This is the first article in a series of posts I’m starting about my all-time favorite comics, games, shows and movies that I think everyone NEEDS to read, play or watch. These are 10/10 masterpieces that fellow fans owe it to themselves to check out or that newbies can jump into. I can’t recommend these comics, games, shows and movies enough; they all have my eternal stamp of approval.
Y: The Last Man is the perfect example of how great comics don’t have to be about superheroes. Prolific writer Brian K. Vaughn’s series ran for 60 issues from 2002-2008 under Vertigo’s publication. It won three Eisner Awards (the comic book equivalent of an Academy Award), paved the way for other independent creator-owned series and cemented Vaughn as one of the industry’s best writers.
The first issue begins as a mysterious plague hits the world and kills every male human and animal at the same moment. Somehow, the only males to survive are amateur escape artist Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. Yorick’s mother, a Congresswoman, sends him on a mission across the country with geneticist Dr. Allison Mann who wants to clone him to save mankind. They’re protected by Agent 355 of the covert Culper Ring as they travel to Dr. Mann’s lab in San Francisco without alerting too many people to the last man on Earth.
Throughout their journey, the group runs into many interesting characters, like the misandrist Daughters of the Amazon gang, who hunt down Yorick after Mother Earth “cleansed herself of the Y chromosome.” If that wasn’t enough, a female Israeli commando team led by their brutal leader, Alter, is hired to kidnap the last man as well. While Yorick is evading capture, he’s also searching for his twin sister, Hero, whom he hasn’t seen since plague hit and his soon-to-be fiancée, Beth, who is stranded in Australia with her anthropology team.
Every character is compelling and helps drive the twisting story along, and it’s always enjoyable to uncover more details about how this post-apocalyptic world functions after half of the global population dies. Vaughn is a master at building dystopian settings, writing natural dialogue and creating memorable characters. Readers care so much about Yorick, Agent 355, Dr. Mann and even Ampersand within the first few issues, and by the end it’s sad to put down the final one.
Yorick Brown is one of the best comic book protagonists ever; he’s just a regular, lazy guy who instantly becomes the most important person in the world and has to cope with his new life. Many guys would envy being the last man on Earth, but it’s a curse for Yorick. He struggles to stay faithful to his girlfriend in a world of newly-made bachelorettes while faced with the task of repopulating the Earth if Dr. Mann’s cloning experiments fail. He never constantly spews jokes like Spider-Man, but Yorick stays sane by keeping a good sense of humor. Much of his dialogue is pop culture references, which adds more depth to his character and another level of entertainment to readers.
Pia Guerra’s artwork throughout the series is simple, clean and a joy to flip through. The art isn’t overly detailed or abstract, and it complements the panels and speech bubbles nicely. The character art and environments are grounded and realistic despite the sci-fi plot. Guerra’s work might seem a little old-fashioned compared to more recent comics with vibrant colors and muscular heroes, but the real focus is on the story and characters.
Y: The Last Man is like a Netflix show that you can’t stop binge-watching. Almost every issue ends on a cliffhanger that makes you want to keep reading, and lots of subplots are introduced and slowly revealed over time. The very first issue lays out several story threads, backstories and mysteries that become more important over time. There are tons of meaningful, unexpected twists in the plot that are planted early on and unfold throughout the 60 issues. This is undeniably one of the best comic series ever made and one that you NEED to read.