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Imagine if you were the last man on Earth. Now imagine that instead of flesh-eating zombies or a cute pooch to keep you company, the rest of the population is made up of entirely of women.
What you’re imagining probably says a lot about your world views. Thankfully, what Brian K. Vaughan has to say is thought provoking without being preachy.
Like in Vaughan’s other, more intimate disaster-area story, Pride of Baghdad, Vaughan comments on politics, both sexual and international, through situations, not monologues. Where Pride used the power structure of a lion family to illustrate its themes, Y: The Last Man‘s opener uses the deterioration of society, much like The Walking Dead.
However, unlike The Walking Dead, the characters in Y: The Last Man feel less like actors in an epic Greek tragedy, and more like genuine characters. There is less of a feeling with Vaughan that one is being drawn into a melodramatic soap opera, and but rather something more substantial, like a Christopher Nolan film.
This first installment does seem to share The Walking Dead’s episodic nature of raising conflicts for Yorick, our titular hero. Unlike Alan Moore’s dystopic works, our introductions to this brave, new world feels less organic. But Vaughan’s characters have motivation and depth. You want to learn more about them, rather than just what’s going to happen to them. You forgive Unmanned‘s structured narrative because the narrative is so interesting.
This story is about as graphic as something out of Moore’s library, (for the uninitiated, think lots of blood and stylistic nudity,) though Vaughan has enough integrity not to go all Jake Gyllenhaal or Hugh Hefner on his readers. If one of your friends wants to know the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel, this is it, and that means adult content is played for adults, not adolescents.
I feel similarly about Y: The Last Man as I do my recent viewing of Black Snake Moan: the trappings of horror / exploitation are really there to heighten real human drama, but they might just scare away a more conservative audience. It has me thinking about whether or not secluding oneself to more “safe” entertainment is legalism in action, or wisdom beyond myself.
I am glad, however, to have found a diamond in the rough.