Y: The Last Man – Volume 10 – Whys and Wherefores – Brian K. Vaughan

This is it. The end. Finito. No more. It is always sad and hard when a series that you love ultimately reaches the final curtain. All you can hope for is that your faith in loyal years and epic number of words read will be rewarded and it will leave you warm and fuzzy for several days after.

There is a lot of pressure as from day one Yorick has had a definite goal in mind. Will he achieve this and how will he cope if he does or indeed does not. Is it really going to end in a happily ever after or is the writer going to take a risk and pull one last surprise out of the bag. Both. Some characters achieve happy endings, some don’t make it to the finish line and the ending, whilst satisfying, is not what you expect. Through some clever use of the timeline the author is able to prolong the suspense just that little bit further.

The art and most notably the colouring is spectacular. Finally in the home straight all the stops have been pulled out to make for some incredibly beautiful pictures. There are some iconic images of Paris and some unexpected ones too. This concluding volume both satisfies and surprises yet leaves you wondering what would have happened if things had been different. It is time to join the writer in saying “alas poor Yorick…” Time for a final Thumbs Up!

61/304.

Tomorrow: Our Cancer Year – Harvey Pekar

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Y: The Last Man – Volume 9 – Motherland – Brian K. Vaughan

Things are winding up now. The great excitement of the unknown has passed and the reader wants everything tied up neatly so they can move on. This volume begins to wrap it all up spilling the beans about the plague, cloning, the Mann family and everything else. Unfortunately it is in a very wordy way. It is hard to think of a different method other than pages and pages of speech bubbles. Maybe an Alan Moore style couple of pages of plain text. It is a necessary evil but still evil especially when you have such great artists on board.

The art is great with some excellent colour schemes adding to the emotion and contrast of the scenes. Some really minor characters from way back get revisited in standalone mini-stories which, although unrelated to our heroes struggle, do fit thematically and will give you a smile once you finally remember who they are. There is a nice comic within a comic too which Yorick gets to read that should bring a smile to your face for both the story, the art and technique. After much thought we are still going to continue the tradition of Thumbs Up!

60/305.

Tomorrow: Y: The Last Man – Volume 10 – Whys and Wherefores – Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man – Volume 8 – Kimono Dragons – Brian K. Vaughan

Things tend to slow down a bit here and this volume is very dialogue and exposition heavy. There is still action and suspense, and sex robots, but some very wordy pages too. A lot of this volume is taken up with Dr Mann’s back-story as we get to know all about her childhood and the complex lives of her parents.

The art, by contrast, really shines. The colours are incredibly rich with some beautiful shading and some exquisite fine detailing. There are some neat little touches such as a clever reflection and a thrown object leaving the frame. It’s as if the artist is trying to smuggle creativity in under the radar.

This does feel like one of the weakest volumes so far but it is testament to the great writing that even this deserves a Thumbs Up!

59/306.

Tomorrow: Y: The Last Man – Volume 9 – Motherland – Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man – Volume 7 – Paper Dolls – Brian K. Vaughan

Whilst we aren’t on the home straight quite yet we are definitely getting a sense that the end is drawing near. We are moving toward the source of the plague, we have a lead on Beth (even if Yorick is too dumb to realise it), and the loose ends with Hero et al are being tied up.

We get to learn more about 355 and her back-story; Ampersand too, and about the mysterious Ninja. Although this is a short volume it certainly accomplishes much and there are some perils set up for the future too.

The art is still sturdy and reliable but nothing dramatic this volume. Thumbs Up!

58/307.

Tomorrow: Y: The Last Man – Volume 8 – Kimono Dragons – Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man – Volume 6 – Girl on Girl – Brian K. Vaughan

In this part we go to sea in an adventure and find out how women have been ruling the waves, from above and below, since the plague. This is more of a factual action piece than thought provoking philosophy but it is still very good. Think of Ice Station Zebra or Where Eagles Dare as you are constantly trying to work out whose side anyone is on and what they are up to.

The art comes to the fore now with some incredible colours for the ocean, the outback and the inside of submarines. There are some nice effects such the blurry view through someone’s spectacles and a flashback told in wonderful colour instead of the usual black and white. We get to learn much more about Beth so she fully becomes a character instead of merely a destination.

This is good solid stuff. Although it doesn’t advance the plot the characters grow, we learn more about what has gone before and get a real blast from the past. Thumbs Up!

57/308.

Tomorrow: Y: The Last Man – Volume 7 – Paper Dolls – Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man – Volume 5 – Ring of Truth – Brian K. Vaughan

After sex must come religion. The first of the three stories is about religion, more specifically the male dominated catholic faith. This is part list of facts and part rant but it is well told through someone Yorick meets on his travels and his desire to confess his sin from the previous volume. It is a good story which asks excellent questions, has warm human emotions and puts Yorick in a difficult position. Everything a story should do.

The next tales are concerned with moving the plot along. We get some new information on the plague, get reunited with someone and have the whole world put in jeopardy. This is pretty much all action and it is in danger of selling out to become a Hollywood blockbuster. Hopefully things will swing back the other way and we will regain some of the emotion and philosophising that Y does so well.

The art is still up to par but doesn’t outshine the story. There are some nice instances of showing not telling and the word to art ratio is strongly in favour of the art. Although there are three stories and this is a thick volume it still whizzes by at a thrilling pace. Thumbs Up!

