5 Comics I Love: #1, Y: The Last Man

by

An Ode To Yorick

 

 

My plan for this “5 Comics We Love” idea that we are all doing (and that David has completed) was to leave Y: The Last Man for, well, last. But after finishing Vol. 10, Whys and Wherefores last night, I knew I had to write it first, because it’d be the toughest one to write about and I needed to get my own closure. David decided to do 5 comic storylines that he loved. While I will do that with some of my 5, I am focusing on Y: The Last Man in its entirety (and no, the other four won’t be this long). What follows is an attempt to gush harder and more profusely than David did in Project: Fables. No spoilers included.

 

 

Y: The Last Man was written by Brian K. Vaughan and featured the pencils of Pia Guerra, and featured fill-in artists Goran Sudzuka and Paul Chadwick. Covers by J.G. Jones and Massimo Carnevale. They were all pretty good.

 

Today’s a sad day. To emphasize my sadness, while writing this post, I will be listening to composer Clint Mansell’s haunting soundtrack from the movie The Fountain, a whimsical, scary, and heartbreaking ode to director Darren Aronofsky’s romantic epic. This pointless reference to pop culture is a nod to one of the greatest characters of all-time, someone who alludes to pop culture far more often, far more successfully and far more hilarious results. That character is Yorick Brown, the Last Man on Earth in Vaughan’s epic tale. Why am I sad? I’m sad because Yorick’s story is over, and besides infinite rereads and the upcoming Y movie, Yorick and company are out of my life forever. This is the Harry Potter syndrome. While some people are Harry Potter haters (and these people suck), critics, parents, children, young adults, everyone alike all discovered and fell in love with JK Rowling’s imaginative creation. In the summer of 2007, I had to say goodbye to Hogwarts and that world altogether, and it was like saying goodbye to my childhood and hello to the real world. This summer, upon the arrival of Volume 10 of Y: The Last Man in stores yesterday, I had to say goodbye to quite possibly my favorite comic book run of all time.

 

 

Y: The Last Man #1 hit stores in September of 2002 under the mature readers imprint Vertigo for DC. Vaughan and Guerra’s creation chronicled the story of Yorick Brown and his capuchin monkey Ampersand, the lone male survivors in the world after a nefarious and unknown plague wiped out every other male mammal on the planet. Joined by a secret agent of the Culper Ring, known only as 355, and Dr. Allison Mann, one of the most brilliant doctors and geneticists even before all the men died, the ragtag band sought out Yorick’s “almost” fiancée Beth down under and all the while for an explanation as to what caused the gendercide and why Yorick and his monkey were left alive. Along the way, the group encounters Daughters of the Amazon, crazy one-boobed women in the mood for removing all remaining vestiges of mankind, Israelis, Aussies, horny women, ninjas, clones, robots, convicts, pirates, pop stars (I could go on all day) and most importantly, love and friendship. The result is a book that can be considered a classic by any standards. Fittingly, Y is Shakespearean; the book is tragic, comedic and becomes its own history. Y is equal parts humor, science fiction, adventure, drama, romance, soap opera (and I mean that as a compliment), action and thriller. Y is the best movie you’ll ever encounter, and it’s a comicbook.

 

