The Last ‘Y: The Last Man’

Today is the day when it all comes to a close. I’m not sure if there’s been a book I’ve read all the way through, for so long, which had such an impact on comics, and especially those who don’t normally read comics. It made Brian K. Vaughan perhaps our most important ambassador to the outside world unlike almost any other book I’ve seen since Preacher.

UPDATED with my review of Y: The Last Man #60. It’s spoilers if you’re clicking through. Let us know what you thought.

The first issue of Y: The Last Man was my Pick of the Week, way back in July 2002. I flatter myself a bit that I found this, and saw the potential in it right away. But far more impressive was Brian K. Vaughan making such a significant impact with this completely unique title, and going on to become one of the most important writers we have working in comics today. I can honestly tell you that it couldn’t happen to a nicer or more talented guy.

So did the end live up to the auspicious beginnings? What will happen with Yorick Brown?

Sweet lord, but that was good comic book!

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing for someone in my position, but when I read a Vaughan comic, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, and I want to like it. This occasionally makes me a bit blind to the things he does which I might not like, so I tried very hard to be objective when reading this book, and forming my opinion on it. I found this hard to do, as I was overcome with emotion several times during this final issue. I am left with the only possible conclusion, which is that it was very good, and served, for me, as a perfect ending for a series which holds a very prominent place in my comic book reading life.

This was, from the outset, a traditional sci-fi book. In what I consider the best science fiction, it’s not so much about the science minutia as it is about saying something about the world we live in by wreaking havoc on a world which we don’t live in. This book was never about how or why the men died. It was about what would happen in a world where this did happen. It’s always been a very pragmatic book, and didn’t really pull many punches, and very rarely left you with a happy feeling of completion. Yes, Yorick finally found Beth, but it turns out, that didn’t work out. Yes, it turns out that Yorick’s true love had been with him all along, and of course, the second we learn that, 355 had to die. It’s an old writing trick. Never, ever give them what they want, but dangle it right in front of the readers, and when you take it away, they’ll feel it all the more. Some people found happiness, but the world was severely affected, and that’s going mess some people up. This is where we find Yorick.

It’s 60 years in the future, and Yorick’s daughter Beth has had him basically committed, and wrapped up in a straight jacket in a dark desolate room. This was about the only thing I didn’t buy in this issue, simply because you’d have to be a cold hearted woman to do that to your dad; especially if he was in fact, the only dad. But either way, the point is, his life has been pretty rough. Were you the only man left on earth, and gone through what he’d gone through, you’d be lucky to even be a little bit sane. Yorick seems to have regressed from the point where 355 was killed, and became a darker, more inward personality. And that makes perfect sense to me. He’s surrounded himself by clones of Ampersand, who really was his only true friend left, and it’s just a whole lot of sad. Who knew that a dying monkey would be the biggest emotional punch in the whole thing?

Even in the midst of wrapping up this sprawling years long story, Vaughan still manages to make some comments on the idea of cloning and nature versus nurture, when a clone of Yorick, who looks exactly like he original, isn’t really the same person, because he didn’t go through the same things. This is why, when given the opportunity to clone his lost love, Yorick eschews a 355 version 2, quite wisely I’m sure.

This is a story of loss. But it is also a story of strength, and getting on with things when you have to. The women of the world are worse off for the loss of men, but they bite their lips, and get on with the world. I don’t think it was far off from what might really happen. It’s certainly plausible. Traditionally, that’s the work ethic associated with strong men. But someone had to design that flying car, so apparently, the notion of men being good and one thing, and women at another is complete bullshit, and rightly so. It’s appropriate then that Yorick, who had to be so strong for so long, ends up being the mostly lonely and the most alone, which should be ironic, as he is the last man on earth, which could certainly be considered an easy way to pick up chicks. Of course, in reality, things don’t really work that way.

To further illustrate that habits such as patriarchy don’t completely die, it seems that the baby boy born of the astronauts has become czar of Russia, which is a nice twist on how the rest of the world ended up.

I don’t want to gloss over Pia Guerra’s contribution. While, the majority of the impact on this book really does come from the writing, I do think this is one of the rare occasions where art and story came together in a perfect combination. Guerra’s art is just fantastic for this book. There are no costumes or other indicators to distinguish characters, so we were treated to a book full of real people and faces, mostly women, and it was a rare thing that we didn’t know who someone was or what was going on. Going through this last issue, and seeing various incarnations of characters at different ages, I found myself very impressed that she captured, with such clean and elegant lines, the character and mood of these fictional people so well. I know these people. They’re people I’ve had in my life for years now, and she got them so right that it really made the impact of the story shine through.

