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

January 18, 2010

4. Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, José Marzán Jr., Pamela Rambo, Clem Robins, J. G. Jones (2002)
Y: The Last Man, volume 1 (issues #1-5)

Length: 128 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Started: 10 January 2009
Finished: 10 January 2009

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I’m all caught up to the trade paperback release schedule in all of the other graphic novel series I’m reading, so I needed something new to start.

Men: Can’t live with ’em,
can’t live when they’ve all been killed
by a nasty plague.

Summary: The premise of Y: The Last Man is simple… what would happen in a world without men? In this case, every man (and every Y-chromosome-bearing male mammal) on the planet was simultaneously and instantly killed by a mysterious plague. Every man, that is, except one: Yorrick Brown. (And his pet capuchin monkey Ampersand.) After the disaster, all he wants to do is travel to Australia to find his girlfriend, but instead he must travel from Washington D.C. to Boston, avoiding gangs of violent women eager to destroy any trace of the patriarchy, and attempt to find a doctor who might hold the key to why Yorrick is the only male to have survived the plague.

Review: Y: The Last Man is I think one of the modern classics of the graphic novel format. It’s probably the first graphic novel series I remember hearing about in the days before I started reading them for myself, and now that I’m finally getting around to it, I’m pleased to report that at least the first volume totally lives up to the hype.

I do love me a well-thought-out post-apocalyptic world (for instance, despite the issues I had with Dies the Fire, I thought the worldbuilding was phenomenal), and the world of Y: The Last Man is incredibly intriguing. I love thinking through the ramifications of the premise – what *would* happen if all of the men died tomorrow? – and I especially love when the writers come up with angles that never would have occurred to me (i.e. the majority of the remaining U.S. politicians would be Democrats.) There’s also a fair amount of science behind this science fiction, and since sex determination is an area of particular interest to me, I’ve also been having fun trying to think through the virology/epidemiology/endocrinology/genetics of the plague. (Why only mammalian males? What about fish or frogs with a Y chromosome? What about XY-but-androgen-insensitive women? What would the world look like if, within a generation, all of the mammals really did die out for lack of males?)

It’s still a little bit of the early stages to have formed much of an opinion on the characters yet, but the plot is interesting enough, and going in enough different directions that I’ve been thoroughly sucked in. Neither the artwork or the panelling is particularly unique or phenomenally noteworthy, although the style *is* right up my alley – slightly simplified, with strong, un-sketchy lines. (The style is actually visually pretty similar to Fables.) Squeamish readers, though, be warned: there is a fair bit of extremely graphic violence and some strong and sexually-charged language. Not enough to put me off, but definitely more than I was expecting. There are also a few characters I can’t always tell apart yet, but again: early days. I’m definitely going to keep reading, since I’m dying to see where the story goes from here. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of apocalyptic or dystopian sci-fi should definitely read this, if they haven’t already. Also good for biology nerds, readers of Anne Rice’s The Queen of the Damned who think Akasha should have just gotten her way, and anyone who’s ever uttered (or heard) the phrase “Not if you were the last man on Earth.”

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Avid Book Reader, Book Dweeb, Experiments in Reading, A Platypus with a Book Walks Into A Bar…
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: “Something’s wrong!”

Cover Thoughts: The image is from the cover of the first issue (this collection combines issues 1-5). While I think the cover of #5 is a lot more striking and powerful, I love that the background is a woodcut of war and violence – starring men, of course – and the DNA helixing up the side. At first I couldn’t figure out what the chemical diagrams were… organic chemistry was a long time ago, okay? My first thought, testosterone, wasn’t right… and then I realized that they were nucleotides. Brilliant.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2010 2:45 am

    I really want to read this (as part of the LOST books challenge) and now you’ve given me some more reasons! :)

    • January 18, 2010 1:58 pm

      Amy – I watch LOST (although not with an obsessive eye to detail), but I cannot remember this series ever being mentioned. Do you remember in what context it came up?

  2. January 18, 2010 9:08 am

    I will get to this soon enough :) One of my favorite bloggers, a homeschooling mom, gave the entire series five stars or something around a year of so ago. Can’t wait to start reading all issues (borrowed from someone who has the entire series which I think is more than fifty single-issue comics).

    • January 18, 2010 1:59 pm

      Lightheaded – Oooh, neat. Fifty issues is about right – I’m pretty sure there are 10 compilation “graphic novels”. I’ve never had a whole lot of luck with unbound comics – I get too impatient by the break that it takes to find the next one!

  3. January 18, 2010 9:52 am

    I haven’t even heard of this series, but it sounds like a good one!

  4. January 18, 2010 5:23 pm

    Oooh, I’ve seen this one a time or two! But never managed to snag a copy.

    Looks like I might have to up my efforts. :)

    • January 20, 2010 1:11 pm

      Darren – Yup, you should! It is thus far really good, right up your alley, and it’s kind of nice that it’s all been published, so that there’s a definite end-point and I won’t be left waiting for months and months for new installments. Are you the sort that has access to a comics-friendly public library?

  5. January 21, 2010 5:16 pm

    This’s yet another of those seminal graphic novels I’ve never read. I’m going to have to see if I can get it from my library.

    • January 25, 2010 8:28 am

      Memory – I’ve been surprised that there aren’t more blog reviews of this series… although I’m sure there are more people that have read it that just aren’t as obsessive about reviewing every single book they read.


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