Comics Features

BACK TO THE BOOKSHELVES: Y: The Last Man

Written by Robert Porter

As comic readers, there have been certain stories over the years that may have changed the way we look at the industry as a whole. Sure there is a lot of “filler,” or “fluff” material each month, but everyone has had that moment where they read something that reminds them of why they got into this hobby in the first place. This moment can be experienced not just once, but many times over the course of comic readers’ lives. For me, the most recent moment that I can think of was when I started reading Y: The Last Man. Written by the amazing Brian K. Vaughn of Saga fame, Y: The Last Man tells the story of Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand, who seem to be the only surviving mammals with a Y chromosome left on planet Earth. Y: The Last Man took the oft-used post-apocalyptic trope and put a spin on it that made the story just different enough from the countless speculative fiction stories that came before it, which is what I believe makes it appealing enough to check out.

First published in 2002 by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics, Y: The Last Man is an entry into an already long line of excellent titles released by the publisher, such as Neil Gaiman‘s The Sandman or the fantastically dysfunctional Doom Patrol (check out Grant Morrison‘s epic run for some particularly mind-bending content). The imprint was first created with the intention to publish stores that were deemed inappropriate for younger readers, or that weren’t necessarily a part of the overarching DC Comics Universe; however, as of the present, Vertigo exists solely for creator-owned material, and any superhero titles such as Swamp Thing that were previously published by Vertigo have been placed back under DC Comics’ main imprint. So if you’ve been holding off on checking out some of Vertigo’s titles, Y: The Last Man would be a great place to start. And speaking of Y: The Last Man

During the course of the story, Yorick faces a variety of challenges as he tries to find a way to travel to Australia in order to reconnect with his girlfriend, Beth, who he has proposed to shortly (read: SECONDS) before the incident that eliminated all mammals with a Y chromosome occurred. From the idealistic “Daughters of the Amazon,” to Israeli chief of general staff Alter Tse’elon, who actively hunt Yorick to their own ends, there is no shortage of danger throughout the 60 issues that comprise the entirety of Y: The Last Man. Thankfully, Yorick has 355, an agent of the clandestine government operations team called the “Culper Ring” to aid him in his travels. Yorick is no slouch either, and as a self-described escape artist, he is able to come up with some very interesting and creative ways to evade hazards along the way. An overarching conflict between the remaining government officials sets the tone for the story, with the fate of society left hanging in the balance.

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While there is no solid explanation for the event that claimed 99.99999% (accurate number, I swear) of the male population of Earth’s mammals in Y: The Last Man, Vaughn leaves clues throughout the story that serve as potential causes. In the end, it’s up to the reader to decide what they believe to be true; an aspect of speculative fiction that lends itself to inquiring minds with a thirst for truth and knowledge. That’s why we read stuff like this, right? It’s interesting to use our own interpretations to debate with fellow readers and fans, if only to discover a point of view we may have missed somewhere in our own analysis. At the same time, Y: The Last Man will serve as a handy guide after a bad day at work (or school) into pure escapism. You know, because sometimes we all would like to shut if off for a little while.

Y: The Last Man was my personal introduction to Brian K. Vaughn, and since then, I have collected each and every thing he has written (ProTip: they’re all very good). It’s also the first non-mainstream-superhero comic that I had read up until that point that actually had a discernible ending! And what an ending it is. I really mean it when I tell people that the conclusion to Y: The Last Man is, by far, my all time favorite ending to anything, ever. That includes books, TV, and movies as well. Nothing comes close in my opinion. Hold on a second, I think I hear an army of angry Breaking Bad fans pounding at my door. Don’t worry guys, being second best isn’t all that bad.

Vaughn’s masterpiece was my gateway into a much larger comic world, and because of it, I am completely and totally enamored with the independent, creator-owned aspect of comic reading and collecting. It’s quite possible that without Y: The Last Man, I wouldn’t have been so eager to check out The Walking Dead as early on as I did. I can’t imagine having missed out on that one. There have been rumors for years now about a potential television series or film based on Y: The Last Man, but those rumors have yet to materialize into anything fruitful. If The Walking Dead television series is any indication of what can be done with comic book properties, I see no reason why an adaptation of Y: The Last Man wouldn’t happen at some point. I mean c’mon, we make and re-make shows and movies out of just about everything these days (I’m still waiting for that Transformers film that takes place in the gloriously tacky 1980s, but who isn’t?).

I implore you to go check out Y: The Last Man if you haven’t already, and if you aren’t hip to creator-owned comics, you should definitely get in there and give them a try. I know it’s scary, and I’m here.

For those of you who have read Y: The Last Man, what did you think? For those who haven’t, did this article sway you one way or another? Let us know in the comments section and on our Twitter page!

About the author

Robert Porter