It’s kind of difficult for me to write about this final issue of this long-running Vertigo series, since it’s been one of my favorite comics for several years now. Brian K. Vaughan really built a fascinating post-apocalyptic world, and he spent a great deal of time populating it with realistic, interesting characters, while still telling exciting stories and exploring the psychological and sociological concepts raised by the idea of a world without men. So now that it’s finally over, was he able to bring the series to a satisfying close, making longtime readers feel like they got their money’s worth and didn’t waste their time?
If you ask me, he succeeded admirably. Vaughan often went against expectations with the series, surprising readers with plot twists and choices of what he showed and what was left to the imagination. He does that again here, jumping sixty years into the future to show what became of the world and the characters we came to love. It’s a bold move, and the glimpses we get of the future society make us feel like there are plenty more stories that could be told in that time gap. But most of the issue is spent finding out what has become of Yorick, the titular “last man.” He’s now an old man, and he spends the story conversing with one of his own clones, who is now the same age as Yorick 1.0 was when the series began. This gives him a chance to look back at his life (and the events of the series) and wonder if he learned anything, if it was all worth it. We also get a few flashbacks catching up on what happened to various characters during that 60-year gap, including at least one scene that brought tears to my eyes. It all makes for a wonderful look back at the themes of the series, and a good epilogue to the story.
As much as Vaughan gets (deserved) praise for his writing on the series, his collaborator, Pia Guerra, should be recognized for what she brought to the table. She displayed an excellent grasp of character nuance over the life of the series, and she demonstrates that here with gusto. Her depiction of the aged Yorick was especially nice; even though he’s a wrinkled old man, he’s still recognizably the same character, with familiar facial expressions and mannerisms (although he does seem to be a bit more hardened and cynical, which helps add to Vaughan’s implications about what transpired in the past 60 years). She also provides some beautiful exterior views, including a double-page spread of the futuristic Paris skyline, and the heartbreaking death of a major character in a snowy forest. This issue might be her best work on the series, and that’s saying something.
So it’s a great ending to the series. It’s satisfying, in that it gives us an (open) end to a great story, but it’s also unsatisfying, in the way that every goodbye shares. We don’t want this story to end; there’s so much more time we could have spent with the characters, and so much more that we want to see. But it has to end, and Vaughan and Guerra finish it up perfectly, letting us imagine everything that we didn’t actually view. The series will live on in our minds, and we can be thankful for the time we had. Thanks, guys.
Most of the time I hate comic delays, but this one they could have delayed for a year or so. I just didn’t want it to be over. I’m not ready to handle this kind of tragic, not ready for the fat lady to sing.
Five years of Y The Last Man.
For five long years Yorick was in my life. He saw me get married. Helped me buy a new house, and help me wax my back. For five years Yorick was there.
Brian K. Vaughan is a brave man. Brave for writing this book and even more brave to end this story successfully. It takes guts to write a final issue, because for a lot of fans it’s never going to be good enough and for the other …well it’s never good enough. You just can’t please everybody.
For what’s it worth Vaughan and his creative crew satisfied me all the way, from the first issue until this special, grand finale.
So what’s this story about? I’m absolutely, definitely not going to tell you one word, or describe one panel of this final issue. Let the other slugfest members do that for you.
This comic left me very emotional. Vaughan has made a statement that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my live. Y The Last Man is no hype! Y is not a cult thing. Y is one of the best contemporary literature outings in this new millennium. Simple as that!
In this final issue Yorick stirred my emotions from a smile, a snicker, a shout to a small tear down my face. I’m in awe.
But it’s time to quit this review, because I’m going to read the issue for the forth time, and although Yorick probably isn’t a Frank Sinatra fan, he would have appreciated it when I sing:
“And so I face the final curtain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.”
Thank you Brian, Pia, and José for sixty gems.
For more information about this reviewer, go to www.martijnform.com
Plot: Flash-forwards are all the rage now. Sometimes they’re awfully clumsy ways to do a wrap-up. Sometimes they’re heartbreaking glimpses into the whole lifespans of people we’ve come to love. This one stays nimble, giving us some clues, but not really anything like closure.
