narfna’s #CBR4 Review(s) #17-26: Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
Every few years or so, it becomes necessary for me to do a Y: The Last Man re-read. Now is that time.
I first picked Y up in the summer of 2007 when I happened to wander into my local comic book shop in search of Buffy comics (mind you, I was a comic reading virgin at this point, so Buffy was my gateway drug). After I’d picked up Buffy #1, I wandered up to the counter and struck up a conversation with the boy working there, and as happens in nerd-centered areas of society, we had much in common. So after awhile of chatting and nonsense — mostly Joss Whedon related — I was like, HEY, WHAT ELSE IS GOOD. And he put Vol. 1 of Y: The Last Man into my hands.
Vol. 1 — “Unmanned” (★★★★★)
What would happen if all the men died? All but one, anyway. That’s what Y: The Last Man asks, following in the grand and depressing tradition of Mary Shelley. Yorick Brown and his monkey are seemingly the last males on Earth. He has to learn to live in a world where he’s either the most sought after prize, or the most sought after target. Often it’s both.
I am always and continuously newly surprised every time I come to the Goodreads page for this book. There are so many people who find it offensive or over the top or chauvinist or whatever their other issues are. I just want to shake all of you people. This series is FUN, and certainly you have to suspend a lot of your disbelief to believe something like this is possible, but so what? I love lots of stories that are “unbelievable” because I love what they’re trying to do, and at heart, I love what Y is trying to say about the human condition, even if it depresses the shit out of me (but that’s a story for Vol. 10).
Vol. 2 — “Cycles” (★★★★)
Yorick, Agent 355, and Dr. Mann have to find a way to cross the US without Yorick’s secret being discovered (you know, that he has a wang). Yorick, the foolish romantic that he is, wants to go to Australia to find his girlfriend Beth, but everyone else wants him to help save humanity and stuff. Dr. Mann is the world’s foremost expert on cloning — and even though she blames herself for the manpocalypse (it happened right as her clone-child was being born) — she has agreed to try and find an answer. But following them closely is the cult The Daughters of the Amazon, which Yorick’s sister Hero, in her grief and rage, has joined. The Amazons are led by a crazy bitch named Victoria who is honestly my least favorite part of this entire series. (What is with villains named Victoria being completely awful?)
Vol. 3 — “One Small Step” (★★★★★)
Vol. 3 of Y: The Last Man is split into two parts. The first is the titular One Small Step, which features our protagonists meeting a Russian named Natalya who is desperately trying to reach Kansas for the landing of the International Space Shuttle capsule Soyuz, which contains three astronauts. Two of them are men. They’ve been stuck in space three months longer than they should have been, and they’re about to make an emergency landing at one of the US’s Hot Suites, a safehouse designed to protect its inhabitants from viral or bacterial contaminants. Yorick is extremely pleased that he will no longer be the last man on Earth, as he feels woefully ill-suited to the task. Meanwhile, the Israeli special forces team that is hunting Yorick at the request of his mother, goes a little rogue. The leader, Alter Tse’Elon, decides to keep Yorick for Israel. Alter thinks like a soldier and not like a human being. She is totally annoying. Things escalate from there.
Vol. 4 — “Safeword” (★★★★)
Like Vol. 3, Vol. 4 is split into two stories. First is the three issues the volume takes its name from, Safeword. Safeword played much differently for me the first two times I read it, and I wasn’t really sure if it had succeeded in its goal. But we’re always different people when we read things over and over, and I think I finally get what this story was going for, even if it’s not my favorite.
Yorick and Co. have a sick Ampersand on their hands, and so 355 leaves Yorick in the capable hands of her former colleague, 711, while she and Dr. Mann take Ampersand to the hospital. 711 has been in retirement ever since her husband died in the plague. 711 takes it upon herself to cure Yorick of the secret suicidal tendencies he’s been harboring since the day all the men died, and it gets super weird and disturbing (I’m thinking particularly of an image involving a tissue and some flies).
Vol. 5 — “Ring of Truth” (★★★★★)
It’s been two years since an unknown plague (or something) killed all the men on Earth except for Yorick Brown, a young, unemployed escape artist. Vol. 5 is the largest in the series, following three different stories full of the Adventures of Yorick.
