Y: The Last Man


Although it has been many years since I could actually consider myself a fan or avid reader of comic books, there have recently been released a number of books that have attracted my attention and drawn me back into the world of comics. One of the most original and engrossing storylines was created by Brian K. Vaughn, writer, and Pia Guerra, penciler. Their brainchild, Y: The Last Man, is an ongoing series that was first released in comic book format in 2002 and which is currently available in collected book format.

Y tells the story of an ordinary—and unemployed—young man with a flare for escape artistry (Yorick) and his male capuchin monkey companion (Ampersand), whom Yorick is training to be a helper monkey. As the story begins, a phone conversation between Yorick in New York and his girlfriend, Beth, who is vacationing/studying in Australia, is cut short as all of the human males around the world—as well as most, if not all, males of any other species—suddenly and instantaneously collapse and die, most bleeding from all of their orifices. Both Yorick and Ampersand miraculously survive the “gendercide” and begin their journey to find Beth and, hopefully, some answers. As one might guess, the “Y” refers to the y chromosome that is necessary to produce a male during pregnancy (xx=female; xy=male).

As Yorick and Amp attempt to find their way to Beth, they encounter a slew of interesting and often well-developed characters, including Yorick’s mother, now President of the United States; Hero, Yor’s sister and now a member of the Amazons, a group of psychotics out to destroy the remnants of a male-dominated past; Agent 355, Yor’s bodyguard and a member of the mysterious Culper Ring; Dr. Mann, a bioengineer and pioneer in the field of clone research; and as a host of other femme fatales. Throughout the series, it seems there is an impossible number of groups, agencies and individuals who seek Yorick and/or Ampersand for their own desires. Some seek an end to this manless world and hope for salvation (in the form of the ability to produce and inoculate more males), while others wish to ensure that men and male domination are forever things of the past.

What kind of world would exist if all of the men were to die, or at least it was thought they all had? How would the world change? Would new sets of valued, beliefs and ideas arise, or would it still be, for lack of a more tactful phrase, “the same old shit”? Who will rise to power, and what will her intentions be? Will there finally be peace? Will nations around the world unite? Will nations even exist???

And for the last man, what kind of a world is he entering? Is it, as I’m sure many men believe, going to be a paradise? Or will it really be hell on earth? “Adrift in ocean of estrogen” (Book 3, p. 14) one may wonder, as Yorick does, “why does fate choose one man over another?” (Book 1, p. 7).

Book 1: Unmanned

The beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning? As 355, Amp and Yorick set out to find Dr. Mann and a possible solution, many of the major characters of the series are introduced. Yor finds it’s a much more dangerous and violent world than he believed. What is the Amulet of Helene?

Book 2: Cycles

While making the trek to California to gather Mann’s research, 355 is injured and they stumble upon a town populated entirely by ex-convicts. Meanwhile, the Amazons are following close behind. Israelis? Men in space?

Book 3: One Small Step

With aid from the President, the Israelis step up their search for Yorick. Russians are awaiting the landing of a space shuttle in the US, and the monkey escapes to a traveling theater troupe.

Book 4: Safeword

Dr. Mann and 355 take an injured Amp for medical care, while Yorick is left with a former Culper Ring associate of 355. Yorick’s visit takes a sadistic twist, and a new secret ring agency is revealed. Plus, run-ins with racists and local militias.

Book 5: Ring of Truth

Two years have passed. … Yorick meets another Beth (not Aussie Beth) and finally gets some nookie. Yorick and Hero re-reunite, and some of Hero’s past is revealed. Yorick gets sick, Amp is kidnapped, the Amulet of Helene and the Setauket Ring start playing a larger and more sinister part and everybody wants a piece of Yor and Amp.

Book 6: Girl on Girl

Pirates, navy subs, heroin, hookups, treachery and treason. And, oh yeah, Yor’s girl in Australia gets kidnapped.

Book 7: Paper Dolls

Yorick makes the front page, while parts of both 355’s and Amp’s origins are revealed. A President is shot and the Catholic Church makes its entrance. Shrinkage? Cannibals?

Book 8: Kimono Dragons

Japan! The pieces seem to be coming together. The answers are starting to take shape. And a Canadian pop star leads the new Yakuza.