Y: THE LAST MAN VOL. 1 originally released back in January of 2003, as hard as that may be to believe, is still as heavy-hitting and impactful as ever. If not more so, given the current events we’re facing.
Y: The Last Man is a series that continuously shocked and thrilled fans, thanks in part to the massive concept it ran with. It took a post-apocalyptic event (or nearly so) and used it to comment on politics and human nature itself.
When fans think of a series that was bold and brave, while carrying a more profound message, they’ll probably put Y: The Last Man somewhere on that list. And with good reason. That being said, the series now carries new weight, thanks to the pandemic we’re facing. Perhaps it is no longer a theoretical and fun escape to be found, but that hasn’t lessened its value in the least.
Another irony this series has faced is the struggle to get a television or film adaptation. It isn’t unheard of for a comic adaptation to appear almost cursed, continually coming up against one problem after another. Unfortunately, that is also true for Y: The Last Man. While fans have been eagerly hoping to see it on the big or small screen, we’re going to keep waiting a while longer yet. Thankfully, it still is in the works, so there is always that hope to cling to.
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, Y: The Last Man Vol. 1: Unmanned is the traumatic and dramatic introduction to a series. The whole premise of the series is that nearly all of the males on earth have died. That includes all of the animals. There are a couple of iconic exceptions, most notably Y (Yorick) and Ampersand, his monkey.
Naturally, that means this is a world full of chaos, as well as more than just a few bodies. It’s a post-apocalyptic graphic novel, but with an interesting perspective. With half of the world suddenly dead, those left behind have to figure out how to pick up the pieces.
Unfortunately, that is a task easier said than done. Not only is there a lot of clean-up that needs to be done, but there are significant power vacuums left behind (thanks to the tendency to have males higher up in ranks).
The first volume takes the time to establish Yorick, as well as his plight. It then rapidly moves readers forward, showing us the disaster (while not yet explaining the why), as well as the fallout of it.
Why We Love It
Y: The Last Man hit so many fans for a variety of reasons. There’s the plot, of course. The whole concept of a post-apocalyptic world has always engaged readers. But it’s more than that. It was the mystery of what happened – as well as this vision of a world with only women (mostly).
The fact that the series wove in politics and wasn’t afraid to make commentary on the matter was huge. The statements made were poignant, and made to feel all the more real thanks to the very human feeling characters involved in the series.
That being said, there are some criticisms to be found in the series. These elements bother some fans more than others, so it’s all about perspective. Some readers were less than thrilled about the concept of the leading character being male when the whole point was to show a world of women. Others were concerned about the negative light that was shined upon the surviving humans. Both are valid complaints, of course. But most fans choose to see it in another light.
Y: The Last Man Vol. 1: Unmanned had a variety of artists working to make it the iconic masterpiece we know it as. Pia Guerra, Jose Marzan Jr., Jose Marzan, and Goran Sudzuka all had a hand to play here.
While the plot of the series is often brutal and bold, it would never have had the same impact without the artwork to support it all. There is a raw feeling to the art style within these pages, and somehow that further exposed readers’ nerves, forcing us to acknowledge this world that Vaughan, Guerra, and the rest created together.
Unsurprisingly, one of the highlights for this series is the ability to evoke emotion. Yorick faces trial after trial throughout ten volumes, and yet we can still read him as clearly as a book. His emotions are clear for us to see and to experience alongside him. It makes for a powerful impact.
Of course, we can’t forget about dear Ampersand and the rest of the characters, either. Ampersand is frequently a moment of chaos, action, or humor, depending on what was needed. His antics helped to break up the dire portrayal, giving the artists a little bit of levity to play with. Something we will always appreciate.
Y: The Last Man Vol. 1: Unmanned was the start of something larger than life. Yorick’s tale is not a pretty one – not by any means. Yet it carried with it something real and substantial. This theoretical post-apocalyptic world is one that can be easily pictured by the readers, and surely our imaginations made the scenes all the more horrific or terrifying.
Yet there’s also this sense of lingering hope. Yorick’s quest to find his love, halfway across the world, is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Who among us didn’t have hope for his success? Who didn’t fear his failure?
All these reasons, and more, are precisely why this series still lingers so strongly in our minds and our hearts. There’s no doubt that it will linger for even more time to come, especially if the adaptation continues to make progress.