Vaughan and Guerra had a monumental task in front of them in ending this series. By skipping forward, and giving us glimpses of seminal moments over time, we get a real snapshot of what happened to the world, and to these people. It could be looked at as a trick, but really, if they had gone one and told the story for 60 years, we would have gotten bored, and they would have likely lost the spark. In this way, we’re left wanting more, but in the best way. And of course, lest we leave the book entirely depressed, Vaughan gives us one quick moment of glory with our hero, Yorick, completing the moment telegraphed on the cover, and from the first issue. This might be what Vaughan does better than anyone else writing comics today. He ends stories, and ends them well, which might be the hardest thing there is to do in storytelling.

I’m already feeling the loss of this book. There is nothing like it out there. My experience is that history doesn’t repeat itself, and when there is a replacement in the marketplace for this book, it’s going to come from somewhere completely unexpected, and very likely from someone you’ve never heard of. I promise I’ll keep my eyes open for it, because I’m so glad I didn’t miss a moment of this historic series.


  1. I’ve been reading this in trades, but realized I couldn’t wait, so last week I bought all the issues since the last trade so I am all caught up and excited. I am impressed that you’ve been reading since the first issue.

  2. I was also on board with this one from the very first issue and it’s been easily my favorite book just about every week it’s come out. BKV has created his first masterpiece with this and it’s sad it’s coming to an end – but at least it’s the ending BKV had in mind.

  3. Just finished…That was fucking perfect!

  4. A perfect (unexpected) ending… worth the wait, worth rereading the entire series.

  5. i am SHOCKED that they nailed this ending so perfectly. i dont have anything to say. total comic gold.

  6. Somebody better spoil the whole thing or I’m gonna FLIP OUT.

    Or not.

  7. Just read the ending– WTF? Really, WTF???

  8. Loved it. Great, emotional ending.

  9. I loved the ending. It really was just the most perfect and fitting end. I really hope all three movies get made. It’s just too beautiful, more people should be exposed to this.

  10. I guess I’ve always had a problem with these “and then, years later” endings, where there’s a huge jump ahead in time and then the in-between period is filled in in retrospect. After seeing 355 (by far my favorite character in the series) die last issue, I’m not sure I needed this issue– needed seeing Ampersand die, needed to see that Yorick never found true, lasting love with EITHER Beth, or anybody else (after 355 died), etc.

    With a series that was so truly great for so long, it just seems very hard to have an ending that lives up to people’s expectations and hopes– that might be an argument for a more open-ended ending, something like the Sopranos ending, which allows the reader/watcher to write their own ending in their heads.

    Or maybe I’m still just pissed that Vaughan killed off 355.

  11. Because of the nature of the site, with the recent comments, try to avoid spoilers in the first couple sentences if you can. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  12. Well said, and I completely agree about Pia Guerra. She’s a great artist and the characters felt very real to me. It’s just sinking in that that’s it. It seems like I’ve been reading Y for a lot longer than it’s been out. I really hope there is some sort of replacement in the future. Anything even close to that great.

  13. Y the Last Man got me back into comics and it will hold a very special place for me.
    This issue was really emotional for me and I probably will reread more than any other single issue I have ever gotten from any comic.

  14. The scene with Ampersand and Yorick in the snow was really emotional for me. The closing image was really gorgeous and fitting. Kudos.

  15. Y was the first comic book that i read that was not from Marvel comics and i have to say that i dont think ive ever read a better comic book series.

  16. Quick question, going back to issue #59 in light of #60– so, the Israeli’s explanation in #59 as to what caused the plague– that was not true, correct??

  17. Like someone above said, Y the Last Man is what got me back into comics and for that I am grateful. This was the perfect ending and hit all the elements out of the ballpark. I got choked up a little at the Ampersand moment in the snow. Great stuff.

  18. I’m glad to see all the love for the series– it was truly one of the best series I’ve ever read. I’m also glad that so many seem to have enjoyed the last issue, although to be honest I truly didn’t. But, overall it was a tremendous series.

  19. Really a great issue. This was the first real series I read that wasn’t a “superhero” book. It was my gateway comic, if you will, that opened me up to a whole slew of books that didn’t revolve around the traditional superhero-fights-supervillian storyline. I’m actually gonna miss it, which is something I never thought I’d say about ink and paper. Then again, I never thought I’d think about a comic as more than just ink and paper.

