Y: The Last Man

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Y: The Last Man
Yorick and Ampersand on the cover of issue 23
Publication information
Publisher Vertigo
Schedule Monthly (Issues 1–55)
Bimonthly (Issues 56–60)
Format Maxiseries
Genre Post-apocalyptic, adventure, drama
Publication date September 2002 – March 2008
Main character(s) Yorick Brown
Agent 355
Doctor Allison Mann
Ampersand
Creative team
Writer(s) Brian K. Vaughan
Penciller(s) Pia Guerra
Goran Sudžuka
Paul Chadwick
Inker(s) Jose Marzan Jr.
Collected editions
Unmanned ISBN 1-56389-980-9
Cycles ISBN 1-4012-0076-1
One Small Step ISBN 1-4012-0201-2
Safeword ISBN 1-4012-0232-2
Ring of Truth ISBN 1-4012-0487-2
Girl on Girl ISBN 1-4012-0501-1
Paper Dolls ISBN 1-4012-1009-0
Kimono Dragons ISBN 1-4012-1010-4
Motherland ISBN 1-4012-1351-0
Whys and Wherefores ISBN 1-4012-1813-X

Y: The Last Man is a dystopian science fiction comic book series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra published by Vertigo beginning in 2002. The series is about the only man to survive the apparent simultaneous death of every male mammal (barring the same man's pet monkey) on Earth. The series was published in sixty issues by Vertigo and collected in a series of ten paperback volumes (and later a series of five hardcover "Deluxe" volumes). The series' covers were primarily by J. G. Jones and Massimo Carnevale. The series received five Eisner Awards.

Publication history[edit]

The 60th and final issue of the series was celebrated with a party at Meltdown Comics, a shop on West Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, which was attended by 100 collaborators and fans, including writer/director Joss Whedon.[1]

Plot summary [edit]

Writer Brian K. Vaughan signing hardcover collections of the series at Midtown Comics in Manhattan.

On July 17, 2002, something (referred to as a plague) simultaneously kills every living mammal possessing a Y chromosome — including embryos, fertilized eggs, and even sperm. The only exceptions appear to be a young amateur escape artist named Yorick Brown and his Capuchin monkey, Ampersand. Many women are killed from disasters caused by the men's deaths.

Society is plunged into chaos as infrastructures collapse, and the surviving women everywhere try to cope with the loss of the men, and the belief that, barring a rapid, major scientific breakthrough or other extraordinary happening, humanity is doomed to extinction.

Yorick leaves New York City for Washington, D.C. to reunite with his mother, a member of the U.S. Congress. In the process, he meets the new president of the United States, the former Secretary of Agriculture (since everyone above in the line of succession had died). The mysterious Agent 355 is commissioned by the president to help and protect Yorick and get him to Boston to meet with brilliant geneticist and cloning expert Dr. Allison Mann, despite Yorick's determination to find his girlfriend Beth, who was in Australia when the plague struck. However, Congresswoman Brown's distrust for 355 and 355's agency leads her to reveal Yorick's existence to an Israeli commando nicknamed Alter. Alter, however, has different plans for Yorick, hoping to use his existence as leverage against any and all of Israel's enemies, which in the new state of the world seems to be every other country.

Cross-country travel is incredibly hard going, fuel and food are becoming rarer by the day, railways and roads are often blocked and broken and patrolled by armed gangs. Air travel is all but impossible. Yorick spends much of his time disguised as a woman, wearing a gas mask to avoid detection.

In Boston, Yorick and Agent 355 meet up with Dr. Mann, but in the process her lab is burnt down by Alter and her team. Dr. Mann has a backup laboratory in California which Agent 355 and Yorick agree to journey to, with the aim of using Yorick to find answers to the plague (including the mystery of his and Ampersand's sole survival) as well as possibly produce more male humans.

The group spends approximately two years traveling across America to reach Dr. Mann's second lab. During their journey they experience several adventures which are revealed as short stories or incomplete vignettes. The dialogue alludes to many encounters which happen off-page, explaining that the reader is only being shown the most important incidents of a much longer story.

