Brian K. Vaughan’s accolades are numerous. He was listed in the credits of the blockbuster film Doctor Strange, which is based on a book of his. He created Saga, one of the most popular and talked-about comics out right now. And he boggled viewers with his work on the TV show Lost. But before all of that, he wrote Y: The Last Man, a tasty little comic that grew into a favorite of many comic-book diehards.
Published from 2002 to 2008, Y tells the story of a world where every mammal with a Y chromosome dies at the same exact second—except for a young man named Yorick Brown and his pet monkey, Ampersand. During the course of its 60 issues, the reader follows Yorick through a civilization that has collapsed and is being rebuilt as he tries to find out what caused the incident—and why he survived. Yorick travels a planet where he is both the most sought-after entity alive as well as the most hated—one sect believes that women were meant to rule the world, and when they find out that there’s still a man living among them, they try to hunt and kill him.
The tale is epic in scope and blends science fiction, adventure, fantasy, and romance. On the surface, Y: The Last Man sounds like the the story of a boy traveling across a torn earth, pursued by secret societies, hunted by maniacal marauders, and researched and prodded by scientists. But as the world collapses around Yorick, it becomes apparent that he’s just a regular kid stuck in a massive mess; he just wants to reconnect with those he’s loved and lost. His drive and tenacity are tucked neatly into the carnage that happens on each page—while the scenes that unfold are huge and bombastic, you find yourself relating to Yorick.
The highest honor bestowed on a DC comic is the Absolute Edition, an archival series that collects books into huge, hardcover volumes packed with all sorts of behind-the-scenes bonus material. It’s a treatment reserved for stone-cold classics such as Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Garth Ennis’s Preacher, and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman; last year DC added Y: The Last Man to the list, with the second of three volumes recently hitting stores.
The reprint is beautiful. One of Y: The Last Man’s greatest achievements is Pia Guerra’s artwork—bold, clean, and powerful, its simplicity leaves nothing to the imagination, and its clarity induces heavy emotional impact. Sometimes comics illustration can look jumbled, especially in stories like Y: The Last Man, where there’s a lot happening. But there are no unnecessary details, so there’s never any confusion about what the characters are feeling. Seeing Guerra’s panels on the Absolute Edition’s 15-inch-tall pages is almost like reading the series for the first time, and it’s an ideal format for taking in her gorgeous drawings.
So are the books worth their $125 price tags? This series comes with slightly less supplementary material than most Absolute Editions—just the standard concept sketches and script samples that pop up at the end of most trades—but the thought of these beauties on my bookshelf nearly brings me to tears. If you love Y: The Last Man, save up your cash—you’ll never be able to look at these pages any other way after seeing them.
Y: The Last Man (Absolute Edition) By Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Pia Guerra (Vertigo); volume three will be released on 7/4/17.