Book Review: Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The LY: The Last Manast Man is the story of Yorick Brown, a young and somewhat directionless amateur escape artist living in New York City with his trained chimpanzee, Ampersand. After a mysterious event kills every other male creature on the planet, Yorick’s only goal is to be reunited with his girlfriend who was travelling in Australia when the disaster struck. However, his new role as the last living male makes him uniquely important to the human race, and imposes greater priorities on his life. Along the way to discover why all the men have died and hopefully reverse the damage, Yorick encounters all sorts of women: secret agents, ninjas, Amazons, the Israeli army, and more. It’s a grand romp of an adventure and at the same time an interesting look into gender politics in modern civilization.

Overall, this is a story that talks about power dynamics between different groups of people. As pointed out before the start of issue two, 85% of all government representatives, 495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs and almost 100% of the leaders of certain religions are (were) men. The sudden removal of the power and control that men have over women’s lives leaves a power void that women must learn how to respond to, and they do so in a realistically varied manner. Throughout the series are women, alone and in groups, finding new solutions for the problems they’ve never faced alone before. While many are presented in a positive way, there are also plenty of examples of women who respond to conflict with violence and intolerance.

Yorick is a mostly loveable character, although not without his flaws. Although he somewhat begrudgingly accepts his importance as the last man alive, he never becomes the hero who is ready to save the day – he’d rather live out more selfish goals, such as finding his girlfriend. He also often behaves in a rash way and many times exemplifies male privilege (and is usually yanked out of the trouble this brings him by the smarter, more capable women who surround him). The female characters in the story have an astounding range of both personalities and physical types, something sorely lacking in many comics and graphic novels.

As with any series of graphic novels, this work is a result of collaboration between many talented individuals. The story development and writing is done by Brian Vaughan. Pia Guerra is the artist, and her understated style and obvious talent for drawing realistic people and settings in an evocative manner serve the series very well. Lettering by Clem and inking by José Marzán Jr are both clear and executed cleanly.

Y: The Last Man received 5 Eisner Awards and also received a Hugo nomination. It is available from the Dallas Public Library in a series of 10 paperback editions. A movie to be directed by Dan Trachtenberg is currently in production.

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