Yorick is an out-of-work English major when he suddenly becomes the last man on earth. A mysterious plague has killed every other Y-chromosome mammal in an instantaneous, blood-spewing way. Brian Vaughan never once says “Alas, poor Yorick” — he leaves that to the reader. The whole book grants a lot of respect to the reader’s intelligence.
My favorite moment of the first volume happens right as the disaster hits. We see freeze-frames from around the world: on the floor of the Tokyo stock exchange, every single worker falls down dead; in the Vatican, a nun kneels over a dead priest; at a women’s soccer game, the players crowd around a fallen referee and spectators spew blood; at mission control, men collapse at their consoles while an audio link asks, “Houston, Houston, do you read?”*
This is the first volume of 10 graphic novels, and I think the arc is going to cover all of Yorick’s family: his mother, a Democratic Congresswoman who is pro-life; his father, a dead Shakespeare professor who named his kids Yorick and Hero; and his sister Hero, who is not at all as meek as the original Hero — she’s an EMT who knows how to use a gun. Also, Yorick has a pet (male) capuchin monkey named Ampersand.
When I was a wee slip of a girl, I remember reading Frank Herbert’s The White Plague, in which all the women die within about 2 weeks. At that time, I remember thinking that the structure of society is much more vulnerable if all the women check out than if all the men check out, since having all families become suddenly single-dad households is rougher than single-mom households.
I take that back. Society crumbles in either scenario.
Y: The Last Man thinks through the aftershocks in pretty cool ways. For example, the widows of conservative Senators show up demanding their husbands’ seats, since knocking out the Y chromosomes leaves a decidedly smaller and more left-leaning Congress, and no self-respecting Republican lady is going to let a bunch of feminist loonies hijack the country.
Pia Guerra’s artwork is clean and stylish. Here are Victoria, bitchin’ leader of the Amazon vigilantes, and Alter, a crazy-ass Israeli soldier (“Who wants peace when we have not yet begun to fight?”).