Comments: I feel bittersweet, ambivalent as possible about this ending. I hate that it’s over, even though Y had become sporadic of late, even though the driving energy from the early years of twist after twist, with Yorick falling from one dire fate to another (usually through no action of his own, classically the worst possible way to write a story, but Vaughan made Yorick’s very passivity an integral character trait) had dissipated somewhat, even though all the myriad plot-threads threatened to tangle as they doubled back and sideways over each other, rushing towards this end.
But I also love that it’s over, that Vaughan got to realize his vision as planned, and that the science fictional elements of his narrative have been satisfied. We know what killed all the men now. We know how Yorick survived. We know something about how the world would persist without any patriarchs to boss everyone around anymore. And we know that, with the cure, this world of women has settled back into something like normality after the very rough and wild early years of “Le Grand Depart,” as the death of all mammalian males is now euphemistically described. They’re even very selectively and cautiously growing men again … clones of Yorick, his descendants, the astronaut’s sons, and a few other successes that science can “engineer” into surviving the plague.
Guerra’s solid art keeps things real as always, especially offering an exciting vision of a future Paris with familiar landmarks interspersed with new wonders
of impossible glass and metal splendor.
We don’t know how the future of opposite sexes is going to go, and we don’t need to. Sanity of a sort has returned to the world, and it’s a brave new one. One that really doesn’t have much place for Yorick himself, now a cranky old man in the care of others who don’t really get him. Never the most ideal candidate to represent all of human manhood, Yorick remains not a hero or a leader, but another archetype integral to human life: the jester. He’s spry, sardonic, aware but more of a critic than creator. He sees the joke in everything, and that ’s how he plans to continue. If, that is, he plans to continue, which is really the question.
This series was dealt a fatal blow with the murder of 355 a few issues back. The void she left won’t ever be filled. She, more than either of the Beths (the pretty blonde girls that formed the core of the traditional hero quest for so many issues of this title), was the love of Yorick’s life, the ideal partner who challenged him beyond his own self-perceived limits time and time again. It’s really a sign of his strength that Yorick survived her demise at all. His daughter (another Beth) the Prime Minister has confined him in his own best interest, but really, what was she thinking? It takes more than a straightjacket to hold a Fool.
Most of the responses I have heard in response to this last issue of Y: The Last Man have been personally emotional ones, particularly from those fans who have followed the series from day one. Well, I guess I’ll have to follow suit. I have been reading the series since Issue #19, which I will always remember for the cover, featuring Yorick and the gang dressed as Dorothy, Tin Man, and Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. This cover was why I picked up the issue in the first place! Of course, after reading the story (the second part of “Safeword” arc), I was hooked. I picked up Issue #18, then the three trades that preceded it. After that, Y was always high on my subscription list, and I started to follow just about anything Brian K Vaughan wrote. However, none of his other titles captured the magical formula of Y (though Ex Machina does give it a run for the money). Each issue featured great dialogue, the best written and illustrated group of characters in modern comics, and twists and turns that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud. Issue #60 is no different in regard to this recipe for success, closing the series in a way that was thankfully appropriate. The whole nature/nurture debate gets its day in court in “Alas,” as we glimpse the aged Yorick in contrast to a cloned Yorick that hasn’t encountered the same adventures, situations, and heartbreaks that have made the man what he is. It’s life in a nutshell, and one of the most profound insights in a series full of profound insights. The last words the real Yorick Brown says in this issue are, “Just go out there and get your heart broken in, so it’ll be ready when you really need it.” This is the kind of logic you would expect from a man that has basically seen the world end and rebuild itself in many different ways. The strength of character to make this statement shows that the time we invested in Yorick Brown over the last 5+ years was well worth it, and I can’t thank Vaughan enough for this realization.
