Seth Hahne's Reviews > Y: The Last Man, Vol. 10: Whys and Wherefores

Y by Brian K. Vaughan
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Jul 30, 08

bookshelves: comics
Recommended for: Anyone with sense
Read in July, 2008

[[note: this review covers the entire series of ten volumes]]

Imagine a world in which every creature possessing a Y chromosome has just died. In a single moment, the world's animal population has been reduced by roughly half. This is a world where most of the world's politicians, most of the world's scientists, most of the world's military, most of the world's pilots, most of the world's film-makers, and most of the world's businessmen are no longer with us. This is a world of chaos and desperation, a world trying to find its way in the cataclysm-wrought darkness.

And this is a world of nightmares and madness for Yorick Brown, the lone surviving man.

Y: The Last Man begins on July 17, 2002—about a half hour prior to the great extinction, and introduces Yorick, his pet monkey Ampersand (also male and also a unique survivor of the coming pandemic), and the beginning of a large cast of well-conceived female characters. The second chapter picks up several weeks after the plague hit, revealing a world very much changed. Apart from those women who are simply scrambling to survive in and make sense of this new world, the new society-in-flux has given rise to numerous factions struggling with and abusing power. From the ultra-feminist Amazons who burned all the sperm banks to assure that the world would never again be plagued with men to those women who were involved in politics and the military prior to the fall of man, author Brian K. Vaughan presents a world that believably captures both the horror and hope of the human condition.

And all the while Yorick is racing from Boston to find his would-be fiancée Beth, who was participating in anthropological research in Australia when the plague hit.

It's a very slow race. The entire scope of the ten-volume series covers approximately five years and follows Yorick as he and his two companions Agent 355 (an American spy) and Dr. Allison Mann* (a bioengineer who hopes to clone Yorick to preserve the human race) as they traverse the globe (via foot, train, and boat) in search of Yorick's Beth. Because of their travels they experience enlightening episodes with Amazons, astronauts, agents, assassins, actors, antagonistas, androbots, atheists, angry Arizonans, and a whole mess of lesbians (both long-time and newly blossomed).

As far as speculative fiction goes, Y: The Last Man is really the creme de la creme, hitting all the right notes and being funny, grim, and mind-blowing for its duration. Vaughan has lessons to leave and pedagogy to forge, but he never gets preachy—and the moment he begins wading in that direction, his characters themselves seem to call him on the carpet for it. These are intelligent people and pretty well representative of the human race. While the book most overtly concerns Yorick and his quest, this is merely a framing device for an exploration of humanity itself (and to a lesser degree, women). Vaughan succeeds wholly in taking a genre concept that could have been been the basis for the typical male fulfillment fantasy and spinning into one of the most worthwhile fables of the last hundred years.

Y: The Last Man gets my highest recommendation.

Hm. As an epilogue, I suppose I should speak briefly about the art. Largely visually composed by Pia Guerra, the illustrations of the book sing in their subtly. This is not a book featuring dynamic duos or caped crusaders. It's about real people. And Guerra's line captures that about as well as any artist out there. So goo is her skill that I cannot imagine any other artist succeeding so well at capturing Vaughan's story, characters, and setting. Her talent is made more so obvious by the occasional instances of filler artists.

*note: Allison Mann is A. Mann, get it?
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