Post-apocalyptic worlds and themes have often been popular in comics. Wasted, future worlds are striking images and for a visual medium, they can create quite an impact. However, it’s the more quiet, character-driven moments that the following example explores. This and the example from the next post are also long-form stories that allow time to delve into and examine the consequences of the world after a cataclysm. I've done my best to avoid any spoilers in the following look.
Y the Last Man
Y the Last Man, written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Pia Guerra, is the story of Yorick Brown, the last man on earth after a mysterious event kills anyone with a Y chromosome. Not just a gender-based “what if”, Y is a true post-apocalyptic tale positing a world where roughly half the world’s population suddenly die. It deals, quite understandably, with issues of gender, which come up as the surviving women react to the state of events, and Yorick, a strange and often hapless catalyst, moves through the new society they are creating with his (also surviving) monkey, Ampersand and various female companions.
The World of Y the Last Man isn’t one of blasted landscapes and buried ruins, though it is not without its own wreckage. Imagine a plane piloted by men when all the men in the world die. Imagine a world where procreation is impossible. Imagine not having enough people to operate power plants or maintain computer systems or operate necessary machinery.
I entered into the world of Y the Last Man intrigued by the mystery. What caused this widespread extinction? Why did Yorick survive? And while that curiosity stayed with me, it was the examination of the fallout, and what it says about our society, that carried me through. That’s where the series excels and where its backbone lies.
Not that it’s all navel-gazing. Y is filled with action and adventure and plenty of humor. In fact, if I had one complaint about the series, it would be that Yorick sometime comes across as a little too flippant and off-the-cuff.
The element of hope in the story is Yorick’s survival. As the last man, he can help to keep the human race alive. But because of this, he is sought by various factions and groups, some of whom want him for altruistic reasons, some who just want him dead. Like other post-apocalyptic examinations, a powerful subtext to all of this is whether or not the human race deserves or needs to survive. Or needs men, for that matter.
All sixty issues of Y the Last Man have been collected in ten volumes. It’s worth picking up.