It was back in April. My friends were weirded out, and so was the person working the cash register. It was probably the second time I had been in a comicbook store since I had started reading comics again, and the appearance was due to some spring sale, where everything was 20% off, including trades. I bought a few random issues of Super Villain Team-Up (Doctor Doom, come on!) and Astonishing X-Men Vol. 3 (I would find out later that I owned all but two of the issues in this collection, but who’s bitter?). That was when my eyes caught a handwritten post-it note that read “Y-The Last Man Last Issue” at the top of a stand and was actually posted to the issues itself. Then I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to see the cover. But I had to have it. I opened my eyes the way you do when you have to get up to go to the bathroom at the middle of the night in an effort to prevent me from seeing this spoiler splashed cover that I had been warned about. I grabbed the issue, #60, the finale of Vaughan and Guerra’s run, and made my way to the checkout, my eyes in the opposite direction of what I carried in my hands. The issue had come out months ago, so the appearance of an issue of that magnitude was a miracle to me. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have the ten or so odd issues before #60, I wanted it for my collection, and I felt if anything, that it would have sentimental value later in life or some B.S. like that (assuming my parents don’t chuck my comics away like my Grandma did to my Dad’s, and he had the first appearance of Hawkeye, yay!). Little did I know that I would be embarking on a quest, one that insults Yorick and his crew to be sure, but one nonetheless, and that this issue would mean so much to me down the line. That day, as I covered my eyes and told the employee to put the issue at the BOTTOM of my bag, amid wary looks from my friends, I made my first step. This summer, in an effort to rediscover and rekindle my love of comics, I decided to reread all the best stuff in my collection. It doesn’t take a genius like Allison Mann to figure out that I started with Y: The Last Man.

 

Spiffy was ignorant to Y: The Last Man and much of Vertigo when Y first started. Upon a certain handsome man’s opinion (and let’s be honest, every single critic in comicdom), Spiffy picked up the first trade, “Unmanned”. Spiffy was hooked. Spiffy liked a brutally honest, vulgar and fascinatingly plotted book.

 

My favorite character was always Yorick. He was the most “real” character I had ever encountered, and someone I identified with. He’s a nice, eccentric and funny guy, and he’s also a hopeless romantic. His sense of humor is the ultimate defense mechanism. But at the same time, he’s an escape artist with the ability to pick locks and escape from strait jackets. He’s also an idiot, and constantly gets everyone in trouble because of his stubborn nature (although as we find out in “Safeword”, that’s for other reasons entirely. He’s amazingly honest, chivalrous and is probably the poster child for “blue balls”. His faith is stunning, and his faithfulness to Beth, despite some lapses, is remarkable, but at the same time, believable. Yorick’s character arc over his odyssey is notable, and something that Vaughan was able to do with practically every single character that appeared.

 

My favorite character was always 355, the enigmatic, beautiful, badass secret agent trusted with Yorick’s life to protect. From the moment she appeared in Yorick’s life in the first arc, she has been the most consistent presence in his life, and the evolution of their friendship and 355’s character development in general is the greatest testament to Vaughan’s writing. Yorick and three-fifty’s interactions and talks are constantly funny, interesting and so life like it’s eerie. From her shrouded past, her fighting skills to her sweet dreads, everything to 355 is perfect. It’s the same way with everyone in this book.

 

My favorite character was always Ampersand. He throws shit.

 

My favorite character was always Rose. She had an eye patch.

 

My favorite character was always Hero. She repented.

 

My favorite character was always Beth. Other-Beth. Natalya. Ciba. For every one of these characters, Brian reveals their character like a tapestry, giving us their complete history (yes, even Ampersand). And it’s a thing to behold.

 

 

Y: The Last Man is as sharply, tightly and consistently written as any comicbook or graphic novel the medium has ever seen. The entire series is intricately planned and plotted to the minutest (which is apparently a word) detail.  It is Vaughan’s best work, which is saying something, as he’s written so many multidimensional and gripping stories (Pride of Baghdad, Ex Machina, Runaways, Mystique). He writes convincing and hilarious dialogue and created many indelible characters over the 60-issue run, despite having to characterize all females save one (and Ampersand). Y: The Last Man could’ve been sexist, ignorant or a lesbian romp, but it was none of those things. These multi-faceted, constantly growing characters that Vaughan crafted are at the heart of the story and at the center of my heart as the reader. It’s remarkable that for this windswept adventure about the last man on Earth and all the crazy things they encounter along the way, I come back for the characters and their relationships more than anything else.

