Y: The Last Man, the triumphal last volume of a fantastic graphic novel

It's a measure of how far behind I am in my reading that I've only just gotten to read the final volume of Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra's graphic novel "Y: The Last Man," which I've been following for years now, eagerly awaiting the resolution of the series' many storylines and subplots (for those of you who have the good fortune to be discovering this for the first time -- here's the first issue -- I'll sum up quickly: a mysterious event simultaneously kills every man on earth except for Yorick Brown, a down-on-his-luck escape artist whose fiancee, Beth, is on the other side of the world in Australia; he spends the next five years touring the planet's many brave and terrible places looking for her, while he is pursued by geopolitical powers of varying types and character).

Endings are hard. Vaughan and Guerra nailed it.

After six years of following this story, there were times when I despaired for it. The world of Y was so broken, the storylines so convoluted, and some of the hints at resolution were so off-kilter (particularly the last volume, which hinted at a quasi-mystical direction that really left me cold) that I seriously doubted that the creators would be able to end it all in a way that made it all come together with dignity, credibility and real love for the principle characters.

This last volume, called "Whys and Wherefores," does it all. It opens with a rocketing storyline that tears towards a massive and gripping climax, and then moves into a denouement that is one of the best I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Endings are hard, denouements (the part after the climax where the audience catches its breath and the last momentum of the story rolls on) are harder.

It's hard to say more without spoilering the surprises. But the denouement is what makes this ending really, really work: it's a fantastically satisfying tying-up-of-knots, sketching-of-the-future -- it's bittersweet, loving, funny, witty, and makes maximal work of the visual storytelling that makes graphic novels one of the great art-forms of our time.

Now that all ten volumes are out, I would like nothing better than to pick them all up and re-read them from start to finish. I have a feeling that I'd end up getting through the lot in about 36 hours, without sleeping. But man, I am so far behind in my reading, and there's so much good stuff on the pile, that this will likely have to wait for some golden age in my future when I get to do that kind of pleasure reading again. I can't wait. Y: The Last Man, Vol. 10: Whys and Wherefores, Book 9 Link, Book 8 Link, Book 7 Link, Book 6 Link Book 5 Link, Book 4 Link, Book 3 Link, Book 2 Link, Book 1 Link

See also:
* Fan video-game treatment for Y: The Last Man comic
* Y: The Last Man - Kimono Dragons
* Must-read comic, Y: The Last Man
* New "Y: The Last Man" collection
* New "Y: The Last Man" collection: great sf adventure comic



  1. I had the opportunity to read the first issue of this and really enjoyed it. Been finding it hard to get my hands on the rest. Guess I’ll have to do the Amazon thing. :)

  2. if by “last volume of a fantastic graphic novel” you mean “last collection of a fantastic comic book series” then I agree.

  3. It is such an amazing graphic novel. Amazing!!!

    The storyline is well crafted and intricate and coupled with the awe-inspiring drawing and colouring both make for a novel that is one of the best of all time (and I don’t give out that title all that often!)

  4. Based on your recommendation, I’ve requested this at our Library. I must say, our local library kicks butt – who knew they’d have graphic novels!?

  5. Because of the BB recommendation and the first issue being posted freely at one point I eventually got a hold of the series, and I sat down and in the course of like two or three days I read it all. It really is one of the best series of work I have ever read, I giggled for days at some of the humour, I cried off and on now and again thinking of points near the end, and at least to me, the last panel of the series with the straitjacket was the most perfect way for it to end.

  6. about 18 months ago, i almost dropped this book from my “wait for the trade” list. the story had slowed down, become a little too complex, and as cory mentioned, the pseudo-mysti-science reveal was hard to swallow.

    i’m very, very happy i didn’t drop it after finishing the last volume. in fact, i reread the whole thing before cracking open the finale. absolutely fantastic ending that makes everything before it better. very, very highly recommended.

    i also want to throw my hat in with jccalhoun’s comment. the GN nomenclature has been woefully misused in the past 5 years.

  7. I was doing the comic rounds a while back and made the mistake of flipping through one of the last issues of this series instead of waiting until I got home to read it. I had been waiting so long for the issue to come out that I just couldn’t stand the suspense.

