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Y: The Last Man Leads New Wave of Mature Comics

Mychal Stanley | Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Adult comics have made a huge comeback in America.

I don’t know how many people on campus give any attention to comic books and their “adult” counterpart, graphic novels, but comic books are no longer the stuff of adolescent boys.

While Japan has never forgotten the appeal comics have on people of all ages, Americans have delegated comic books to mere kids’ stuff. If you are one of these people, you should be ashamed of what you are missing. I know it’s easy to be caught up in the hip and socially current comics like Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis,” but comics dealing in the realm of fantasy still have some great stories to tell.

Series like Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” deal with how superheroes would be viewed in the real world. Imagine the scenario from “The Incredibles” in which superheroes are outlawed, but the topic is dealt with in a darker tone that is more political, serious and adult. Not only that, but Watchmen was published a full 20 years ago.

Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series deal with an extended and beautifully-complex mythology following the personifications of Dream, Death and others, and how they operate in the world we know.

But if these two aren’t enough for you, I recommend you give “Y: The Last Man” a try.

Written by Brian K. Vaughan, it finished it’s 60-issue run last month, and now would be the perfect time to pick up the graphic novel collections if for nothing else than the unbeatable premise. One day, every mammal with a Y-chromosome is killed simultaneously except for an immature young escape artist named Yorick and his pet monkey.

What happens from there defies all predictions and blazes a new and exciting path in popular storytelling. What could have easily devolved into meaningless gender pandering becomes an intelligent conjecture on what the world would be like if run by women. And it’s done fairly, provocatively and entertainingly.

In the first few issues, it deals with the rebuilding of the American government, a fanatical feminist group called the Daughters of the Amazon who seek to destroy every last reminder of men (including sperm banks) and an Israeli general seeking to preserve Israel at any cost.

Meanwhile Yorick finds a world-renowned geneticist who seeks to understand why Yorick and his monkey survived. They are escorted by a government agent from Washington D.C., to the doctor’s lab in San Francisco, all while being chased by Yorick’s sister – a member of the Daughters of the Amazon.

The story may be complex, but it is paced in a methodical manner, like a good action movie. It’s hard not to become attached to the magnificently-written characters as they grow and mature in the hardships they come to face. It’s about human beings coming face-to-face with the impossible, and how they react to the pressure.

Beyond all the breathtaking twists is a beautifully reserved ending in the aftermath of a complete resolution. It makes the wacky science explanation bearable.

After all, it’s not about bad things happening, but how human beings keep going anyhow.