56/309.

Tomorrow: Y: The Last Man – Volume 6 – Girl on Girl – Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man – Volume 4 – Safeword – Brian K. Vaughan

Sex! In a story such as this it is only a matter of time before the focus turns to sex and when Yorick is kidnapped by a crazy dominatrix all of his secrets come out. There is some fantastic laugh out loud humour and some very profound things to think about. This is a beautiful blend of themes and emotions and the true definition of a mature comic.

The art is fantastic. As the story heads to indoor locations the pallet changes and there is some exceptional colour work. Bold colours expertly combined ramp up the intensity of the emotion. Some daring techniques are used to spice up the structured framework we have become used to for flashbacks, dream sequences and hallucinations. The artist changes half way through but the continuity remains solid. The characters become a little more detailed and the colour work continues to shine as we move back outdoors.

There is a lot of drama, new characters are well defined and we get some personal revelations about the existing ones. Y has reached the top of its game and a page turner in every sense. It is time for the Double Thumbs Up!

55/310.

Tomorrow: Y: The Last Man – Volume 5 – Ring of Truth – Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man – Volume 3 – One Small Step – Brian K. Vaughan

This volume contains two stories. The first deals with the orbiting astronauts and is an OK piece of drama with a bit of action and some funny lines. The second story ditches all our main characters and focuses on a group of travelling players who decide what is needed is a contemporary play about the world after the plague. They decide to call it The Last Man after the little known Mary Shelly novel.

Whilst I wasn’t sure at first this is a radical step in storytelling and should be applauded. The play within a play feels very Shakespearian which is perfect as this is a tale about actors. It allows the author to express some ideas that wouldn’t fit well foisted on his established characters. There is a brief but intelligent discussion on the role of art and women on the stage.

The art is pretty standard apart from one night scene lit by a lantern that really stands out and shows the artist is capable of so much more than the deadlines will allow. Not the greatest volume but still a Thumbs Up!

54/311.

Tomorrow: Y: The Last Man – Volume 4 – Safeword – Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man – Volume 2 – Cycles – Brian K. Vaughan

We begin with a text recap of what happened in the previous volume. This features a number of statistics about how our society is divided and the roles that men and women occupy. Most airline pilots, CEO’s and violent criminals are men. Without these roles being filled what will our society evolve into. One of the characters also quotes similar figures mid text. It is nice to know your writer does his homework, and by being so informed, we can have greater confidence in his story.

It has been said that good fiction concerns extraordinary things happening to ordinary people. Although our central characters include a brilliant scientist, a heroic soldier and a female James Bond, many people they meet along the way are regular folk caught up in this unfolding catastrophe. Whilst there is a great deal of homicidal feminism, which can make two dimensional characters, there are also touching moments of normality. Yorick, who has become smugly annoying, does seem to grow and change and behave realistically, assuming that is possible being the last man on Earth.

The raw innovation and bold style of the first volume fade into more conventional storytelling now our attention has been captured. The art is solid but not exceptional. The dialogue is generously spaced out however with the minimum amount of text per panel making this a real page turner that doesn’t feel wordy or exposition heavy. This is the proverbial difficult second album and while it can’t manage the spectacle of the first it exposes us to important points of view on love and death and sets up a great hook for the next part. Thumbs Up!

53/312.

Tomorrow: Y: The Last Man – Volume 3 – One Small Step – Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man – Volume 1 – Unmanned – Brian K. Vaughan

The premise is that every living male (human and animal) dies at the same time leaving the planet populated entirely by females. This is a unique idea and allows for a lot of introspection on the role that sex or gender has played in shaping our culture and societies across the globe. It also allows for speculation on what kind of a brave new world would a single sex forge. This is science fiction at its best.

For the sake of drama one man has survived, naturally an American, and naturally an aimless, twenty-something slacker. His male pet monkey has also survived too. We follow our titular hero, Yorick, as various people want to get their hands on him, for good or ill, and as he journeys halfway across this woman-filled globe to meet up with his fiancé. He is well-read, cynical and wisecracking enough to make a good guide through this dysfunctional new reality.

The art is expertly drawn but quite understated having a very clean, almost pop-art flavour to it. The layout is superb. With several stories being told the choice of when to cut between them and when to show them all on the same page is spot on. The writing is good but the storytelling, the way in which facts are revealed, the jumping backward and forward in time is exemplary. The introduction and payoff in the first issue alone is superb. There is a lot of show don’t tell in which questions are asked and the only answer is the character’s expression, which is just how this medium should be used. Even the lettering steps up its game with speech bubbles overlapping each other to help you know what order to read them in. And when many people talk at once the letters encroach on each other making it impossible to read just as in a real conversation.

This is technically the perfect comic with a bold concept, incredible structure, real innovation and a unique style. It is very Americentric however. Many of the political and cultural references might be lost to the overseas reader. I also got the sense that the author was definitely soap-boxing about his politics too, which would be fine in a subtle way, but too heavy handed in this instance. Having such a large, almost all female, ensemble cast does put a strain on both the writer and artist to differentiate them and make them unique. Hopefully they will establish their independence as the issues progress.

This is an amazing start that effortlessly sweeps a bold Thumbs Up!

52/313.

Tomorrow: Y: The Last Man – Volume 2 – Cycles – Brian K. Vaughan