Tag Archives: Pia Guerra

Vaughan & Guerra’s Y: The Last Man Books 3–5 and my November Verse 13

Brian K Vaughan & Pia Guerra, Y: The Last Man Book 3 (2004, 2005, this edition 2010)
—, Y: The Last Man Book 4 (2005, 2006, this edition 2010)
—, Y: The Last Man Book 5 (2006–2008, this edition 2011)

Previously in Y: Yorick, a 23 year old New Yorker escape artist, and Ampersand, a trainee-companion monkey, are the only two male mammals on earth to have survived a mysterious plague. They have teamed up with the woman known only as 355, who is a member of the Culper Ring, a mysterious organisation, and Dr Alison Mann, who has ben experimenting with clone technology and so has a good chance of ensuring a future for humankind. Dr Mann’s New York lab is blown up by Israeli operatives, and the three of them travel across the US to her West Coast lab where her back-up data is safe, encountering an assortment of female post-apocalyptic enemies and allies: the Israelis, a Russian operative, survivalists, escaped convicts making a new life, an astronaut, paranoid cowgirls. Yorick’s sister, Hero, has meanwhile joined a group of neo-Amazons who are fanatically and violently determined to erase all vestiges of the patriarchy. And Yorick has a personal mission, to meet up with his girlfriend Beth, who was in Australian when the plague hit and has since been out of contact.

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The adventure continues in Book 3 with plenty of violence, and a modicum of sex. It turns out that the Australian navy had women active in submarines where the US did not. As a result a fully armed and dangerous Collins Class sub intercepts the ship taking our little band across the Pacific. Australia also comes to the fore as we get some of Beth’s story. There’s some deeply worrisome representations of Warlpiri culture (though you have to give Brian Vaughan credit for actually naming a people rather than giving us generic mystical ‘Aborigines’ like the ones in Werner Herzog’s Green Ant Dreaming).

Goran Sudžuka joins Pia Guerra in the pencilling, and to my untrained eye the seams are invisible.

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In Book 4, Yorick, Dr Mann and agent 335 reach Australia, which isn’t a happy place, though there’s plenty of amusing US attempts at Australian slang, and some cheerful sex and one bit of comic full frontal male nudity (poor Yorick is drawn looking all heroic on the covers, but doesn’t fare so well in the actual stories).

We also get the back stories of a number of characters, and lectures on the status of women that in any other context might be tediously didactic, but here have a certain charm. For example, there’s a key plot point when two capuchin monkeys escape from their cages in an airport. This is how we see it:

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And the reader responds by secretly cheering for the ‘gendercide’ that is to come. Similar moments, such as a short debate about whether the mistreatment of women in the Catholic Church was perpetrated solely by men, or whether women might have been pretty bad as well, turn out to be important to the plot.

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Then in Book 5 it all comes together – or apart, depending on your point of view. Yorick finds Beth and their reunion turns out pretty much as the discerning reader might have expected. There’s another romance that also turns out pretty much as expected, though in a way that surprised and, yes, shocked me. In fact, the working out of all the plot strands is almost at the level of Shakespearean comedy. Of the many hypotheses that have been floated about the cause of the catastrophe, the one that is finally given may not be realistic but it fits the world of the story better than any other: at least grounds have been laid for it.

It all ends happily for the human race, though almost literally up in the air for Yorick himself.

One more note: It seems to me that a successful comic series has to have a certain amount of sex and violence. Y does that. It also manages to be witty, literate and occasionally instructive. Yorick and his sister Hero were named after Shakespearean characters by their nerdy parents. When it seems one woman is going to have to spend time in hospital, Yorick draws up a reading list for her – Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is at the top of the list. It’s similarly refreshing that one of the characters becomes President in the final pages but not, it turns out, of the USA: in this US comic, other countries exist.

And let me burst into verse, for the second last time this November. Extra points for readers who spot the Bill Haley reference.

November Verse 13: On Reading Y: The Last Man
Alas poor Yorick, last man standing!
Two male mammals left alive
on earth, just him and Ampersand, an
ape, his kind-of pet. These five
thick comic books by Vaughan and Guerra,
amuse and tease, prompt pity, terror.
A single man left on the ground,
three billion women all around.
But here’s no superhero fiction,
no Bacchanal or things more blue,
no Warhol shooter’s dream come true,
no earnest SF clone prediction,
just good fun: the men are dead,
that’s sad, but what a watershed!

