Comic Book Review: Y: The Last Man Volume 1: Unmanned

(Submitted by with love by Mr. Prince Adam…Ho-pe you’re having a very Happy New Comic Book Day, Kinky Ho-mies! xoxo)

“Written by Brian K. Vaughan (Lost, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, EX MACHINA) and with art by Pia Guerra, this is the saga of Yorick Brown–the only human survivor of a planet-wide plague that instantly kills every mammal possessing a Y chromosome. Accompanied by a mysterious government agent, a brilliant young geneticist and his pet monkey, Ampersand, Yorick travels the world in search of his lost love and the answer to why he’s the last man on earth. Collects issues #1-5.” (Vertigo)

This comic book gets a lot of critical praise and is lauded in the fanboy community as well! The way some of my friends talk about it, you’d think it’s the greatest thing you’ll ever read. Having just read the first volume, I just don’t get the high praise. For me it was okay, but I definitely had problems with it. One of the things I did like, was the idea that a virus/plague was killing every male on Earth. Now I didn’t like it because my male brethren were dying off. However, this was an intriguing plot point that is unique to any comic book I’ve ever read. The male death epidemic, allows the story to give us incredibly strong, prominent and badass female characters. Sure, Yorick Brown is the last man and he’s at the center of this story, along with his pet monkey Ampersand but this story would be pretty boring if it was about a dude and his monkey. By the way, this book gets extra points because a lead character has a pet monkey. The monkey is a pest, and a pain in the ass to Yuri, which drives most of the humor in this post-apocalyptic story. Also it reminds me of Friends and Joey. The president is obviously now a woman, and Yorick’s mother is a state representative in Washington. In an effort to set the scene for these two characters and this book before the male population goes extinct, this book gets quite political. We see Yorick’s mom arguing with a male counterpart over the issue of an abortion amendment. We see the soon to be President in Israel in the midst of Israeli/Palestinian warfare. Both abortion and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are still big issues even a decade plus after this book was published. I’m pleased that these issues are present, as comic books rarely touch on them. I only hope that it wasn’t all for exposition, or that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, when the story shifts its focus to Yorick’s journey. Speaking of Yorick’s journey, to find out the nature of the virus, why he wasn’t affected by it, he’s joined by two other awesome female characters. The first is Agent 355. The character is tasked by the President to guard and escort Yorick from Washington to Boston. The interesting thing about Agent 355 is that she is no simple body guard, she is a member of the clandestine group Culper Ring. She says they are a part of American history but you can sense there’s more going on with this group and I can’t wait to delve into that history and their ultimate machinations in future volumes. The third member of Yorick’s Scooby gang is Doctor Allison Mann. Dr. Mann is a geneticist, with a special aptitude for cloning. She successfully attempted the cloning process before, and cloning Yorick seems like a way of re-establishing the male population to ensure the births of future generations of humanity. If you suspend disbelief, that sounds like a viable option and she sounds like someone who can get it done.

The main antagonist of this first five issues is the Daughters of the Amazon. They view extinction of all men as a blessing and as a chance to rise up and return Earth to its glory days, when it was led by only woman. These women take Amazon mythology to its extreme. To the point where they cut off one breast because it makes it easier to shoot a bow. If one of their ranks or another woman doesn’t fall in line with the exact ways of the group they are killed. Brian K. Vaughan writes the Daughters of the Amazon with the most extreme stereotypes people have of feminists. This group of women are man hating vandals, societal disrupters and killers. I don’t think the writer is doing this to disparage normal, sane and legitimate feminist, he’s just creating a hyper stereotypical version, who do horrible things so that the readers have an antagonist to root against and despise. If he depicted feminists as they really are, this book would have zero action beats at all. It’d just be marching and protesting. While that may be real world appropriate, it translates to one boring comic. With Yorick, Agent 355 and Dr. Mann getting into confrontations and being on the run from the Daughters of the Amazon, this book has a bit of a Mad Max vibe going for it. The book ends with our trifecta in a bind. Not only are they on the run from Amazon wannabe’s, but they reach Dr. Mann’s Boston lab, only to find the building and her research up in flames. However, the perpetrator of this arson, is a lieutenant general of the Israeli Defense Force. She was seen briefly and early in the story and is after Yorick, to ensure the future of her nation. That’s what I liked about this book. What I didn’t like was Yorick. This guy is in his mid-20’s, jobless and is obsessed with maintaining a long distance relationship with a girl who, it is clear that she’s on the verge of breaking up with him, so the guy proposes to her over the phone. What a douchebag. When the plague hits and all the men die, and it becomes clear that he is the only person capable of insuring humanity’s ultimate survival, his only concern is going to Australia to find his girlfriend. Really? I mean the savior of humanity throughout the book, acts like a petulant child when he doesn’t get his way. Yeah, if the future of the human race was really left up to someone like him, I’d rather we all die off. The other thing the book does poorly is deal with the relationship between Yorick and his sister Hero. He tells us how close they are, yet we never see them interact. A flashback to Yorick and Hero’s youth would’ve helped build the bond. Instead, we see Hero at the very beginning and end of the book. At the beginning, we see her banging her figherfighter boyfriend in the back of a fire truck, while at the end we see her with one boob and she is one of the members of Daughters of the Amazon tasked with finding Yorick. Seems to me Brian K Vaughan jumped the gun with her character arc, if you can call it one. Then there’s the issue of the plague killing all the men. The biggest plot point of this book and we don’t get so much of a hint at what it is, or what might have caused it. I understand there’s lots of story left to be told but come on, tease us with something.

Pia Guerra is the artist on this book and it’s the first time I’m seeing her work. To me it has a similar style to the artist of iZombie. While the work is good, given the nature of this story, there aren’t many action scenes to gush on about. I do like the picture of the wives of the dead republican male senators, approaching the White House with weapons, demanding their husband’s places on the senate. The image looked like something akin to zombie’s attacking in a movie or TV show. The page where Yorick gets into a fight with a few Daughters of the Amazon’s resembled the aftermath of an nWo wrestling match. A couple Amazon’s held Yorick down, while the ring leader roughed him up a bit. There was even spray paint involved! The final splash page is an aerial shot showing our characters lost in a literal fork in the road, with the road making the shape of a Y. Now that’s a cool way to end the first arc of a book. Ultimately though, I wish cover artist J.G. Jones was doing the interiors. His art is far more realistic looking and suits the real world story and scenario’s this book deals with.

I’m mostly split on this book. There’s a lot to like about this book but there’s a lot I don’t like about this book. Right now, I’m skewing more negative, due to an unlikable idiot of a main character, under developed backstory and character relationships, and bad pacing in certain places. I’ll probably give this book another go, in the hopes that another volume will build on the parts I did like, and reveal answers to the questions I have about the virus/plague. After Volume 1, I’m left wondering “Y” The hell do so many of my friends and critics think this book is great!?