Y: The Last Man? Why NOT? Bwa ha ha ha ha ha!...........................
I will tell you right from the start, Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan (of Runaways fame) is one of my favorite American comic books ever because it has a fascinating concept, great characters with believable motivations, beautiful art, and — get this — A GODDAMN ENDING. Y: The Last Man is up there with the likes of Neil Gaiman's Sandman and Scott Pilgrim (which is technically Canadian, but Canada is America's hat, so whatever) as the most fun and kick-ass complete storied American comic book ever written and drawn. (Miyazaki's Nausicaa, Takahashi's Urusei Yatsura, and that YKK series top the list when international titles are allowed though.)
Now, I can appreciate a good X-Men story, a fun Ultimate Spidey yarn, or a well told Batman tale like any other geek, but there's just something that rubs me the wrong way about ever-ongoing comics like those, wherein you know the hero will never (permanently) die, and you know he'll never finish his quest for justice (or acceptance, or a good beef stroganoff, or whatever), because his comic WILL NEVER END. EVER. Well, not until sales run low at least, and even then the comic'll most likely go out with a whimper and not a BANG because THE ENDING WAS NEVER PLANNED FROM THE BEGINNING. On ongoing comics the ending (if it comes) will just be made up and thrown together slapdash-like by whoever the current writer of the series is (usually somebody 10 - 20 writing generations down from the original creator... Who never had an ending in mind for his characters in the first place anyway).
Comics like Y: The Last Man, Scotty Pilgrim, and Sandman were set up from their inception to have a final finalé, and it's that last chapter that is ultimately the reason for their very existence. See, Scott Pilgrim would have SUCKED if the titular character stayed the weak-willed Scott from the first few books; Dream from the Sandman would have still been interesting if his personality never changed and his story never led to his ultimate injustice/justice, but there would have been no POINT to his tale, and that would have been such a crime; and Yorick Brown, the lead male in Last Man, would have just been a quirky man child (who populates so many crappy sitcoms and action/adventure shows nowadays) had he perpetually remained on his journey and never actually reached a climax. And oh MAN what a climax (and epilogue) for Yorick! But I'm getting way ahead of myself. Let me tell you a bit of what Y: The Last Man is all about. Sit down... Just relax... You'll enjoy this, AND it's good for you.
Last Man starts out with the end of the world for half the Earth's population: the male half. Well, actually every last one of the male mammals in the world just up and died one day, except for one confused mid-twenties slacker (named Yorick) and his helper monkey, one Ampersand (Yorick is a bit of a language snob, being an English major whose very name precluded him from pretty much any real vocation outside of grammar nazi and pop-culture referencer, hence his monkey's lame name).
The world has gone to absolute hell after "the plague" hit (nobody really knows what happened to cause everything with a Y chromosome [including sperm and embryos] to violently die), with some women going batshit amazonian insane, some women desperately trying to figure out how to fix things in order to save the human race, and others just trying to hold onto what little order and infrastructure is left after most of the people who ran the power stations, flew the planes, and ran world governments bit the bullet. Then along comes Yorick Brown and his male Capuchin monkey, throwing everything into bigger bedlam as countries (well, what remains of countries) will do anything to capture him as a power play, to propegate the species, or to make sure that he dies and therefore nobody else gets to live past the eventual last female.
This is when Agent 355 (of the secret agency known as the Culper Ring) comes into play. She's a super spy, answerable only to the president (who, before all the men were cacked, was Secretary of Agriculture [kind of like Laura Roslin]), who accepts her next mission of keeping Yorick alive long enough for geneticist Dr. Allison Mann to find out HOW he's still alive, and to try and find a way to bring mankind back from the brink.
Yorick is very conflicted about all this attention though, as all he wants is to find his girlfriend whom he just proposed to on the phone seconds before the plague hit and global communications crashed (who last he knew was in Australia working on anthropological stuff). Yorick is loyal to Beth (his girlfriend) to a fault, despite the fact that every woman he stumbles upon wants his cawk in a BAD way. Honestly, early Yorick and his monogamistic ways kind of pissed me off. He honestly had a goddamn duty to the species to boink as many women as he possibly could, but whenever a cutie got close he'd always be like "Whoa! Bad touch! Meesa have a girlfriend already!" They'd be all like "Um, so? We need babies, or at least just a live cawk. Gimme!" But he'd be all like "WHAAAAAAAAH! NO! No touching my monkey!" Well, not his literal monkey (who may or may not be the key to Yorick's survival), but his, well, you know.... His wiggle worm. His tiny tadger. His trouser snake. His one-eyed monster. His snorkel puppet. His penis. But I digress.
So as Yorick and 355 and Dr. Mann head off on their cross country odyssey from DC to Mann's West Coast lab, they meet and have to avoid a shit-ton of both good and bad gals who are each very important to the story (or at least to Yorick's journey): There's the twin scientists who run the "hot suite" biosafety containment facility in the Midwest, Yorick's sister Hero (their parents really did a shitty job naming their kids), the town of women made up of excons from a local penitentiary, assassins, pissed off Israeli commandos, heroin pirates, and other secret agents who all either guide Yorick's path, help him get rid of his "survivor's guilt" complex, or show him what his duty must become now that he's the last man on the planet.
Yorick's journey takes him around the entire world for various intriguing reasons (including science, love, and avoiding assassination attempts by actual fucking female ninjas!!!), but it's all the secrets revealed about certain world governments, rogue (and private) organizations that he and his crew encounter, and the development of every character within (from the lead all the way down to the most insignificant punk gang-banger henchwoman) that makes Last Man so epically huge and fulfilling. Every character is real, and there are no throwaway people or relationships in this 60-issued story. Not one character is simply the "wise-cracking one," or the "kindly motherly one," or even the "sexy void eyecandy one."
Vaughan accomplished quite a bit here; his maxiseries comic book puts most critically acclaimed novels to shame in the character advancement and plot intrigue departments. One thing that I especially loved about it (that others may not take too kindly to) is the fact that the reason all the males on the planet died is never shoved in the reader's face like so much 3 day-old dog diarrhea. There are over a dozen theories and hypothesis for why the events that triggered this whole story happened, but we're never given a clear-cut answer as to which one is the correct one. Vaughan has gone on record to say that the definitive answer is actually in the comic somewhere (it would have driven him crazy to write a story like this and NOT have a real answer as to "why?"), but the point of the story is not about this why, it's about the "who?" and the "what now?" And those questions are much more intriguing and thoughtful anyway.
Usually I'm a stickler for big questions being left unanswered (and pissing me off with a lack of a real reason behind any given plot), but after reading the whole of Last Man and thinking back on it, I found I really didn't give a shit as to why all the men died. Despite you thinking "Ugh! You so STUPID! That be the MOST IMPORTANT QUESSION of da whole comicy book! You so dumb, Rossman!" right now, I can assure you, with the giant number of potential reasons for "the plague" occurring, you'll be satisfied enough. Hell, you probably won't even worry about what caused it by the time you get halfway through the series. I promise, pumpkin.
If only... If only all the men disappeared from the Earth... Life would be sooooooo peaceful. But knowing my luck my brother would be the last male remaining.... That would suck SO bad. For SO MANY reasons...
Holy shit! This comic book has given me the greatest idea ever! I hope you'll pardon me while I make an immediate bee-line for the science lab and see if I can whip something up.