In thinking about another post for the week, I thought that I may take last month's Word Balloon column and do it monthly, recommending great reads in the comic and fiction literature world. I love reading and my love of comic books has been around since I was very young. I was already a pretty heavy reader when I got my first comic at 10 years old, a habit almost 22 years old. So much of fiction and comic books in particular get a bad rap as children’s fare, or immature material that many may pass up these graphic novels. To do that is to miss some truly great writing.
This month I thought to recommend a recently completed series, Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra's Y: The Last Man. A comic book about a lone male and his pet helper monkey that survive a world wide plague that kills all male life on Earth. The main hero, Yorick Brown only wants to find his girlfriend, Beth, last known to be studying wildlife in the Australian Outback, but being the last man has its price. Assigned a bodyguard, codenamed 355, the two of them along with Dr. Allison Mann, a geneticist, must figure out how Yorick survived the plague and how to propagate the species before they can complete Yorick's quest.
In the course of 60 issues, all but the final arc (available mid-June) available in trade paperback form, creators Vaughn and Guerra deal with a myriad of issues. From the women of the Middle East breaking generations of cultural gender roles, hell all of the world breaking gender roles, to looking at the temptations of the Hero's quest and the ethics and effects of cloning. Though the book is centered on the last man, it's really the women of the world who grow and change the most, some finding strength they though they lacked, some giving into their own demons. The book starts with a bang and ends with one too.
It was bittersweet to see this series close, I felt it was perhaps the strongest comic book on the market, super hero or not. You really begin to care about the characters and about what happens to them, and the trials they face. My favorite character, Yorick's sister (named Hero) carried a transformation through the series to truly live up to that name that I thought was a great end.
Vaughn ends the series with a flash forward, 60 years after the events of the penultimate issue previous, and it works, seeing the full scope of what happens to everyone is kind of sad and poignant. It's due to this series that Vaughn got brought on board to script and produces the hit show Lost, so you know he has the credentials. I cannot recommend this book enough, start with the first trade, Y The Last Man: Volume 1- Unmanned, published by DC Comics/Vertigo, you will not be disappointed.
End of Line.