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There are plenty of trekkers, hobbit lovers and other assorted nerds who still think they can turn their noses up at comic books. Geek snobbery - it gives me the shudders.
Then there are the Guardian readers who nod sagely about Jimmy Corrigan, Maus and Watchmen, but would never dream of buying anything from a comic shop.
Don't forget the fanboys following hip artists from one monthly to the next and saving up to buy sealed, gold-plated versions of comics they already own doing anything to avoid reading a 'proper' book.
Then there's the rest of us. Open-minded eclectics, just as comfortable with Martin Amis as Brian Michael Bendis; anticipating Jhumpa Lahiri's first novel with the same delight as Neil Gaiman's first series for Marvel. We love popular culture and refuse to limit ourselves to a single medium. Our pantheon includes gods from many disciplines - Tom Stoppard, the Coen Brothers, Frank Miller, Terry Wogan, Vikram Seth, JJ Abrams.
Then we have Brian K Vaughn a jobbing freelance writer who was given the opportunity to write his own monthly comic and ran with it. It's the oldest adolescent fantasy imaginable. What if you were the last man in the world. All the chicks would have to really dig you then.
Y: The Last Man tells the story of one man, Yorick Brown (Y... geddit) and his monkey as the only male survivors of a planet-wide catastrophe that killed everything other living thing with a Y chromosome (again with the Y, do you see what they did there?). The first chapter of this multi-part adventure concludes with some chilling statistics about the proportion of government ministers, prison inmates, airline pilots and soldiers wiped out in a heartbeat by this engaging premise.
It's a great what-if and Vaughn manages to explore some of the more interesting strands that it suggests. The Secretary of Agriculture suddenly becomes President of the US based on the constitutional order of succession. The Israeli army with the highest number of combat-ready female soldiers becomes a world force. A group of aggressive feminists cut off their left breasts styling themselves after the Amazons of myth aiming to rid the world of all remaining traces of maleness.
But the heart of this tale is Yorick, an amateur escape artist, former literature student and possibly humanity's last hope for survival. Yorick's aims are simple. He wants to find his mother, a US congresswoman, his sister and his girlfriend who was last heard of in Australia. Along the way he travels under the protection of Agent 355 of the Culper Ring a historical agency set up under George Washington to protect American interests. Together they seek out a doctor who specialised in asexual cloning. And so it continues.
Unmanned collects the first six issues of the ongoing monthly series and acts as a fine introduction to Vaughn's characters and themes. Yorick clearly shares Vaughn's obsession with pop culture and his conversation is littered with references to Miller's Crossing, Little Rascals, The Eels and many more.
Published by Titan in the UK and available for a very reasonable £7.19 from Amazon discounted from £8.99. Graphic novels have traditionally been overpriced and simultaneously hard to buy second-hand, so, despite the slim 128 pages, Titan should still be praised for making this available for the same price as a new paperback book.
Read and enjoy.
Pictures of Y: The Last Man (Unmanned) - Brian K. Vaughan
BKV is becoming a bit of a hero to me; after "Runaways", this will have to be next on my list.
miss_lilith 05.12.2005 16:22
A good start, but for such a cracking good read it would have been nice to see a bit more analysis. Admittedly it's tricky finding a balance between depth and spoilers, but it is possible. Overall good though.
Crazy_Josh 24.03.2004 20:22
Para 4: "Then there's the rest of us" should be "Then there are the rest..."
don't worry, its a common and easy mistake to make.
good op otherwise