By Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra
It is somewhat ironic that a comic book in which 99% of the characters are female focuses on the sole male character. But that is the world we live in, and I give the authors of Y: The Last Man credit for inventing a very simple but enthralling scenario. The situation is this: an unknown virus has killed all mammals on Earth that carry a Y chromosome – ie, all men – except for Yorick, an American loser, and his pet monkey, Ampersand.
Vaughan therefore sets up a very exciting and dynamic narrative: Yorick must be protected from the virus or the people behind it, the mystery of the attack itself must be uncovered and at the same time, civilisation must continue to operate despite a 50% drop in human population, which is an effective 80% drop in societal organisation since men held most of the power in the world before the virus.
This scenario means that Vaughan can explore how the world would work in light of such a catastrophe and if women were in charge. Although this series of comic books is gripping and exciting, with plenty of twists, here is where it falls down. Because it is a comic book inspired by other comic books and Hollywood, Y: The Last Man cannot imagine a women-only world through anything other than a male lens. This means that the baddies are testosterone-fuelled warrior bitches. If the book’s silly premise came true, doubtless there would be such a group. But it feels very convenient, very Hollywood, very male, to place them at the forefront of the baddie camp.
Nevertheless, this is old-fashioned, action-packed, quick-witted fun. One has to be aware of the biases and privileges portrayed unconsciously, but the bright artwork and the sharp quips make it very entertaining at least.