While traveling through the Midwest, Yorick's group encounters Natalya, a Russian soldier who accompanies them to a "hot suite" where biologists maintain a sterile environment. It is revealed that three astronauts are alive aboard the International Space Station, two of whom are male. These astronauts attempt to land near the sterile room so that they can be quarantined from the plague. However, the Soyuz capsule they use to land has degraded from lack of maintenance. In the end, the vessel explodes and the two male astronauts are killed. The surviving astronaut, Ciba, explains that she is carrying the child of one of the astronauts, and she is quarantined until the child, who is male, is born. At the same time, the site is attacked by Israeli commandos led by Alter, who briefly capture Yorick before being driven off.

Yorick continues to travel with his comrades, overcoming his subconscious deathwish and killing a person for the first time while in Arizona. He has a brief affair with another girl named Beth, who shares many traits in common with his fiancée. They make love in a church graveyard before Yorick proceeds. Much later, it is revealed that Yorick impregnated the second Beth. "Other Beth" and her child, Beth Jr., later join Yorick's sister in searching for him.

Yorick's group eventually arrive at Dr. Mann's second laboratory. Dr. Mann studies Yorick and Ampersand, and finds that Ampersand has an unspecified immunity to the "plague" which he passed on to Yorick by throwing feces at him. However, before her work can proceed Dr. Mann's laboratory is destroyed and Ampersand captured by Toyota, a female ninja whose purposes are not revealed for some time.

Toyota takes Ampersand to Japan, and Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann follow by sea. Their journey is interrupted by a battle between opium smugglers and the Australian navy, during which their group is infiltrated by an Australian spy named Rose. Rose enters a romantic relationship with Dr. Mann, and follows Yorick's group on the remainder of their journey to Japan. In Japan, Dr. Mann is reunited with her mother, a brilliant biologist. After some minor misadventures, Yorick is reunited with Ampersand. Rose gives up serving the Australian military so that she can have an honest relationship with Allison Mann. Later, Yorick and 355 are captured by Toyota, but 355 kills Toyota in a rooftop duel.

Allison Mann's father, Dr. Matsumori, is found to have survived the plague, and provides a number of explanations.

First, Allison Mann competed with her father to create the world's first human clone. Dr. Matsumori hired Toyota to poison Allison so that her cloned fetus would die. Allison nearly dies of uterine tumors and is saved by her mother's surgical skill, but it is not clear whether this was a side effect of Allison's clone research or Toyota's poison. Regardless, Dr. Matsumori reveals that he has created multiple clones of Allison.

Dr. Matsumori's second revelation is that he believes he was responsible for Ampersand's immunity to the "plague". He had tried to turn Ampersand into a biological weapon that would kill the clone his daughter was gestating, but the monkey was mis-delivered to Yorick by happenstance. Dr. Matsumori believes that when he perfected the human cloning process he rendered males obsolete, after which the Earth killed all males (a theory discussed in greater detail below). Dr. Matsumori intends to kill Yorick and himself, thereby removing the last two males from the planet (or at least, the last two he knows of). Allison Mann interrupts her father and they have an altercation, resulting in her killing him.

Yorick and 355 end up journeying to Paris to meet Yorick's fiancée, Beth. Yorick's sister, Hero, Other Beth, Ciba, and Natalya all meet them in Paris. After being reunited with Beth, Yorick comes to realize that he does not want to marry her, and that he is actually in love with 355. The Israeli soldier Alter kills 355 with a sniper rifle, and 355 dies in Yorick's arms. The Israeli commando attempts to capture Yorick once again, but Yorick defeats Alter and discovers that her dedicated pursuit of him was actually a roundabout way of suicide, similar to Yorick's own experience earlier in the story. He knocks her out and lets her live as the Israelis surrender and depart.