Issue #60 begins and ends with hope for the future, complete with a modern (almost steampunk) Paris and clones that will propagate the male species once again. However, I got the sense that this was a reality that is frighteningly similar to our current world in one sense: people are starting to forget that pain is a normal part of life, a key to existence that keeps us growing and learning. Yorick understands this in his advanced state, yet his aged daughter (who is now the president of France) only thinks of keeping him happy, since he apparently tried to off himself on his last birthday. She sends a clone of Yorick that is the same age as the Yorick we have come to know and love, and she has surrounded his strait-jacketed form with numerous monkeys who could be Ampersand clones. Everything in the world seems to have become peaceful, though the same pains are going to inevitably return, as evidenced by Beth and Catherine’s conversation about Iran’s nuclear capability (Hey, that sounds familiar!). So Yorick’s final fate in the series (which I won’t ruin for those of you haven’t read the issue) is influenced by his former life and his opinions on what the world he helped save has become. In the midst of this decision are flashbacks on his life up until this point, referencing readers to moments that occurred during the sixty years that we missed (including one flashback that brings the whole series full circle). For me, and probably every reader who read this issue, the final scene with Ampersand was the most heartbreaking. I think this is only one of three or so times when I have actually cried while reading a comic book. Guerra’s illustrations for these four pages show why her artwork has been one of the keys to this series, and why I’ll follow her artwork to whatever series she works on next. Guerra is an absolute master of producing faces filled with emotion and panels that get right into your gut. This scene possessed so much emotional power that I couldn’t help myself, making for a fitting send-off for the most unsung character in the entire series.
How do I end my last review for Y: The Last Man? I guess I’ll do it in the same manner with which Vaughan, Guerra, Marzan, Loughbridge, and company ended Issue #60. I’m so sad that this series had to come to an end, but I am happy that it concluded in the finest fashion possible, with class and an ending that was truly the last chapter of the tale. Y is among the finest series ever produced by Vertigo, and I think it will be a long time until this excellence is seen again.
The first thing I think of when I think of this series is the unique sort of innate calm it’s always projected. Even when things were most unsettled, when the comic was in its moments of greatest intensity, there was a sort of calm to the series. It was the sort of calm that came from a writer with a tight outline for the series, from a writer who knew exactly what he wanted to do with his characters and where they would be from issue to issue. I almost imagine Brian Vaughan with a long roll of white paper, like the kind you buy for kids to draw on, making notes that showed exactly what was going on in his characters’ lives.
This sense of great planning has led to a remarkably consistent series, perhaps one of the most consistent of all the Vertigo series that have ended. The series was remarkably consistent from month to month because Vaughan had it so well planned out. It was also consistent because, no matter who drew the series, the inks of Jose Marzan Jr. gave the series a tremendously consistent feel.
So it’s no surprise that this final issue manages to simultaneously be moving, consistent, and a perfect coda to the original series.
As this issue begins, it’s 60 years later and, amazingly, mankind has survived and thrived despite the plague that killed nearly all the men on Earth. Well, maybe the term “mankind” isn’t quite accurate. By and large there still are no men on Earth. But in the intervening years, cloning has been
perfected and the world has been able to move on from the tragedy. It appears that women have done some things right and some things wrong 60 years in the future, but one thing they have managed to do is to forge great scientific advances to move the world forward. There’s a very moving silent sequence near the end of this issue that shows small scenes of everyday life in this future. We see women of all ages riding the bus, school-age girls playing soccer, women shopping at an outdoor market. There’s a subtle and very powerful message in those scenes and in the whole issue, a message about the inherent resiliency of the human species. We are remarkably adaptable; our remarkable brain power, Vaughan seems to be saying, will always bring us back.
Of course Yorick, the last man, is at the heart of this issue. He seems to be a controversial figure at this point. Though he’s locked away by the President of France, Yorick’s mind is very free. Even at the age of 85 Yorick is as quirky and smart as ever, and his escape is beautifully presented. Even more intriguing is that there are a very small number of Yorick clones living in this future Earth. Those clones are treated as oddities, strange beings with different rules, in part because they seem to have very little freedom before they turn 21. I found myself quite intrigued by these clones, wondering what their lives would be like. They are all complete innocent naïfs, set loose to find their ways on an Earth that has no understanding of who they are.
As always, the art team of Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan Jr. present work this issue that’s wonderfully rendered and that always works in support of the story. Thankfully in this issue they’re given the chance to spread out a bit. Their first panoramic shot of Paris actually took my breath away. The art team are also equally adept at drawing an African veldt, a snowy forest, the aftermath of a plane crash, and the quiet introspection of an old man’s soul. That’s why Guerra and Marzan were the perfect match for Vaughan on this series: they could present everything the story needed while never making it look hard.
It’s an old adage that a great entertainer should leave his audience wanting more. I found myself intrigued by this future world and would love to spend even more time in it. C’mon, Vaughan, you probably have everything that happens in the future sketched out on long sheets of white paper, right? Can’t you share some of that stuff with us?