In Tongues of Flame, Yorick leaves 355 and Allison sleeping at a YMCA (fittingly enough) to seek confession in a nearby church (he’s still feeling guilty about accidentally killing that girl from the Sons of Arizona). What he finds instead is a beautiful blonde girl named Beth, but she’s not that Beth. She’s a former flight attendant who was up in the air when the plague hit. She had to land the plane, and all but three of the women on board died. She survived but she has a scar running all across her face, and now she takes care of this abandoned church, because where else is she going to go? She doesn’t give Yorick the absolution he was seeking, but maybe she gives him something better. It’s a nice little character piece, and yeah, Yorick finally gets to have some sex.
Vol. 6 — “Girl on Girl” (★★★★)
This is probably my least favorite book in the series. Nothing much happens, and the stuff that happens is kind of ridiculous, even for a story predicated on ridiculous things. I mean, pirates, heroin, one-eyed Australians . . . I guess it could just be my own personal hang-ups, but it all feels kind of silly and inconsequential. And the title, Girl on Girl rubs me the wrong way, even if it is a double entendre (literally girls fighting girls, the pirates versus the Australian submarine chicks). Because we’ve also got 355 and Dr. Mann hooking up, and Yorick walking in on them. That moment plays with more significance on re-reads, more for what it says about Yorick than anything else, but it’s kind of abrupt the first time through.
Vol. 7 — “Paper Dolls” (★★★★)
I’m still not sure why this volume is called Paper Dolls. In the wake of the Australian submarine fiasco, Yorick and Co. are hitching a ride to Japan on that very submarine, and they’ve picked up a companion: Rose, a “former” Australian Royal Navy spy. I say former because of course she’s still active, and her true mission is to infiltrate Yorick’s group, now whether that’s to protect or to hurt him is still up in the air. Meanwhile, Yorick cannot stand that they are stopped in Australia and he isn’t allowed to get out and look for Beth. It’s taken him three years to get here, so 355 relents and gives him 24 hours on the mainland before the sub is set to leave for Japan. Yorick doesn’t find Beth, although he does find confirmation that she’s alive and headed for Paris, but he does find a tabloid reporter who strips him naked and takes a picture of his wobbly bits to use as front page news.
Vol. 8 — “Kimono Dragons” (★★★★)
Yorick, 355, Allison, and Rose have finally reached Japan. Allison and Rose stay in Yokogata to check out Allison’s mother’s old lab, figuring it can’t be a coincidence that Ampersand was brought through here, and 355 and Yorick head to Tokyo to follow his signal. Allison and Rose find Allison’s mother, but Toyota found her first. She stabs Rose through the stomach and takes Allison’s mother hostage, saying she wants Ampersand, and now it’s Allison’s job to find him. Meanwhile, Yorick and 355 get mixed up in the Japanese mafia, which is now being run by a coked up former Canadian pop star named Epiphany who has an unnatural attachment to Ampersand.
Vol. 9 — “Motherland”(★★★★★)
This is the one where we get all the answers. Vol. 10 is reserved for thematic and emotional cleanup, and Vol. 9 tells us the rest. Turns out Y is not the last man, he’s one of two, and the other is Allison’s father, Dr. Matsumori. He claims that it was his act of cloning Allison — not himself — that brought on the plague . . . and he’s determined to finish the job. Both Matsumori and Toyota are taken care of in the end, but not before 355 is gravely injured. Allison’s mother patches her up, but she won’t be able to have any kids. This doesn’t seem to be an issue until Allison points out that she’s in love with Yorick, and has been for quite some time. But 355 keeps it to herself, and she and Yorick head to Paris to look for Beth, not knowing that Other Beth, Beth, Jr. (Yorick’s daughter), and Hero are also headed there. Allison and Rose stay behind, as it’s now Allison’s duty to mankind to repopulate the Earth with Yorick clones until she can perfect the cure to the plague and bring back other men from the dead, clone-style.
Vol. 10 — “Whys and Wherefores” (★★★★★)
This is just the saddest fucking thing. I can’t even . . . it gets sadder every fucking time I read it.
Yorick the 17th: So this is it, huh?
Yorick the 1st: What’s that?
Yorick the 17th: You know, growing old. All I have to look forward to is pain and misery . . . and heartbreak.
Yorick the 2st: No. No, first comes boyhood. You get to play with soldiers and spacemen, cowboys and ninjas, pirates and robots. But before you know it, all that comes to an end. And then, Remo Williams, is when the adventure begins.
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now?
Individual star ratings are indicated above, but as a whole series, five stars. Excuse me while I go cry into a pillow.