The story then provides an epilogue with several vignettes that take place over the next sixty years. Yorick marries Other Beth and they raise their daughter, who eventually becomes President of France. Beth and Hero enter a lesbian relationship. Ampersand grows old, and Yorick eventually euthanizes him. Allison Mann dies of illness, but her clones carry on her work. Society eventually stabilizes and human cloning becomes commonplace. At least seventeen Yorick clones are produced, although geneticists are eventually able to produce clones of other males. Yorick, now 85 years old, has been institutionalized in a building in France following a supposed suicide attempt. Yorick is introduced to a younger clone of himself (Yorick Brown, the Seventeenth), and he imparts some advice regarding the breadth of life's experiences to his clone before escaping when the clone turns away.

Main characters[edit]

  • Yorick Brown, a young amateur escape artist who is believed to be the last human male on Earth.
  • Agent 355, Yorick's bodyguard who works for a mysterious U.S. government agency.
  • Doctor Allison Mann, an expert geneticist seeking to discover the cause of the plague and why Yorick survived.
  • Ampersand, Yorick's Capuchin monkey and the only other male mammal to survive the plague.
  • Beth Deville, Yorick's girlfriend. When the plague hit, she was engaged in anthropological work in Australia.
  • Hero Brown, Yorick's older sister, who joined the Daughters of the Amazon after the plague.
  • Natalya Zamyatin, a Russian soldier who helps Yorick, Agent 355 and Allison Mann.
  • Ciba Weber, an astronaut who is saved by Agent 355 and Allison Mann from a burning Soyuz capsule.
  • Rose Copen, a spy and demolitions expert for the Australian Navy, and Allison Mann's lover.
  • Alter Tse'elon, the new chief of the general staff for Israel. Considered one of the main antagonists.

The plague[edit]

The source of the plague that wiped out every living mammal with a Y chromosome except Yorick Brown, Ampersand and Doctor Matsumori is never fully explained. A number of possible explanations are provided throughout the course of the series, but a definitive answer is left for the reader to decide. Discussing the cause of the plague, Vaughan is quoted as saying:

I feel that there is a definitive explanation, but I like that people don't necessarily know what it is. In interviews we always said that we would tell people exactly what caused the plague. The thing was, we never said when we were going to tell. We weren't going to tell you when we were telling you, I should say. We might have told you in issue #3. There might have been something in the background that only a couple people caught. It might have been Dr. Mann's father's very detailed, scientific explanation. It might have been Alter's off-the-wall conspiracy theory. The real answer is somewhere in those 60 issues, but I prefer to let the reader decide which one they like rather than pushing it on them.[2]

Prominent explanations[edit]

Three explanations are considered by the protagonists:

  • Failed clandestine attack on China (propagated by Lt. General Alter): the Culper Ring created a chemical agent designed to prevent women from conceiving male children. This agent was introduced into China to cripple their economy, however, something went wrong, and the chemical agent instead killed males of all ages.
    • This is stated as the definitive cause of the plague in Brian K. Vaughan's abridged script for Y: the Last Man, penned two years after the completion of the graphic novel series.[3]
  • Dr. Matsumori's theory:[2] viable cloning made males unnecessary, thus mother nature destroyed them - the Y-chromosome had been "rationally self-destructing for hundreds of millions of years" and thus the birth of Dr. Matsumori's first successful human clone "triggered a time-bomb that had been ticking for a millennia," in other words the moment the Y-chromosome became obsolete "nature righted its course."[4]
    • Moreover, Doctor Matsumori had also discovered a "chemical compound that had an adverse effect on the genome of cloned mammals" which he injected into a capuchin monkey (Ampersand) in an attempt to kill his daughter's unborn clone fetus. Yet, as fate would have it, Ampersand was misdelivered to Yorick and when the plague struck, the compound ended up having the opposite effect on non-cloned mammals, shielding all three of them from "god's wrath."[4]
    • This theory is described in the most detail; as seen in the "Motherland" story arc.
  • Cursed amulet (propagated by ancient mysticism and the Setauket Ring): the plague struck the moment Agent 355 removed the sacred Amulet of Helene from the nation of Jordan. The amulet carried a warning that if it was ever taken from its homeland, it would create a tragedy greater than the Trojan War. It is also suggested that the wedding ring Yorick bought for Beth may have protected him and Ampersand from the effect of this curse.
    • This was the original theory for the plague's cause presented in the series, with Agent 355 being warned about the amulet's curse in the opening pages.
    • Yorick's ring was a similarly supposedly mystical Middle Eastern relic, alleged to muddle the bearer's gender in order to give a married man an aspect of his wife's femininity, and vice versa.
    • Dr. Mann claimed the amulet trigger was plausible because magic was just science yet to be understood. The veracity of Dr. Mann's claim is dubious.

