A few months before Y: The Last Man ended in 2008, I’d never read a single issue. I was working at Wizard at the time and had heard rave reviews about the Vertigo series from just about everyone, but just hadn’t picked up an issue. Then I heard that the series was coming to an end and not long after one of my co-workers handed me a stack of issues the encompassed the entire run up to that point. I think this might have been two or three months, so I was able to read through 50-some issues and get caught up heading into the final issue. I remember reading the issue in the Research office and having to choke back a tear.
But that’s about all I remember from that first reading. Of course, the basics are still clear: a mysterious plague kills every male animal on the planet except for 20-something Yorick Brown and his pet monkey. He gets hooked up with a secret agent known only as 355 and a Dr. Mann, their goal being to figure out what happened to all the men and why Yorick survived. Yorick’s kind of interested in all that, but mostly wants to fly to Australia to see his girlfriend/almost fiance Beth.
To get into a few more specifics about this first book, Yorick meets up with his mom who is a member of the House of Representatives and now one of the few surviving politicians in the country. His mom’s the one who sets him off with 355, first to find Dr. Mann and then to move on to her back-up lab in California get samples that were destroyed in a lab fire. Along the way, the gang runs into a gang of man-haters called Amazons who are lead by your basic charismatic psychopath, one who utilizes the Amazons need of supplies and emotional support to get them to do whatever she wants. Yorick’s sister Hero fell in with this crowd as well and the two eventually meet up in Marrisville, Ohio which is currently populated by a group of former prisoners. Yorick has a brush with romance in town that’s brought to an end by his sister’s presence.
The fun and worrisome thing about going back and reading a series that you really like is seeing how you might react differently to the material than you did the first time you read it. In the time between Y’s last issue and my current re-reading of the series I feel like my ideas on social relationships has really come into focus. I also think I’m a little bit more mature and have found myself reacting differently to some of the characters than I might have the first time around.
The biggest difference I can note is that I find Yorick to be pretty annoying. Not John Connor-in-Terminator 2-annoying, but not too far away either. This 20-something kid thinks he knows everything and wants to throw as many references as possible in just about every sentence to let you know he knows stuff. But, it’s like Hero says towards the end of this book, he’s just regurgitating facts and information he memorized from books. There’s no real life or experience behind this character and that was front and center for me upon this reading. I don’t remember exactly how I reacted to Yorick when I first read Y, but I imagine I found him to be pretty clever and dynamic. Now I see him as a boy who’s on a journey that will either make him a man or dead.
I find myself sympathizing with Hero a lot more this time around. It’s nearly impossible to really put yourself in the right head-space where you can imagine not only losing your loved ones, but also an entire half of the population. That’s just such a huge, terrible thing to happen it’s hard to rationalize. These days, though, I think I can get inside her character a little bit more and understand how that loss and the subsequent hell of life she lived in Boston would lead her down the road of brainwashing at the hands of Victoria. While Yorick’s journey in Y is about experience and accomplishment, I think Hero’s is about redemption and making amends (if memory serves).
I also reacted even more negatively to Victoria’s manipulations. Here’s a woman who could have gathered women together with her charisma and obvious leadership abilities and done her best to help heal the community, but instead she took every negative aspect of society and used them to enrage and motivate her people. This just leads to more negativity and awfulness, which we see when anyone happens to disagree with her or the Amazons. I think what really got under my skin while seeing her actions in 2013 is how much she reminds me of groups like the Tea Party that so clearly feast and thrive upon the fears of people for their own gain.
From an art and design perspective, I’m still in love with Pia Guerra’s artwork. It’s not hyper detailed and yet you’re never wondering what you’re supposed to look at in a scene. This book could have been done in a million styles, but this one just fits so perfectly it’s hard to imagine anyone else drawing these stories (I know there’s fill-in artists down the line, but don’t remember how much of the action they get in on). It’s also interesting reading these books after hearing Brian K. Vaughan talk at NYCC a few times and interviewing him myself in the meantime. He said something at a writer’s panel in NYCC that really stuck with me and that’s that he usually sticks to writing five panels per page. It’s something I adopted while writing my own comic script. Reading through Y, I noted that most of his pages use this method. It’s something I never would have noticed otherwise, but it’s kind of like he gave me one piece of information to help me see the Matrix.
Vaughan and this book of his in particular are known as the kind of comic you can give to someone who doesn’t read comics and get them interested in the medium. That’s partially because it doesn’t have superheroes or an existing mythology you have to understand, partially because it ends at issue #60 and partially (mostly, really) because Vaughan is a great damn writer. I got the impression while listening to him talk at NYCC that one of his tenants when conveying information both to audiences and his artists is to keep it simple. I don’t meant that the plots are simple, but that there’s an ease of entry and conveyance to what’s going on that anyone can understand.
One last thing I want to say before finishing up this review is that I really don’t remember much of the following 70 issues or so which is pretty excited. Like when burning through a show on DVD or Netflix, I absorbed so much material and information in such a short period of time that it didn’t quite all stick. For instance, I remember the astronaut stuff coming up (which was also seeded throughout this book, of course) and the moment in the last issue that made me cry and something about Yorick’s potential reunion with Beth, but just about everything else — including the actual reason for the plague — remains a mystery. This actually makes me all the more excited to read through again. Considering I knocked this first book out in a few days, hopefully it won’t take me long to get through the whole series.