Why? … WHY must it end?!
Finishing the 10th and final volume of Y: the Last Man, was bittersweet, but it was a fitting end to a fantastic series. Y: is the tale of Yorick Brown – the only man to survive a plague that wipes out every male creature on earth (except, that is, for Yorick and his monkey, Ampersand). With it’s final chapter told, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra‘s 6-year opus might be the best comic series ever written. Why you ask?
Here’s an A-Y of why Y: a must-read (CAUTION: Thar be spoilers ahead) …
A is for Action. Though not your not your typical superhero comic, Y: has ninjas, Amazon biker chicks and enough gunplay, sword fights and daring escapes to satisfy any comic book fan.
B is for Bookshelf. The 10 trade paperback volumes of Y: are beautifully packaged and give you the whole story in easy-to-digest nuggets. The first of 6 deluxe hardcover editions will hit stores on October 8. Line ’em up on your shelf and convince chicks you can read.
C is for Culper Ring. Agent 355, Yorick’s bodyguard and traveling companion, is a member of the Culper Ring – a spy ring from the Revolutionary War era. 355 could have been CIA, NSA or any other type of covert badass, but using the Culpers was a much cooler choice. Acording to Culper lore, “355” was the group’s code for “lady” and the codename of one of their original agents.
D is for Deadlines. No one likes a late book and while Y: did hit a few delays late in it’s run, 60 issues in 6 years isn’t bad for a guy who, along with his other comic work, also has a “day job” writing for ABC’s Lost
E is for Exposition. Or rather, the complete lack thereof. Y: the Last Man eschews the use of exposition boxes. As seen in books like Ex Machina, Walking Dead and The Boys, this tactic speeds up the book’s pace and makes the reader to focus solely the art and dialogue, rather than reading a running narrative.
F is for Flash-Forward. The jumbo-sized final issue (#60) provides the perfect finale to the series with a 60-year jump into the future. Then, through a series of flashbacks, we get a fulfilling resolution and have questions answered without tying too neat a bow around the story. Someone should get this guy a job on Lost. Oh, wait …
G is for Guerra. Series artist and co-creator Pia Guerra is just as much a part of the storytelling as Vaughn. Her style is clean and simplistic but conveys a huge amount of emotion. Her choreography and storytelling is on par with the likes of Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. and her gift for facial expressions gets you inside each character’s head without a thought balloon in sight.
H is for HBO. While long rumored to become an HBO series, Y: will instead get the big screen treatment in 2009 (see “N is for New Line Cinema”). It certainly follows the HBO mold however, telling a complete story with a pre-determined ending in serialized form.
I is for Interpretation. Like many great stories, this one leaves some questions for the reader to answer. Many theories are presented as to what caused the plague but you’re never given a definitive answer. Was it the Amulet of Helene being removed from Jordan? The successful cloning of a female, making men obsolete? Did the Culper Ring engineer a man-killing bio-weapon? You decide.
J is for Jokes. On the surface, Y: is a sci-fi action adventure story of global disaster. But the running banter of Yorick and a slew of pop-culture jokes break the tension and lend to the story’s accessibility. Did you know Elvis had a brother?
K is for Knitting. Alright, K was a tough one, but when Agent 355 pulls out knitting needles in book 1, it’s the first time we see some humanity peeking through her stone-cold façade. 355’s knitting project (which is not, as Yorick presumes, a “rifle cozy”) pops up in quiet moments throughout the series and eventually provides a touching moment years later in book 10.
L is for Literacy. Yorick and his sister Hero were both named after Shakespeare characters (from Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing respectively) thanks to their father having been an English professor. Yorick is a bookworm as well and his love of lit pops up several times, reminding us that comics aren’t the only books that matter.
M is for Monkey Shit. Yorick’s pet monkey and fellow male survivor, Ampersand provides comic relief with some well-timed poo-hurling throughout the series. This will later be revealed as the reason for their survival – a twist that even Yorick finds some humor in saying, “As far as answers go, it was … vaguely unsatisfying.”
N is for New Line Cinema. New Line and Director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia) are on board for the film adaptation of Y:, slated to begin filming this fall for a 2009 release. The screenplay is still in the works, and no casting has been announced, but Caruso has expressed interest in Shia LaBoef for the lead role.
O is for Obscenities. Nudity and dirty words don’t necessarily make a story better but … oh fuck, who am I kidding – of course they do.
P is for Post-Apocalyptic. I’m an admitted sucker for post-apocalyptic fiction. But even Kevin Costner’s agent can appreciate this vision of global disaster. From the cleanup of bodies to the rebuilding of governments, BKV does a great job exploring the obvious and not-so-obvious impacts of the gendricide.
Q is for Quick Read. Between the lack of exposition, the sparse panel layouts, and the sheer intensity of the story, Y: reads at a breakneck pace. Don’t be intimidated by the 10 collected volumes. This story is a page-turner and before you know it, you’ll be finished and begging for more.
R is for Readers. As if it’s 5 Eisner Awards (Comics’ Oscars) weren’t evidence enough, Y: enjoys success in libraries and bookstores as well, bringing many non-comic readers into the fold. Y: trades occupy 8 spots in Amazon’s top 100 best-selling graphic novels.
S is for Suspense. Brian K Vaughan is the uncontested master of the cliffhanger and fans who read Y: in single issues are probably still sore from the monthly gut punches they received at the end of each issue.
T is for Tearjerker. Final issue … walking through the snow … “Ah Fuck” … ‘nuff said. If that doesn’t get you, you have no heart.
U is for Underpants on the inside. Y: is a great example of what comics can be besides superhero stories, reminding us that comics are a medium, like TV or movies, and not a genre. It shows off everything that’s great about comics (beautiful sequential art, a compelling story, monkey poo, etc.) without anyone wearing tights or a cape.
V is for Vaughn. Brian K. Vaughn is a master storyteller with a gift for pacing. His writing style is recognizable without being cookie cutter and it is tailor-made for serial fiction. If you enjoyed Y: the Last Man, check out BKV’s other ongoing series, Ex Machina, his original graphic novel, Pride of Baghdad or, if you like superheroes, try Marvel’s Runaways.
W is for Walking Around. Like many post-apocalyptic dramas, Y: leans heavily on the “hero’s journey” convention. As the story develops and the characters are fleshed out, we globetrot to various locations including New York, Kansas, San Francisco, Australia, Tokyo and Paris.
X is for X-Chromosome. Because the plague wipes out all the world’s men, Y: is a story with an almost all-female cast. Gender is explored from all angles and, while we do see a few hook-ups along the way, this is not a male fantasy. The women of Y: are faced with the survival of the human race and have to be tough, smart and resourceful.
Y is for Yorick. Y: the Last Man is, at its core, a character drama and Yorick Brown is the perfect centerpiece. He Peter Parker, he is Holden Caufiled, he is the everyman – both relatable and flawed. After 60 issues, 6 years and 1000+ pages, we’ve grown to know Yorick like an old friend, one who will be sorely missed.