Concerning Brian K. Vaughan’s graphic novel Y: The Last Man, Stephen King said: “The best graphic novel I’ve ever read.”
No small praise, that.
Book Four collects issues #37 through 48 of the original comic book run, published way back in 2005 and 2006. Fourteen years ago. That’s a nice long stretch, even though in many ways it seems like yesterday to me. I didn’t read this story back then. In fact, I’d never even heard of Brian K. Vaughan at that point.
I don’t believe I knew about Vaughan until after the television adaptation of King’s Under the Dome was on the air, around 2013 or ’14. Vaughan was the person credited with developing King’s novel for the screen. I was a fan of the show, up to the point that I wasn’t (it didn’t end well). For a short while, the name “Brian K. Vaughan” had negative connotations for me because of his association with the television series.
Fortunately, I’m blessed with a short memory and don’t really hold grudges. I remember hearing Mike Zapcic, on one podcast or another, talking about Vaughan’s comic book work, specifically Saga and Y: The Last Man. This piqued my interest. Eventually, I read the first two trades for Saga. I thought it was good, but possibly a bit too much magical fantasy for me. Then I gave Y: The Last Man a shot.
Post-apocalyptic science fiction is more my speed. I was sucked into the story of Yorick Brown, quite possibly the last man on Earth after a gendercide pandemic kills off every other human being with a Y chromosome. This story has a convoluted plot that defies prediction, a trait I love in my fiction. Book Four is the penultimate volume in the entire tale.
While still interesting, this volume meanders a bit more than what I’ve read to this point. Act Two doldrums, in many ways. This book consists of two story arcs and five standalone issues.
“Paper Dolls” spans issues #37 – 39. Yorick arrives in Australia, is outed by a newspaper reporter who publishes a Yorick dick pic, and finds out that his beloved Beth left for Paris. The story of Yorick’s politician mother comes to a sudden end as well.
“The Hour of Our Death,” issue #40, centers upon Yorick’s sister Hero, who is delivering a message to Beth II, a woman Yorick hooked up with eight months prior. Guess who’s eight-months pregnant now? Hero and Beth II bond while overcoming some localized religious persecution, then hit the road, bound for Kansas.
“Buttons,” issue #40, is another standalone, digging into the backstory of Agent 355, Yorick’s fierce protector. We find out more details about the Culper Ring and 355.
“1,000 Typewriters,” issue #41, centers on the monkey Ampersand, who also gets more backstory. We find out how Ampersand ended up with Yorick (it was all a big mistake) and we find out where he’s been since he was kidnapped by the female ninja Toyota.
“Kimono Dragons” spans issues #43 – 46. Yorick and his entourage finally arrive in Japan, searching for Ampersand, the key to humankind’s survival. Dr. Allison Mann comes face-to-face with Toyota the ninja, who worked for Dr. Mann’s father’s lover before the plague (you following this?). Yorick and 355 finally rescue Ampersand during this arc. He’s being held by an unlikely Yakuza boss. Allison’s mother gets kidnapped by Toyota.
“The Tin Man,” issue #47, gives us more backstory on Dr. Mann and her quest to clone herself.
“Gehenna,” issue #48, offers up the life story of Alter Tse’elon, in an attempt to make her more sympathetic. It doesn’t.
During the standalone stories, it felt like our central narrative ground to a halt. Vaughan seems to keep piling on complications the way you’re supposed to do during Act Two, but the story feels like it’s ready to begin the Act Three drive towards the goal long before the end of this volume. In some ways, it feels like we’re stalling for time.
I already have Book Five on deck to read in the near future. The plan is to finish the entire graphic novel before the television series premieres on AMC. I assume that’s still happening. We can’t be sure what effect COVID-19 has had on plans.
Firewater’s Get-On-with-it-Already-Vaughan Report Card: B+
This has been a fun ride so far. I hope it doesn’t fizzle out the way Under the Dome did.