Zilla and the Comics Junkies

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Y: The Last Man vol. 1: Unmanned

Written by: Brian K. Vaughn
Penciled by: Pia Guerra
Cover by: J.G. Jones
Published by: Vertigo/DC

I knew very little about this book before reading it, just a basic synopsis and the fact that Brian K. Vaughn was the writer/creator. That fact (as I’ve read good things about his work) coupled with it being a Vertigo title, which in my experience usually produces quality material; I decided to give it a read.

The story is about a young English major/escape artist named Yorick, who spends much of the early pages on the phone with his girlfriend Beth, whom is in Australia on vacation. Despite being presented as the main character and protagonist, this is quite an ensemble cast. The story also follows a scientist named Dr. Mann, who is in labour, with a baby that is apparently, a clone. A female Colonel in the Israeli army with no first name, merely nicknamed, Alter. A nameless, African-American Secret Service woman, codenamed Agent 355. Yorick’s sister, Hero, an EMT. And, finally, Yorick’s mother, who is a congresswoman in Washington, D.C. Focus shifts back and fourth between all of these characters until a catastrophic event happens; every mammal on Earth with a Y chromosome simultaneous dies-- every mammal, except Yorick, and his pet monkey, Ampersand.

I must commend Brian K. Vaughn with this story, because he does practically everything right. His characters all feel very real, and while some of them lack an apparent purpose in the story early on, everything begins tying together quite nicely. The interactions between the characters have a cinematic style to them; it’s as if this story was originally written to be a film, not a comic book. In fact, there isn’t much of a comic book feel to this story at all, and the script could be very interchangeable with that of something in Hollywood, and in this case, that’s a good thing.

There’s plenty of humour in this graphic novel, which fits perfectly well with the tone of the story, adding a nice amount of comic relief to remove some of the overall the seriousness of the story, but it never goes too far that it distracts from the problem at hand. For instance, right after the disaster happens, we jump ahead two months. And see Yorick walking down the street, disguised in a rain poncho and gasmask, so he is not recognized as being a male. He encounters a very beautiful woman driving a garbage truck, who proceeds to complain to him that before the disaster, she was a supermodel, and had just spent a large sum of money on breast implants just weeks before everything happened. Now that there were no men left in the world, she’s been reduced to driving a garbage truck. Or, how the women of the world turned the Washington Monument (a tall obelisk), into a memorial for men. Little gags like this are scattered throughout the graphic novel, and are quite humourous.

The artwork of Pia Guerra is perfect for a story like this. It’s not pin-up art, it’s not bold superhero-typed artwork, his characters have a real, down to Earth look to them, it fits the book well. He’s also pretty good at showing us how the characters are thinking and feeling, with body language, facial expressions, etc.

I suppose my only real problem with this book is, because Y: The Last Man is an ongoing series, with the type of story it is, and this book only collecting the first six issues, not a whole lot is really resolved. We still don’t know for certain why the disaster happened, we don’t know why Yorick lived when others didn’t, we never learn the fate of Hero or Beth, and the book even ends with a rather open-ended finale. I can somewhat understand the reasoning for this, but when all you have is the first volume, a lack of resolution is rather irritating.

Overall a solid read, with believable characters, and enough twists and turns to make your eyebrows raise a bit. I would’ve given it an even higher score if some of the major plotlines were resolved.

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****


07 January, 2006 21:11, Blogger Matt Watts said...

I discovered this series last year... Every now and then I'd pick up a tbp until i was caught up. Now it's on my pull list.

It's supposed to end at issue 60, so presumably Vaughan has known where he was going since the beginning.

Keep reading, it's worth it!

09 January, 2006 09:20, Blogger zilla said...

i'm w/ matt. i've been reading this by the trades too (i'm not quite caught up to the flops yet though)... it's started to get a bit stale for me late - but i'm def pressing on (still well worth it).


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In no particular order:

Criminal, The Goon, Daredevil, Exterminators, Punisher, Hellboy/B.P.R.D (All), Powers, Godland, Usagi Yojimbo, The Walking Dead, Invincible, Conan, Ex Machina, DMZ, Desolation Jones, Fell, 100 Bullets, All-Star Superman, Ultimates 2, Loveless, and Fear Agent.

I'm recently back reading after a 15 year comics hiatus.

Zilla is not my real name.

I'm from Tejas living in VA. I'm married w/ 2 dogs. I'm an IT security consultant cranking the wheel for a big consulting firm in "real" life.

I watch the History Channel, Nat'l Geo, TLC, Mil Channel, ESPN and NFL Network, CourtTV (forensic files, etc.) and the Cartoon Network (love Genndy T's Samurai Jack and Clone Wars Adventures). My taste in movies: Gladiator, Last Samurai, Braveheart, Godfather, Tarantino (whatever), Kung-Fu (whatever), Westerns, Top Gun, Big Lebowski.

I love the outdoors and bs'ing around w/ my dogs.

In addition to being a comics junkie, i'm also a sports junkie especially when it comes to the Texas Longhorns and the Dallas Cowboys.

Blog contents copyright © 2005 Rod Wetsel