It seemed that Yorick Brown was having a tough time in Unmanned, the first volume of Y: The Last Man, Brian K. Vaughan's superior science fiction comic book series.
A sudden, bloody plague had wiped out all of the male mammals on Earth, except apparently for Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand. Their inexplicable survival made them targets for everyone from a supermodel who wanted to trade Yorick for food to a roving band of man-hating extremists who want Yorick and Ampersand dead. Yorick's girlfriend, Beth, was in Australia, now even more remote because the phone lines have gone down and thousands of airplanes crashed when their male pilots were wiped out. His mother, a conservative Democrat, was left to defend the White House against a horde of gun-wielding Republican widows. Neither she nor Yorick knew where his sister, Hero, was.
In Volume Two of Ten, Cycles, things get worse.
Yorick is beginning to feel the burden he bears as possibly the last chance for humanity to re-populate itself. Someone has destroyed the East Coast supply of genetic material that might solve the mysteries of the plague and Yorick's and Ampersand's survival. Now Yorick and his new companions, Dr. Allison Mann, a cloning expert, and Agent 355, his mysterious bodyguard, have to go to Mann's backup lab in California to pursue the vital research. Yorick would rather go to Australia to find out whether Beth accepted his marriage proposal.
Our heroes make it as far as Ohio, where they stumble across an enigmatic community of women whose competence and organization have made their little bit of the world an idyllic counterpart to the post-apocalyptic nightmare that much of the world has become. Before he learns the secret they are desperate to keep, Yorick finds himself drawn to one of them who reminds him of Beth.
And then his sister shows up and Yorick ends up on the wrong end of a gun.
The pace isn't quite breakneck, but Vaughan makes a lot happen in these 118 pages. Then he leaves his readers wanting more by setting up a third volume that promises to be, literally, out of this world.
Vaughan has taken a concept that seems familiar ("last man on Earth" stories date back at least as far as one written by Frankenstein author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, to which Vaughan refers in Volume Three, One Small Step) and he's made it fresh. Everything that happens is plausible but little of it is predictable. Vaughan blends intrigue, adventure, mystery and humor to unfold a tale that will linger in memory long after he concludes the series at the end of this month.
The art by co-creator Pia Guerra serves Vaughan's story well. Much of the narrative unfolds through characters talking to each other and Guerra presents this with the clarity of a television talk show. But when action erupts, the art turns dynamic and conveys the excitement well.
At the end of this volume, Vaughan has Yorick reflecting that, "for half a second, I was stupid enough to think this last boy on Earth gig might be fun." And then Vaughan takes us to the International Space Station with a suggestion that the gig might not be Yorick's after all. Some critics have favorably compared Y: The Last Man to the television series Lost and so it fits that this story might also have Others.
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