    What I saw made me bark out loud in shock. I immediately paid for the comics in hand (forgetting to shop for other titles) and read the issue from start to finish in my car.

    I haven’t had that kind of reaction to a comic book in close to 25 years – a true testament to the impeccable storytelling in this series. The synopsis may not sell you on Y The Last Man, but reading the first couple of issues will ensure you can’t stop.

  8. I’ll echo the admiration for the series and particularly, the satisfying ending. Though I’m still hung up about that whole 355 thing… (I won’t spoil anything).
    And for the record, I thought the Alter Tse’elon storyline shouldn’t have been dragged on as much as it had, let alone, resurface in the finale. But whatever, it works.

  9. @5,

    “…the last panel of the series with the straitjacket was the most perfect way for it to end.”

    Thanks. [removing book from my cart at Amazon].

  10. CINEMAJAY… as a spoiler, that’s pretty minute. it’s more praise of the emotional send off the book gives than any great plot point. so put that puppy back in your cart!

  11. shame about the graphic side of it….bit boring, looks like the spider man from the 80’s , the cover was promising a lot, i got cusrious and what i saw actually put me off so i didn’t even read it. its probably good, i don’t say its not- i mean the storyline – the drawings look like a colouring book to me

  12. I started reading this book the summer I graduated high school and followed it for 5 years until it concluded. It was amazing to read a story that is essentially about a boy becoming a man, especially during that stage of my life.

    Either way, I thought it was amazing, I loved the characters, I personally prefer this art style, and the final issue was absolutely perfect. I’ve never felt such a bittersweet love for the end of a story.

    It’s worth the journey to get to the end, and the journey is pretty great too. I admit at times it does get bogged down, but I definitely plan on a second reading of it soon.

  13. “Nailed it”, eh? Personally, I was expecting more comments along the lines of Logruszed (#7, above). Not gonna spoil anything in these forums, but this ending was, for me, rather difficult to digest: the ending came a bit too suddenly, and the denouement resolved some characters into places that were VERY surprising, given the characters’ development up to that point.

    That’s not to say that the ending was at all “bad” – but it took a while for me to reconcile my feelings for what it “should have been”. ANYWAY, the best art keeps you thinking, and Y:TLM was on my mind for days after finishing it.

    Anyone know of a spoilerific Y:TLM forum that discusses the ending? I’d love to get some other people’s takes on it…

  14. For those who have read The Last Man and enjoyed it, I would also suggest Vaughan’s Ex Machina, the story of an ex-superhero mayor of New York. That may sound cheesy, but the man is a genius when it comes to turning around what should by all rights be a terrible idea for a story.

    As an aside, I first heard about Y on this blog some years ago, right at a time when I was rediscovering comics. Y (along with Preacher, Sandman and Watchmen) brought me right back in. So in part, I have Cory to thank for that.

  15. Me & the hubster also are ambivalent about the ending, FWIW. I think that a movie will be wonderful though!

    Most of the series, especially the more-and-more complex bits, really got me to enjoy the comic format. I’ve read SF & Fantasy for years but this really got me into the illustrated stuff. Well, ok, only a little bit… ;)

  16. …Side note to the Spoiler Challenged Weenies: skip over this entry if spoilers are a problem for you. You’ve been warned.

    …People are actually divided on how they feel about the end of Y: The Last Man. Either they enjoyed the ride until the last three pages and felt really conbefuddled and let down by Brian and Pia, or they totally enjoyed the twist ending-that-wasn’t knowing that it was far better than the rumor going around that the leaked “straightjacket” cover for #60 exposed that the entire post-apocalyptic journey had been the fantasy of an elderly Yorick Brown who’d been incarcerated for most of his life – which, thank God/Yahweh/Roddenberry, it wasn’t.

    …The only real major issue I had with the last one is that it had the same flaw as the last half-season of Rome: with the end approaching, way too much was crammed into the big finish, and too much was left either unexplained or skimped upon. Even more important – and you spoiler wimps were warned, remember – was that they never did give a really solid explanation behind how all the males died, how the rodents had begun to breed again, or what *really* kept Yorick and Ampersand immune from it all. Like a great amusement park ride, it was fun and all that, but when we’ve gotten to the end and looked back on the rollercoaster, quite a few of us really *do* want to know exactly how the cars managed to stay on the tracks instead of falling off at the top of each loop. Brian and Pia sort of cheated us on that aspect of Y, and while it really doesn’t diminish just how fracking good the series was, it still doesn’t give us the finish we’d hoped to see.

