What happens when you’re the last man on Earth? For some, such a scenario would be heavenly, but for Yorik Brown, it’s quite the opposite. Co-created by Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra, and published beginning in 2002 by Vertigo, Y: The Last Man offered a glimpse into a distopian world where a mysterious plague had simultaneuosly wiped out every last male mammal on the planet except for Yorick and his male chimp, Ampersand. The series ran for 60 issues, but its an arc that began near theend of its first year that was quite compelling.
The five issue arc titled “One Small Step”, began in issue 11 with Yorick, Ampersand, Agent 355, and Dr. Mann in the American Midwest on their way to California. Secret Agent 355 had been assigned to protect Yorik whose life was was in constant danger due to the fact he was the last surviving male on Earth. Yorik had been forced into hiding and was on the run from a fanatical group called the Daughters of the Amazon, who believed that the plague was Mother Earth’s way of purifying the planet of everything male. Dr. Mann, a geneticist, was searching for a cure to the plague and needed to get to her secondary lab in California after her primary lab in Boston was destroyed by the Daughters of the Amazon. Yorik was also being persued by a group of Isreali commandos who had been put on his trail by Yorik’s own mother, a U.S. congresswoman.
After escaping the Israelis in an earlier arc, Yorik and his troupe make their way to a secluded laboratory to find shelter before continuing their journey to California. Along the way, the quartet encounter a Russian Agent, Natalya Zamyatin, who has been sent by her government to retrieve a male Russian cosmonaut who was in orbit above the Earth on the International Space Station. The Russian cosmonaut, one of two males on the Space Station, along with a female astronaut had been in orbit since the beginning of the plague. The astronauts’ plan to return to Earth and their projected landing site would bring them into contact with Yorik near the secluded laboratory. As the astronauts reenter Earth’s atmoshpere in a space capsule, Yorik is kidnapped by Alter, the leader of the Isreali commandos. In an attempt to recover Yorik, Agent 355 alerts Alter of the existance of the two males on the returning capsule, and the revelation that Yorik isn’t the last man alive leads Alter to try to shoot the capsule out of the sky.
The award winning Y: The Last Man was an entertaining and thoughtful series. Brian K. Vaughan’s writing, Pia Guerra’s pencils and Jose Marzan Jr.’s inks worked well together. Artists Goran Sudzuka and Paul Chadwick filled in for Guerra at times, and covers were provided by J.G. Jones and Massimo Carnevale. Vaughan and Guerra created well rounded characters who grew and developed over the course of the series. Character arcs were fully realized over the course of the 60 issues and events early on often had satisfying payoffs as the series came to an end. Yorik, through the course of the series was literally an everyman, not because of his singular status or the events of his past, but due to his completely unexceptional nature. He doesn’t have the skill set of Agent 355, the smarts of Dr. Mann or the drive or complexity of his pursuers, but he is the emotional centre of the series. More a man of inaction than one of action, Yorik represented what most of us, man or woman, would probably do or feel if we were in his position. The burden of being the last man on Earth and its inevitable consequences opened up some interesting narrative possibilities and in subsequent arcs, Yorik’s view of the world, and himself would be challenged.
Several themes were explored over the duration of the series including the quest for truth, one’s purpose, family, and love. The latter two formed Y: The Last Man’s narrative push as Yorik pined for Beth, his long, lost love, and had to contend with his mother and unbalanced sister, Hero a member of the Daughters of the Amazon. Gender also plays a pivitol role in the series. With men all but wiped out on the planet, Vaughan and Guerra examined how women might react with men out of the picture. The creators don’t present a utopia if women ruled the world, but offer readers a look at how the different motives, desires and experiences of women throughout the world would undoubtedly shape their perception of how it should be moving forward. According to IMDB, the thought provoking series is being adapted for film. Due to the scope of Y: The Last Man, it remains to be seen if a feature film would be the best vehicle for the property. With the quality of programming that is being produced online and on cable, it’s possible that Yorik’s adventures would be better served being told over 8 to 10 episodes a season as oppossed to one or two 2 1/2 hour movies. Either way, Y: The Last Man is a series that deserves to be celebrated by audiences in print and on screen.
Readers of the Lost Arc is a regular feature in Comix Asylum Magazine. This article originally appeared in Issue 6 ( May 2014).