Friday, June 12, 2009
Y: The Last Man
So for the past few weeks, I've been reading this great graphic novel series called Y: The Last Man. I've been seeing the title crop up in several places, most of them being recommendations, but my last recollection was its mention in a GQ article on graphic novels you should read after Watchmen (because that spurred it, right?).
As the title suggests, Y: The Last Man is about the adventures of the last man on Earth.
It took me a while to come to this conclusion, but most of the best ideas are born from the simplest, and this is a shining example. The way the concept is handled and developed is the work of some beautiful storytelling and artistry.
One day, every mammal on Earth with a Y chromosome suddenly drops dead, almost instantaneously... except for one young American man, Yorick Brown, and his pet capuchin monkey, Ampersand. Yorick Brown is a goof—he's interested in magic (not the gathering), he's a decent escape artist (he escaped the 'man plague,' after all), and he's got a fiancée in Australia.
The comic basically chronicles his (mis)adventures through a world without men, and it gets pretty crazy. A gang of women called the Daughters of Amazon, happy that the men are gone and bent on destroying anything that could serve as their reminder, find out about him and (surprise) want to off him. Social commentary on gender equality everywhere: society can't function properly because some of its industries were still run by over 80% of males—not to mention dozens of women everywhere are mourning the losses of fathers, sons, boyfriends, grandfathers, brothers, friends. Women everywhere, no matter their stance on the disappearance of men, cope with the loss and more importantly, the aspect of total extinction of the human race. The world is illustrated so vividly, so realistically, and from so many points of view.
Eventually, Yorick teams up with a government agent and a biologist in order to reach the biologist's alternative lab in California to find out what the plague was, and more importantly, how he and his monkey survived it.
But that's only the beginning.
Why I Like It
They say that great design is often invisible.
Y: The Last Man exhibits excellent design for its medium.
Its art is simple and as realistic as it gets without any distractions. It's "cartooned down" enough to let expressions and characters shine, and the dialogue isn't too wordy or disruptive as to overpower the images. It's a beautiful marriage of image and text. I have read about nine of the books out there, and it feels like it's been a breeze.
When past events or people are referenced to in later chapters and books, I can still remember them (me, of the horrid memory). I haven't been able to stop reading since I picked up the first book. I actually feel the intensity during scenes that are supposed to be intense, and I get annoyed with characters that are acting annoying.
I can focus on the story itself.
That isn't to say that a graphic novel cannot be appreciated for a unique style of art or writing—it all depends on what the creator is trying to get across, and it is his and/or her job to find the right way to do it. If the creators of Y: The Last Man were just trying to put out a great story with some great messages behind it, then they damn well succeeded.
Because great design is often invisible.
Design is about usability, and Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra used their art well to deliver an awesome story.
So what're you waiting for?
If you're into graphic novels and comic books, read Y: The Last Man.
If you're not into them, but you like reading something good, read Y: The Last Man.
You won't regret it ;)
If you're one of those people impressed by awards and such, then you'll be pleased to know that Y: The Last Man won the Eisner Award in 2008 for Best Continuing Series, and that its last set of issues, Whys and Wherefores, "was nominated for the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story" (both from Wikipedia article).
And here are some more links for you:
Wikipedia: Y: The Last Man
Amazon: Y: The Last Man, Volume 1
Entertainment Weekly: Y: the Last Man Review