    And then there’s the mistake of not letting us in on what 366’s real name was, even if we’d all figured out that it *had* to be Beth. Ah well…

    …Of course, some writers love jerking the chains of their readers by not letting them in on answers to questions raised by their works. When Reed & Sue Richards had their second child during Johb Byrne’s classic run on Fantastic Four, when the child died at birth both Byrne and editor Mike Carlin refused to reveal the gender of the baby. Byrne claimed that no gender had been chosen as the child was going to die all along, but Carlin – mostly to piss off groups of fans who’d set up traditional betting pools – claimed it didn’t matter because it was “just a baby”. Thankfully, two decades later, the creative teams threw that bathwater out the window and kept the baby – this time a girl.

    …Another example has to do with the Battlestar Galactica 1st season episode “33”. To this day Ron Moore refuses to give a reason why the Cylons attacked exactly every 33 minutes. His claim was that it didn’t matter, but to many fans it was possibly an early sign that Moore sometimes doesn’t think about all the finer details of his plotting, not to mention taking care of all loose ends. The fact that he *still* hasn’t explained what the Cylon’s master plan is after four seasons, and has dropped strong hints that it doesn’t really matter anymore and probably won’t go into it before the series ends, only fuels the flames directed towards his writing.

    …Still, Y: The Last Man is a series damn worth reading, not to mention keeping on the shelves for future generations to read. It does ask a LOT of important questions that works like I Am Legend/Omega Man or Stephen King’s totally overrated The Stand tend to gloss over or even ignore. Again, a great ride – E-ticket at the least – with the only real let down after all the nitpicks is that it’s over just a bit too soon.

  17. One of the best graphic novels around. Movie worthy? Hell YES. My only hope is that Shia Lebeouf is not casted as you know who.

  18. Thanks, OM (#19) – you pretty much echoed my feelings exactly.

    One of the problems with the rushed ending is, I think, one of the problems with the comic industry in general: they HAD to end it in 60 issues. There was no way to extend the run, because 61 or 62 issues would just be CRAZY, right? No, 60 – nice, round number, and they’d been planning 60 issues from the start. OK, they made the epilogue a few pages longer, but the story still HAD to conform to the rules of the industry.

    And these industry rules are what keeps me from getting into graphic novels full-force. Seriously: how many people would read a novel, knowing they’d only get a short chapter every TWO MONTHS? I’d rather have a complete work in front of me to consume than a small bit which will only be continued 8 weeks from now.

    I guess I’d like to see publishers move from a “TV-inspired” release schedule (and hey, at least episodic TV shows come every week!) to a “movie-inspired” release schedule, wherein complete works are released seasonally. I know, I could just wait until a series is finished and buy it in trade paperback, and I DO, but this keeps me from jumping head-on into the wonderful world of graphic novels.

    For all the talk in the last 20 years about comic books “growing up”, the industry still expects us to wait like time-rich pre-teens for the next installment.

  19. “My only hope is that Shia Lebeouf is not casted as you know who.”

    …Hey, I think he’d make a great Hero :-/

  20. Cory, you’ll NEVER catch up. (And it’s OKAY.)

    I work in a library system. Our Youth Services division gets scads of free advanced reader copies and tester copies.

    There are more books coming out JUST IN JUVENILE FICTION that catch my interest than I can read. And I read pretty darn fast!

    That’s just in one genre. (subset?) Just what I *like* in that genre. It’s like looking at the dessert tray and groaning “I want it aaaaaaallll—and I CAAAAAAAN’T!” (but less fattening!)

  21. Thanks to this, I picked up the collection at the library- great read.

    355 reminded me a LOT of Martha Washington, albet in not so ridiculous situations. (And that’s really saying something, given the setting of this series.)

    Anyways, I’m thankful I waited until it was all over. I’d have gone nuts reading this as a serial.

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