 

The co-creator and artist of Y: The Last Man was Pia Guerra. This was her first gig in the comics industry, and she turned it into multiple Eisner nominees and a Shuster Award. Her art is so unassuming it’s almost easy to underrate her accomplishments, but it’s impossible to ignore her talent. Her pencils are so clean, so simple, but closer examination reveals many layers. There’s something about having Guerra’s constant presence on the book, as the dynamic facial expressions, raw emotions and visually interesting portraits of Vaughan’s well-penned characters truly brought them to life. Guerra became the queen of close ups in this book, as the emotions and facial expressions of the characters were so important. More than anything though, Pia became an expert of the cliffhanger. You couldn’t name one issue of Y that didn’t end with a cliffhanger if you tried. 

 

Much like Fables awesome covers, it should be pointed out that J.G. Jones and Massimo Carnevale combined to create some of the most creative and great covers for any title that I’ve seen.

 

It may feel like I’m raving too much for this book. But that’s why it’s apart of the 5 Comics I Love. I fucking love this comic. It’s the funniest and wittiest book I’ve ever read. It’s the smartest book I’ve ever read. It’s one of the most political and outspoken books I’ve ever read. It’s one of the most surprising and unpredictable books I’ve ever read. While I haven’t gotten into too many details about the plot beyond the basics and the characters involved, this is mostly because this post would balloon to 10,000 words because there’s 10 volumes to cover and more than 10 storylines and I’m loathe to ruin any of it. But I will say this: You will find out how the plague happened, you will get a definite ending to the story and all questions will be answered. Whether you find it satisfying is up to you and apart of the journey of the reader. I’m still conflicted by the ending myself, and I won’t go into it any further than that, in fear of ruining it for those that have yet to read it, but it was well written and clearly planned from the start. But prepare to be shocked, intrigued and flabbergasted, just like with every other issue of this series.

 

 

 

While reading Whys and Wherefores, it hit me several times that this would be goodbye. That I would be saying goodbye to these characters and Vaughan and Guerra’s fantastic creation. It was like saying goodbye to a great friend with the knowledge that you’d never see them again. That, coupled with what transpired in the final five issues, caused me to do something that I rarely do: I cried. I cried out of happiness. I cried out of sadness. I fucking cried. While I didn’t actually shed a tear (I don’t know if I’m physically able to anymore), I was tearing throughout a few scenes and I felt the grief overcome me when I finished the last page and closed the trade. I think that says it all.

 

Y: The Last Man #60 was released in January of this year, completing one of the greatest accomplishments in comicbook history. Nay, this issue marked the endgame of one of the greatest accomplishments in any medium. Maybe you should go buy it.

 

 

–Spiffy

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8 Responses to “5 Comics I Love: #1, Y: The Last Man”

  1. davidry214 Says:

    What a beautiful, well-written post. It gave me chills.

    I’ve read exactly half the issues of Y, 1-30, so obviously I haven’t gotten to the level you have (I don’t even know who Rose is). But still, I have to emphatically agree with everything you said. I reread my 30 issues recently, and I was struck by just how fully and immediately the book captures you. I mean, you know all the men are going to die except Yorick, because it’s the basis for the entire book. Yet even so, that first issue leaves you awestruck. And it never lets up from there, but just engrosses you more and more. You feel personally invested in the characters’ lives, because you are. I completely understand your reaction after finishing it. I have a feeling it’ll be similar for me.

  2. davidry214 Says:

    Oh, and I’m thrilled that I could help even a little in doing my part to convince you to pick up the book.

  3. Gokitalo Says:

    I’ve read so much praise for this title and STILL haven’t gotten it. I’m a bad nerd. A bad, bad nerd. And I agree with David, that was a great post.

  4. davidry214 Says:

    Goki likes to talk dirty to himself

  5. spiffyithaca Says:

    I like to talk dirty with Goki’s mother

  6. Gokitalo Says:

    EYEKILLYUU

  7. PROJECT: Y « Goki’s Giving Groin Says:

    […] do so without spoilers, and more importantly, 2. Spiffy already covered the run rather beautifullyin his post on the bookAs much as I loved Y, and that’s a whole lot, I think Spiff might have loved it even more. So […]

  8. Our Favorite Comics of the Decade « Eat More Comics Says:

    […] https://gokisgiving.wordpress.com/2008/06/20/5-comics-i-love-1-y-the-last-man/ […]

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