Vaughan & Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man Book 2

Brian K Vaughan & Pia Guerra, Y: The Last Man, Book 2 (2003, 2004, this Deluxe Edition 2009)

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In Book 1, all mammals with a Y chromosome except two died in a mysterious plague. We were introduced to the two survivors, Yorick Brown and his companion monkey Ampersand; their nemesis, Yorick’s younger sister Hero; their protector, a secret organisation operative named 355; and Dr  Mann (get it?) who seems to be the world’s best chance of understanding the plague and securing a future for humanity.

At the end of Book 1, our main characters had set off from New York to San Francisco, to Dr Mann’s backed up research, her main lab having been torched by Israeli soldiers. And on its last page we had glimpsed a trio of astronauts, two male and one female, who are about to return to earth.

Book 2 is the equivalent of a road movie. As in all good road movies, we learn a lot more about our three main characters: 355’s organisation comes slightly more clearly into view; Dr Mann may not be the great scientist she’s cracked up to be; and young Yorick reveals depths and vulnerabilities, that is to say he becomes more interesting. The astronauts land, with predictable and unpredictable results. The Israeli soldiers become a serious problem. There’s a paranoid states-rights militia, a group of travelling players, a shadowy ninja-like character who seems to be working for the government, pistol-toting cowgirls, a kick-ass Russian agent, a tragic dominatrix (or is she?), and a host of interesting single-page characters.  There’s plenty of violence and PG sex, though (possible spoiler) Yorick manages to remain faithful to his girlfriend who is still in Australia.

The story zings along. Yorick’s major in English Literature allows literary references to be pulled off: a bizarre form of therapy, we are told, was developed in a secret meeting between Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Sade (Brian K Vaughan’s invention, I think); Mary Shelley wrote a novel called The Last Man set in the 21st century (true); there’s explicit homage to Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust. Pia Guerra does most of the pencilling but is joined in this issue by Goran Parlov for three  of the original 13 issues and Paul Chadwick for two – for a non-expert reader like me the transitions are seamless.

I read this on an evening when I had intended to go to the movies. Nothing I wanted to see was on at a convenient time, so I hopped on a bus, got to Kinokuniya just as it was closing, and read this pretty much in the time a movie would have taken and with at least as much enjoyment.

Just as I was about to hit Publish I read on the jacket-flap what purports to be a summary of Y‘s set-up but is in fact a statement of just how male-dominated the world is at the start of the 21st century. As a result of the mysterious plague, ‘495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are now dead, as are 99% of the world’s landowners … Worldwide, 85% of all government representatives are now dead … as are 100% of Catholic priests, Muslim imams, and Orthodox Jewish rabbis’. The book is fun, but it’s having its fun in a seriously fraught place.

Vaughan & Guerra’s Y: The Last Man Book 1

Brian K Vaughan & Pia Guerra, Y: The Last Man Book 1 (2002, 2003, this Deluxe Edition 2008)

1401219217.jpgMy younger son and I are enjoying Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ space opera romance comic, Saga, as it appears book by book. So Y: The Last Man, written by Vaughan in an earlier collaboration with artist Pia Guerra, was an excellent gift from him to me on a recent birthday.

All the men on earth, indeed all mammals with a Y chromosome, die suddenly, cause unknown. In the grief-stricken chaos that ensues, the highways of the USA are choked with crashed vehicles and the great majority of society’s institutions screech to a halt. Suddenly it’s a post-apocalyptic landscape. But wait, there is an unexplained exception to the equally unexplained die-off: Yorick, a 22 year old amateur escape artist and his pet monkey are still alive. Yorick has two goals: to get to Australia to rejoin the woman he hopes is his fiancee (the proposal phone call was inconclusive); and to do what his mother wants and help restore humanity – no, not by going on a reproductive marathon, but by finding a woman known to be an expert in cloning and working with her.

It’s slightly silly, but mostly played with a straight face as Yorick confronts gun-toting widows of Republican congressmen who believe they are entitled to their dead husbands’ seats, a fanatical Amazonian sect who are determined to finish what Mother Earth has started and exterminate Yorick, the escaped inmates of a women’s prison who have established a self-sufficient village, and sundry other outlaws, scroungers, allies and protectors.

This book is the first of five – I expect to be reporting on the remaining four in the fulness of time.