Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Not if you were the last man on earth

I finally picked up the first few books in the comic series “Y: The Last Man,” written by Brian Vaughan and drawn by Pia Guerra, after hearing about it on and off since it came out five years ago. The book opens with all mammals with Y chromosomes suddenly dying,
except Yorick and his pet monkey. Various complications help make the plot suitably complicated: Yorick's mom is a US Representative; he doesn't want to save the world, just find his girlfriend, who is inconveniently in Australia.

In a post-apocalyptic terrain of decomposing men and crashed cars, the series subtly but repeatedly explores what violence in a post-men society might look like. “After all the men died, I thought you guys would be holding hands down at the United Nations or
something,” Yorick says to his mother. “When the hell did women get so petty and...and power hungry?” Early on a group of wives of dead Republican Congressmen get their guns and go after the surviving Democratic women Representatives and Senators, and a vicious gang calling themselves the “Amazons” tries to hunt down Yorick and rid the country of other traces of men, including transgender men, invoking the history of sexism. “Didn't you all lose fathers? Brothers? Friends?” Yorick asks one. “No. We lost rapists and dictators.”

In these early sections (the series is now approaching the end of its 60-issue life, but
this book contains just the first five issues), the characters make the case that violent
behavior is learned, and repeated, over time. After ordering one of her underlings to
kill an innocent woman, the leader of the Amazons says, “I despise barking orders like a
patriarch. Rest assured when the game is over, the queen and pawn go back into the same
box.” Meanwhile, Yorick is treated the way many women are today—as a prize specimen to be
sheltered from the dangerous outside world. He's under the constant watch of a Secret
Service agent; after all, someone's got to protect him from all those violent women.

I'm interested to see where this series goes. With no men around, the distribution and
types of gender roles changes dramatically, and Vaughan and Guerra also seem to enjoy
playing with Yorick's confusion at living in an all-female world.

-Joe Vess Share

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