“It’s too late. It’s like this everywhere. My partner. My husband. All over the city. All over the world, maybe. It’s the men…all of the men are dead.”
Whenever I have a conversation about comics for any period of time, chances are good I’m going to bring up the Vertigo published Y the Last Man. When I think of “required reading” this is the first title that comes to mind. This time of year the media is already full of hyperbole, so I’m going to try to make it through my review without using phrases like: THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER, OF ALL TIME! Crap, well, I almost made it 100 words in before dropping the ball there. Sorry guys, I’ll keep a tighter reign on my enthusiasm from here on in.
If you’re unfamiliar with Brian K. Vaughan‘s epic sociological sci-fi adventure series I’ll fill you in on the basics. In the summer of 2002 a catastrophic biological event occurs that wipes out all life on earth with a Y chromosome. This includes all plant and animal life as well as sperm. The only exception is the protagonist, Yorick and and his pet monkey, Ampersand (for reasons undisclosed in this first volume. Don’t worry, they explain it). Vaughan’s writing is solid throughout the series, but it’s especially in these early issues that he really sells you on what’s happening. Vaughan is always finding a way to tie the events of this series into our world. One of the moments in this volume that drew me in was the use of the Washington Monument as a memorial shrine for all the men. Humorous phallic references aside, there’s some poignant conversation surrounding the shrine in this volume, including a discussion about all the rock legends that were now dead. Little subtle details like this make it feel real as you’re reading.
The first volume sets the stage for a series that is consistently asking big questions about how the world would respond if there were no men. Nearly every aspect of societal change is explored through the constant adventures of Yorick and his friends. The groundwork for the 60 issues is laid out in this 5 issue collection. The first issue alone easily makes my top 5 list of best stand alone issues from any comic publisher. Seriously, just read the first issue. If you don’t want to keep reading after that I won’t hold it against you. We may not be friends, but I’ll refrain from making passive aggressive jabs about your intelligence. The first issue introduces all of the main characters you’re going to follow through subsequent volumes and there’s even some panels including secondary characters that I actually overlooked my first read-through.
Pia Guerra’s pencils do a good job complimenting Vaughan’s story and tone throughout. Also, it’s a lot of fun spotting the “Y” motif that shows up constantly. The (spoiler free) last page of this volume features a zoomed out shot of the road in a “Y” shape as the protagonists ponder which direction they’re going to take. This is a series I own in its entirety and I never get tired of reading over and over again. Each time I encounter something new, whether it be in the art, or the writing. This book will make you laugh out loud in a way that will get you judgmental glares from anyone in your vicinity. Vaughan will also have you in tears at several points throughout as well, if you’re one to get overly attached to fictional characters and their pain (though probably more so toward the end of the series than this first volume).
Not too long ago I heard Hollywood was trying to adapt this 60 issue series into a big screen blockbuster starring Shia LaBeouf as Yorick. That loud retching noise you just heard was me, and it wasn’t ONLY because LaBeouf would be my last choice as star. If this book “must” be adapted to anything, it would be better suited as a miniseries, or a TV series with a strict plan to finish when the story is over. I’m honestly surprised no one has picked this up to fill the Lost void. That being said, I’m not sure this is a story that needs to make a jump to any other medium. It is a brilliant graphic novel run and a phenomenal piece of art. In any other format I fear too much of its unique goodness would be lost in translation.