[20 June 2006]
A boy and his monkey. That is what Y: The Last Man is really all about. And over the course of sixty issues on a globe-trotting adventure to find out what happened to everything with a Y chromosome, they become a man and a monkey. This, the seventh book in the series, is broken down into two parts. The first being a three issue tale about Yorick and his group of merry women in Sydney. The second half are three stand-alone tales concerning Yorick’s sister Hero, the origin of Agent 355, and the origin of Yorick’s pet monkey, Ampersand. Vaughn’s blend of smart, pop-culture savvy dialogue, likeable characters, and killer cliffhangers makes this one of the best reads out there.
In the first half, entitled “Paper Dolls”, Yorick and company finally reach Australia, where he hopes to find his fiancé, Beth. While there, Yorick is ambushed by a photo journalist who makes her trade in telling stories about men surviving the plague. It’s interesting to see that even when the world undergoes a crisis, there are still a few tabloid newspapers to fill everyone’s gossip and escapist hunger. Needless to say, it shows either that tabloids fill a niche in today’s world, or a pessimistic view of how the world would react if our society came to an end.
The second part of the collection consists of three stand-alone issues. The first one is about Yorick’s sister, Hero, and even answers the question of what happened to the Catholic Church after the plague. The next two are origin stories. In Agent 355’s origin, we see someone who’s been connected to the American Government, even as a child, and is trained to be a killer from an early age. The final issue is the origin of Yorick’s pet monkey, Ampersand. It is with this story that pieces start to fall into place about the nature of the plague, and the issue hints at what is to come as the group heads to Japan.
It is always interesting to see Vaughn, Guerra, et al.‘s vision of an apocalyptic world and how it is a mirror to our own. In this collection we see our society’s hunger for gossip and tabloid journalism, if not as entertainment, then as hope for the masses in a time of crisis. In the Catholic Church they show an institution that is so archaic that it could not attempt to update itself even with a fresh slate because its rules and traditions govern it exclusively. Even in a time when everyone should be working together to help repopulate the planet, people still are driven by their own selfish needs. In other words, Y: The Last Man pulls no punches and shows that even the end of everything as we know it would not change some things.
While some questions are answered in this collection, many remain, and that’s part of the fun. It’s not just seeing these characters go through one situation to another, but finding answers to questions that people have been asking since the first issue came out over four years ago. The artwork by Pia Guerra and Gordan Suduka is similar and thus does not distract from the change mid-way. It’s nice to see such a simple style of art that’s clean and not over-done as many comics can be, particularly those of the super-hero variety.
Those who are unfamiliar with Vaughn and Guerra’s world are not likely to enjoy this collection, as it builds upon past issues, and thus it is necessary to have read the first six collections first. For those who have been enjoying the tale however, these stories will continue to please readers, as well as leave them wanting more.
Comic publishers are constantly complaining that it’s not drawing in new readers, particularly women. Perhaps instead of trying to introduce new readers to the garden variety superheroes, the publishers should be trying to push books like Y: The Last Man and other non-superhero title, even if it limits the readership to adults only. More people would be willing to try comics if they knew of ones such as this. In an age of mindless, summer blockbuster movies, it’s rare that something that’s fun as well as smart comes along, and Y: The Last Man certainly fills both of those criteria. Maybe instead of offering just free superhero and Archie comics on Free Comic Book Day, they should start offering free non-superhero books. At least Vertigo’s recent budget priced first issue collections are a step in the right direction. Now if only you could find those and any Y: The Last Man trade paperback as easy as the latest Stephen King or Dan Brown novel.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/y-the-last-man-7/