  20. If the entire series had as few pop culture references as this final issue did, I would have LOVED Y rather than just liked it. This really was a perfect issue to close the series.

    Hate to be a downer, but I just don’t see how this series compares on equal footing with Preacher or Fables, much less Sandman. I never thought this series was all THAT deep. It has an interesting premise, don’t get me wrong, but I feel that Y only has like 2 fleshed-out characters, tops, Yorik and 355–and part of Yorick’s appeal, at first, is that he’s a somewhat superficial person. Preacher, for example, has at the very least 3 fully developed characters. Maybe it’s just the EXTREMELY decompressed storytelling of Y that I could never get down with; to me it feels like there were only 25 issues’ worth of story, not 60.

    I really will miss this series, though. Here’s hoping the movie makes Vaughn a rich man, because he deserves it.

  21. About YTLM’s sci-fi classification, I’d say that it’s soft sci-fi

  22. This book was perfect … beginning to end and all through the middle … and like all the best zombie flicks there is no concrete explanation as to what occurred … brilliant …

  23. Ugh, I couldn’t afford my books this week, nor last…blah. So I was at my shop, and my CBG let me go ahead and read this, because I knew it would get talked about, and I didn’t want it spoiled for me. He wouldn’t STFU the entire time talking about how he met Todd McFarlane at the NHL All-Star game. Like I give a crap about Todd McDouchebagFarlane when I’m reading Y:TLM. Cripes… Anyway, although I couldn’t concentrate worth a flip, the scene in the snow with Ampersand did seem very poignant. Tomorrow is payday, maybe I can swing the $5 for this issue and actually spend some time digesting the story, because it did seem great. I dug the last few pages.

  24. i really loved it too. i’ve been reading it in trades and just decided to get this last issue before the tpb is out.

    i already found out (even though i was trying to avoid it) that 355 died anyway. pretty excited to read the rest of the story now.

    this ending reminded a bit of the last episode of six feet under.

    for me, this series is right up there with preacher, watchmen and dark knight as my all time comics experience. just perfect.

    and that damn monkey made me cry.

  25. this ending reminded a bit of the last episode of six feet under.

    Oh, that’s a totally valid comparison. Good thinking. That was also an incredible series ending.

  26. One thing, I’d like to add.

    Apparently in this imagined future the women have relegated the few remaining men to the ‘back seat’ as it were. The clone mentioend MAYBE being allowed to go to university. So, it seems like in most places men are second class citizens and have a hard time even getting educated. This is in line with Vaughn’s continuing theme in saying that a world without men, or not run by men, would be just as corrupt as one that is presently being run. A further example of this is the political machinations in the first few pages. He is, to me, saying… the more things change the more they stay the same.

  27. I didn’t take that from it. Rather the clones were like a precious commodity, and therefore, they were restricted from doing anything they wanted, since it takes a bit of effort to produce clones. Same result in the end I suppose, but different intention.

  28. I picked up issues of the last trade, since I couldn’t wait anymore.

    Wow. Just wow. Ampersand’s death was really hard on me.

    I can’t wait to get this as an absolute.

  29. I’ve gotta say, having just finished it, I’m in shock! Not just because I can’t quite grasp that there’s no more Y, but by just how wrenching this finale was.

    Just the first 3 pages had me thinking ‘What’s going on…. Oh, I see… Wait, that’s AMAZING!!!’. And I’m not afraid to admit that there was weeping over how beautifully Amp’s death was handled… that really got me.

    Congratulations to BKV on a wonderful, near-perfect story from start to finish, and especially for finishing it on your terms.

    Still… Yorick, Three-Fifty, Amp… I’m gonna miss ya!

  30. I absolutely LOVED this issue. Everything about. I really loved that the series both began and ended with Yorick in a straight jacket. I love it when series have subtle bookends like that.

    A perfect ending to a perfect series.

  31. With a series that was so truly great for so long, it just seems very hard to have an ending that lives up to people’s expectations and hopes

    Did and exceeded my expectations (I know I’m a bit late – I’m a slow reader). This final issue did everything it needed to do – it told you the final fates of the characters you cared about, and didn’t leave a whole lot of wondering. I think in this way the Six Feet Under comparison is spot-on.

    This truly is an amazing piece of work – I don’t think there has been a bad issue in the 5+ years it’s come out. Finishing the issue, I want to go back and just read the whole thing again.