh critic of this series, due largely to the author's disgustingly blatant political agenda and the TERRIBLE characterization, but it does try to tackle a number of interesting subjects and ideas. And, to the author's credit, the only place in which mobs of women are trying desperately to throw themselves at a man is in a female-written play about a theoretical "last man" (to which many in the all-female audience object).

Oh, and Yorrick is definitely a whiny, self-centered idiot, but later volumes attempt to explain why he keeps making so many stupid decisions. Also, the reason they can't keep him under lock and key is supposed to be that he's a first-class escape- and sleight-of-hand artist. Also, his mother is a high-ranking politician who pulls a lot of strings to give him a chance to go to Boston to find a scientist and maybe look for her daughter; that's part of why he's assigned a super-secret assassin-or-what-have-you for his bodyguard, and why he's allowed to leave Washington in the first place. Also the attack on the White House by militant Republican wives. That I kind of understand. Everything after that ("Hey, instead of checking in with the people who sent us here, let's travel thousands of miles across post-apocalyptic USA to check out a lab that may have been wiped out months ago!") just seemed ridiculous.

Also, I thought it was interesting that instead of making the "last man" some muscle-bound he-man, suave smooth-talker or certified genius, he's a scrawny, irritating loser who relies on trickery and misdirection. A running gag throughout the series is women opining that he's hardly the sort of man they'd have wished to survive an apocalypse; and several of the women he encounters even state that he's absolutely not their type. It would have been more interesting if he'd been uglier (somehow the survivors of every apocalypse are the pretty people), but perhaps the author thought that would smack too much of wish-fulfillment?

Is it a great series? Not at all. But it can inspire a lot of interesting discussions.

message 12: by Brad (new) - rated it 2 stars

Brad Ian! Now you have me wanting to go on. It sounds like there is some quality in future issues that could make this worth continuing, even if the things that annoyed me continue.

Glad to hear they address the sperm bank issues.

message 13: by Brad (last edited Dec 27, 2011 09:10AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Brad Kat wrote: "Now, please step this way for sperm harvesting..."

Did you ever see the old B-SciFi, A Boy and his Dog with Don Johnson and his telepathic pooch, Kat? I seem to recall a kick ass sperm harvester in that movie.

message 14: by David (new)

David Katzman I tried this series ... just found it poorly written. And I also did hate that main character.

message 15: by Kat Kennedy (new)

Kat Kennedy Unfortunately I did not, Brad, but it sounds like a hoot!

message 16: by mark (new)

mark monday my gosh, between this review and rereading the one from Michael, now i feel i have to re-evaluate my positive experience with this one.

message 17: by Brad (new) - rated it 2 stars

Brad Kat: For sheer campy fun A Boy and his Dog is awesome. It is super low budget, and filmed in the desert with pre-Miami Vice Don Johnson. Now that we're talking about it I am going to have to hunt it down.

David: I am not sure that I hate Yorick yet, but that could just be because I've only read this one installment. I am definitely on the path to hating him.

mark: uh-oh ... sorry, man.

[Name Redacted] Brad wrote: "Ian! Now you have me wanting to go on. It sounds like there is some quality in future issues that could make this worth continuing, even if the things that annoyed me continue.

Glad to hear they ..."

Yeah, it would be a great jumping off point for a discussion group, or maybe for a class on sex, gender, etc. in comics. But it ain't exactly a new classic.

message 19: by Amber (new)

Amber Tucker A friend of mine is crazy about this graphic novel; being enthusiastically told about it, I brought up the same problem you argue in your second-to-last paragraph. Friend's counter-argument was that the remaining powers need to keep Yorick happy, or something like that, so he'll comply with anything they want from him after. Fuck no. I disagree. They'd lock him up and he'd be something between a mega-celebrity (hmm... a Disney kid) and a lab test monkey. I *may* still read this, since apparently the reason for Yorick and Ampersand's survival turns out to be less mystical (if still inane) than I originally heard.

Kelly H. (Maybedog) Brad, I think you held back a little on this review. I'm not quite sure how you felt about it. ;)

Good review.

message 21: by Donovan (new) - added it

Donovan Douglas mark monday-"my gosh, between this review and rereading the one from Michael, now i feel i have to re-evaluate my positive experience with this one."

I found this review highly valuable with points well made. That said, I never take someone's word for it when it comes to books, movies, hell, art in general. Tastes are far too different to be absolute. But chances are high that someone's review will imitate your own impression. Not having read this yet, I can't say which.

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