Brian K. Vaughan’s graphic novel Y: The Last Man is smart, funny, and raises some interesting questions. It’s one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read.
Yorick Brown is a former English major and amateur escape artist In an attempt at altruism, he’s taken in a Capuchin trainer monkey. He’s about to propose to his girlfriend, Beth, who’s out exploring the Australian Outback, when the world gets turned upside-down. All the men of Earth suddenly die — all at the same time. Planes are suddenly unpiloted, freeways become death traps, and half of the world’s doctors and emergency personnel aren’t around to respond. Even male animals have died off. The world is plunged into chaos.
For some reason, Yorick and his monkey, Ampersand, have been spared. Yorick doesn’t know why, but he has a single-minded mission: to find Beth.
Volume 1, “Unmanned,” does a great job of setting up the story and introducing us to most of the major characters. We meet Yorick, Ampersand, and Beth. We meet Yorick’s mother, a Congresswoman, and his sister, Hero. We meet Agent 355, a member of the top-secret Culper Ring, who is tasked by the new President to protect Yorick. We meet Dr. Allison Mann, who thinks she may have caused the plague by playing God. And we meet Alter Tse’elon, a soldier in the Israeli army that ultimately becomes Yorick’s nemesis.
“Unmanned” paints an interesting picture of a manless post-apocalyptic world. He does a great job of fleshing out this world, addressing questions ranging from the Presidential line of succession to food shortages and surviving in anarchy. Vaughan also throws in some tongue-in-cheek meta references to how hard it is to put an English degree to good use in the real world, a theme I can personally identify with.
For those who are curious, if the plague were to strike tomorrow, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would become President. There are only five women in the current line of succession.
I’m going to try to review each volume on its own merit, but I also don’t think you can divorce each volume from the series as a whole. And, for what it’s worth, “Unmanned” is a great way to kick off the series.