Posted by Don MacPherson on February 1st, 2008
Y: The Last Man #60
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils: Pia Guerra
Inks: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artist: Massimo Carnevale
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $4.99 US/$5.99 CAN
I didn’t see that coming, and I’m not referring to the slight twist in the ending of this issue but rather to how the series as a whole came to a close.
Brian K. Vaughan diverges from the flow of the series as a whole and provides a series of epilogues, giving his readers a glimpse of who the various characters become years, even decades, after the main story took place. What first grabbed my attention abut this issue was Vaughan’s effort to embrace just about every hot-potato, controversial issue of ethics that occupies the minds of the world at the moment and making them real rather than hypothetical. From cloning to euthanasia, these touchy subjects are not only incorporated into the plot but treated casually. The world of Y is a very different place from that in which we live, but there are also so many familiar elements that one can’t help but relate to it. Ultimately, Vaughan seems to point out that the embittered debates about the most difficult issues with which we struggle today will nature dissipate as society evolves.
Years after Yorick and his colleagues undercover the secret of the plague that decimated mankind, society has managed to not only trudge on but to thrive… socially, biologically, technologically and economically. The leader of the Western world is now based in Paris, and she is the product of a one-night stand between Yorick Brown and the “Other Beth.” Populations are growing again, thanks to cloning, but years after perfectly the technique, the matriarchal nature of the world is reluctant to accept the presence of men after so long. Male clones are only slowly gaining acceptance, and one of them — a clone of Yorick Brown — is summoned to visit with the original. Yorick’s still alive and locked up for his own protection, but you know escape artists… they don’t much care for confinement.
Guerra’s clean linework bring a soft vulnerability to all of the characters, making it easier to relate to them and identify with them. That’s no small task, given the extreme visions of these characters have become in Vaughan’s vision of the future. In designing the various futurescapes that serve as settings for this unusual conclusion, the artist does a spectacular job of capturing the post-apocalyptic elements and technological advancements while also maintaining connections to the real world of today with strong visual cues (usually in the characters’ “wardrobe”). She also distinguishes among the characters at various stages in life quite clearly. I was particularly taken with the dramatic physical changes we see in the main protagonist, Yorick. It’s as though we’re seeing a literal metamorphosis in the character as he grows older and learns hard lessons.
As compelling as the ethical elements of the story are, what really stands out as the greatest strength of the book is the characterization. Through various flash-forwards, the writer explores who the various cast members of the series are. It turns out Hero and Original Beth were lost souls who finally found themselves. Allison Mann is transformed from a woman at war with different parts of her own personality and past into a bunch of separate individuals that represent those distinct fragments. The characters are riveting, as everyone is outstanding, intellectually and/or in terms of physical skills.
Yorick is obviously the most fascinating figure in the book. As noted before, he undergoes a transformation. At first, it occurred to me the significant of 355 and her death meant the series as a whole was a love story, but after more consideration, I changed my mind. The story is about Yorick, but not about his love for 355. It’s about how her death represented the first big, real blow in his life; he’d finally lost his innocence. Throughout the series, Yorick was a boy adventurer playing in a world of women. Here, he’s learned hard lesson after hard lesson. He’s grown bitter and bizarre. But there’s still a hint of the child inside, as all he longs to do is to reunite with his “childhood” playmate, go outside and play, in search for another adventure.
It says as much right there on the cover, just not with words. 9/10