Woman World started life as a webcomic created by Canadian cartoonist Aminder Dhaliwal to explore the premise of a world where "men have gone extinct" and women have to "learn to talk again because they're not being interrupted" -- what could have been a one-panel joke turned into one of the most remarkable, funny, compassionate, ascerbic, hilarious comics of its day, and that day is now, because today is the day you can get Woman World, a book from Drawn & Quarterly collecting the comic so far.

Explaining the brilliance of Woman World takes some doing, because Woman World's brilliance is multifaceted. One facet is the overall story arc, about a scientist who discovers that male babies are declining as a proportion of all pregnancies and the post-man society that has to try to maintain its fertility from dwindling frozen sperm stock; though it's played for laughs, it's an interesting and beautifully told story in its own right, a much less militaristic but no less thrilling story of a world in slow decline on the lines of Y: The Last Man.

But it's not just one action-packed storyline — instead, it's a kind of meandering story of civic life in a single village, a kind of gender-oriented, post-apocalyptic episode of Portlandia, where the bohemian free spirits of the man-free world get their own little asides for romance, reminiscence, politics, coming of age, depression, exploration…

And these little asides are, themselves, in many different modes. Some are cute single-panelers that could come out of Family Circus; others invoke Dykes to Watch Out For or For Better or For Worse — Dhaliwal's mastery of so many modes of comic storytelling is dizzying.

This is an allegory, not a projection, and she's more than willing to sacrifice realism for a good laugh, but this is clearly a diverse and sometimes ailing world, and Dhaliwal's deftness extends to the ease and naturalism of her representation: there's a doctor with no breasts, just two scars; a love-interest with a prosthetic leg; a nudist (the mayor!) whose body just one of the many we see, of all sizes and shapes.

(Noticeable by near-omission is the question of trans-men in a world where male-at-birth babies aren't being born anymore; Dhaliwal's characters bounce off of this issue a few times, but never quite land on it).

With all those delicious asides and the big story running through the middle of it, "Woman World" manages to be as funny as hell while still maintaining real gravitas, that ha-ha-only-serious thing that is the salt that cuts through the sweetness and makes great comedy truly great.

Woman World [Aminder Dhaliwal/Drawn & Quarterly]