Y: The Last Man Book One


By Brian K Vaughan, Pia Guerra, José Marzán & various (DC/ Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1921-5 (HB) 978-1-4012-5151-2 (TPB)

Back in 2002, an old, venerable and cherished science fiction concept got a new and pithy updating in the Vertigo comic book Y: The Last Man. These days it’s more relevant than ever as the premise reveals the consequences of a virulent plague. This one is primarily a mystery as it kills every male mammal on Earth – including all the sperm and the foetuses…

If it had a Y chromosome, it died. All except, somehow, for amateur stage magician, escapologist and all-round slacker goof-ball Yorick Brown and his pet monkey, Ampersand. One night, the gormless guy goes to bed pining for absent girlfriend Beth – who’s an anthropology grad on a gig in Australia – and the next day he’s the last functioning seed-dispenser in existence…

As a shady sub-culture of international espionage and conspiracy comes out of the shadows, Yorick’s mother is revealed as part of the new – for which read Female-and-Still-Standing after a failed power-grab by the widows of Republican Congressmen – American Presidential cabinet. This makes her, by default, a stand-in Leader of the Free World until the new President can get to Washington and take office…

Once Yorick makes his desperate, whiny way to her through a devastated urban landscape that used to be Washington DC, some things become clear. The plague hit during rush-hour on the East Coast and, with all the male take-charge types expiring in an eyeblink, the damage to civilisation has been inconceivable.

Planes, Trains, Automobiles and every other machine monopolised by male privilege across the planet stopped being piloted at the same moment and collateral damage was almost instantaneous and cataclysmic…

In the wreckage and ruins of man-kind, the new US leaders try to lock her son in a bunker as a crucial national resource, but he escapes and immediately announces he’s off Down Under.

After some delicate and acrimonious “negotiation”, Mum and Madam President finally allows the world’s only known propagator of the next generation to undertake a hazardous cross-country trek rather than subjecting him to some more rational project… such as milking him for IVF resources…

Off Yorick goes with a lethal and ambiguous secret agent known only as 355 to the secret California laboratory of Dr Allison Mann. This good doctor is a geneticist who secretly fears she might be the root cause of all the trouble…

Also out to stake their claim – and adding immeasurably to the tension and already prodigious body count – are a crack squad of Israeli commandos with a hidden agenda and mysterious sponsor, plus post-disaster cult The Daughters of the Amazon who want to make sure once and for all that there really are no more men. The hardest thing for the final baby-daddy to take is that they’re led by Yorick’s own sister Hero

Throughout all this grief, he remains a contrary cuss. Defying every whim and “Hey, I’m a Guy” stereotype, all he wants is to be reunited with his dearly beloved marooned in Oz. Like a stubborn and now extinct male mule, he will not be dissuaded…

Although this first escapade is mostly set-up, the main characters are engaging and work well to dispel the inevitable aura of familiarity and cliché this series had to initially struggle against.

Second story-arc ‘Cycles’ kicks off with Brown & Ampersand still laboriously trekking across an America now utterly feminised. Even with pitiless psycho-killers hunting him and with only a lethally-skilled government agent and disturbed geneticist to escort him across the devastated, death-drenched landscape to the West Coast, all the young oaf can think of is reuniting with Beth…

As the trio (quartet if we simply count primates) pass from Boston to Ohio, they end up in a curiously stable community in the Midwest where the sight of a male barely ruffles the assembled feathers. Yorick experiences his first instance of genuine sexual temptation. Sadly, the idyll is short-lived as the relentless Amazon Daughters catch up to the wanderers with tragic circumstances…

Moreover, the Israeli commandos hunting Earth’s last sperm-donor are also increasingly going off-book, heralding more chaos to come. And as Yorick and Co. resume their journey, hundreds of miles above Earth, another crisis is brewing…

To Be Continued…

This collection re-presents – in hardback, trade paperback and digital formats – issues #1-10 of Y: The Last Man (which were subsequently released as early graphic novel hits Unmanned and Cycles) and includes a comprehensive art gallery section in ‘Y: The Sketchbook’ courtesy of illustrator Pia Guerra.

Despite the horrific narrative backdrop, Brian K. Vaughn’s tale unfolds at a relatively leisurely pace and there’s plenty of black humour, socio-political commentary and proper lip service paid to the type of society the world would be without most of its pilots, entrepreneurs, mechanics, labourers, abusers and violent felons, but there’s precious little story progression in this tome, so if you’re a regular consumer of mindless action thrillers and blockbuster chase movies you’ll need to be patient. When you ultimately reach high gear, the wait will be worth it…

However, if you’re of a contemplative mien and can enjoy your entertainments unfolding on a human scale with luxuriously barbed wit on their own darkly nasty terms, there is an inconceivably great time waiting for you here…
© 2002, 2003, 2014 Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra. All Rights Reserved.