Last time, I revisited Angel: After the Fall, which was the first time a monthly comic showed me the limitless opportunity for inventive storytelling in the medium, which was, at the time, new to me. My affection for that title, as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight which was being published by Dark Horse at the same time, led me to further explore the world of comics. So many readers have that core foundation of superheroes growing up but, because I didn’t get really into those characters as a kid, the trajectory of my comic book journey was pretty strange. My first steps outside of the realm of the Buffyverse comics was when I began to explore the non-Buffy or Angel works of writers who worked on those titles. Angel’s Brian Lynch did a hilarious comic called Everybody’s Dead, Joss Whedon himself had done work on Astonishing X-Men (which ended up being, I believe, the first full run on a superhero title I read), and Brian K. Vaughan, who worked on the Faith-centric arc of Buffy: Season Eight had worked on… well, a lot. I started on his Marvel work with Runaways, and then figured I’d give Y: The Last Man a try.
Much like Angel, reading Y: The Last Man was a formative experience for me. Nine trade paperback volumes had been released when I began reading, with the tenth and final one soon on the way. Soon into reading the series, I knew that I was reading something special. Until then, I had primarily thought of comics as a medium for cult fans who never wanted their favorite stories to end – like me, with Buffy and Angel, and the fact that, at the time, many superhero titles were numbered in the 500+ issue counts backed that up. With Y, though, I was reading a creator’s unfiltered vision, told the exact way he wanted with characters that he created that would only ever speak his dialogue, that would only ever be drawn by co-creator Pia Guerra and whatever collaborators filled in, that would only ever live this story. There was an end in sight, and while it seems like such an obvious thing to me now, I remember marveling at the concept.
Y: The Last Man is a Brian K. Vaughan book, and in the time since first reading his work, I’ve come to see his style as distinct as someone like Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, or the Soska Twins. With a BKV title, you an expect a high concept, an execution that explores that concept down to the bone, human characters with dynamic and moving arcs, an inventive structure that withholds information from the reader until it will hit the hardest, final pages/lines of dialogue that use wordplay to put a pin on the issue’s theme, and – best of all – finales that make the whole damn journey worth it, every time. In Y: The Last Man, he tells the story of Yorick who, after a devastating turn of events, becomes… well, the last man alive. The sole survivor of his gender in a world populated by women, Yorick teams up with the badass Agent 355, Dr. Allison Mann, and his pet monkey Ampersand to figure out what happened and do what they can to help stop the species from dying out.
When I revisited Y: The Last Man, from its shocking opening to the somber final issue, I found myself enjoying the twists and turns of the story more thoroughly than even the first read. Back then, I remembering thinking that the series’ high points (Safeword, the fourth volume, and Whys and Wherefores, the final volume) were complete standouts. And don’t get me wrong – the payoff still soars high, the big moments all work, and Brian and Pia really stick the landing… but in revisiting the story, I found myself worrying less about the overarching mystery and just enjoying the journey. Yorick, Agent 355, Dr. Allison Mann, Ampersand, and the rest of the cast are like old friends at this point, and I know that I’ll visit them again someday in the not-too-distant future.