Saturday, February 20, 2010

Y: The Last Man, Volume 1: Unmanned

The last man on earth is a great science fiction go-to for telling stories, and I am Legend is just one of many such tales. Typically though, the women are usually all dead or absent as well. Not so in this volume. Yorick Brown is the last man left in a world where all the other males (everyone and everything with a Y chromosome) have been felled by a horrible event. This event was violent and bloody, as men everywhere simply bled out and dropped dead. The result is catastrophic: planes fall from the sky, cars crash, and social systems are devastated.

In the absence of half the world's population, the women are tasked with establishing a new social order and also cleaning up the mess left by billions of dead bodies. In this volume we see the efforts of female politicians and the wives of politicians vie for control of (what's left of) the US, and the highest ranking member of the Cabinet becomes President. Additionally, we see that many of the other survivors have banded together into loose confederations to defend themselves and consolidate power. Chief among these groups is the Amazons, a band of violent warriors who see the current state of affairs as an act of God against a corrupt, patriarchal system.

Yorick is not the only male left however. Ampersand, his pet capuchin monkey that he was training for his magic act, has also survived somehow. Together, the two try to navigate a hostile world in order to find Yorick's mother, sister, and girlfriend Beth, who was in Australia when the event occurred. Among those trailing Yorick are US government agents, Israeli soldiers, and the Amazons, all for their own reasons.

This high concept story first appeared in a comic book published by Vertigo from 2002 until 2008. Yorick's adventures carried over 60 issues and are collected into 10 separate trade paperbacks. The series was written by Brian K. Vaughan, a popular comics writer who has also a producer and principal writer for the TV show Lost. The art by Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan, Jr. won the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Penciller/Inker Team.

Y: The Last Man has its share of fans and critical praise. Volume 10 of the series was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Series, and Y won the Eisner Award for Best Series in 2008. A range of positive reviews can be found at Goodreads. A very thoughtful review about more of the feminist aspects of the story is at Fannie's Room, and a more middling review can be seen here at Grovel.

The first issue of the series plus a preview can be downloaded for free here from Vertigo.

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