Other explanations put forth in the book include:

  • The Earth cleansing herself of the Y chromosome, as believed by the Amazons.
  • The Rapture taking all men and leaving women as a punishment for original sin, as believed by an air traffic controller.
  • The remaining (female) members of Sons of Arizona were convinced that the government was responsible for the plague, and the top government leaders were lying in wait to take over the country.
  • Changes in the Dreamtime affecting normal reality, as believed by some Australian aboriginals and Beth.
  • One member of the "Fish & Bicycle" traveling theater troupe advanced the theory the plague was a direct response to the exclusion of women from true parity in the performing arts, thereby upsetting the natural order. In support of this theory, it was speculated the total exclusion of women from the stage in Shakespeare's day had resulted in pandemic outbreaks of the Bubonic Plague.
  • At one point, the characters discuss the possibility that the release of the film Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood shortly before the plague may have caused a massive "death-by-chick-flick."

Film adaptation[edit]

The film rights to the series were acquired by New Line Cinema (a sister company to Vertigo), and as of July 24, 2007 screenwriter Carl Ellsworth and director D. J. Caruso, the team behind Disturbia, were attached to the project with David S. Goyer as a producer.[5]

Caruso intended on finishing the script in the summer and filming during the fall of 2008. The script would be a rewrite of the original draft written by Jeff Vintar. Although Vintar's draft was faithful to the original comic book and considered by many to be a success, the higher-ups at New Line Cinema seemed unable to fully embrace the material. A subsequent draft by Vaughan himself, which departed from his own comic considerably, was even less successful in convincing the studio to proceed.[6]

Caruso maintained that the source material was too much to be told in one film and his team decided to concentrate on the best first film they could, which would end somewhere around issue 14 of the comic series. The entire comic series as a whole would be plotted into three films.[7] Actor Shia LaBeouf, who has worked with these writers for the films Disturbia and Eagle Eye, has previously stated that he is unwilling to play the role of Yorick. According to LaBeouf, the role is far too similar to the character Sam Witwicky, which he portrays in the Transformers series.[8] In an interview conducted by collider.com, LaBeouf stated that there is still a chance that he would be starring.[9] Caruso planned to use a real monkey, and not a CGI construct, to play Ampersand.[6] Caruso also said he would like to have Alicia Keys for the part of Agent 355.[10] Zachary Levi, who plays the lead in the TV series Chuck, has expressed interest in playing Yorick as he is a fan of the comic book series, even going as far as having his character Chuck Bartowski read the Y: The Last Man graphic novel in the episode "Chuck Versus the Nacho Sampler".

Caruso remained "loosely attached" to the project, but New Line refused to acquiesce on its development as a stand-alone movie as opposed to the trilogy Caruso (who has since moved on to direct the science fiction film I Am Number Four) preferred.[11] Caruso, maintaining "I didn't think that you could take Yorick's story and put it in to a two-hour movie and do it justice... I just feel like it's too much for one screenplay," ultimately walked away from the project.[12]

French director Louis Leterrier also expressed interest in adapting the series for television.[13]

In March 2012, former Jericho writers Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia entered final negotiations to write New Line's adaptation of the series, following in the footsteps of Vintar, Vaughan, and Ellsworth. J.C. Spink, Chris Bender and David Goyer were attached to produce; Mason Novick and Jake Weiner are executive producers.[14] Reports in September 2012 suggested New Line was enthusiastic about the draft screenplay produced by Federman and Scaia, and had begun the process of meeting potential directors to hire for the project.[15]

In January 2013, it was announced that Dan Trachtenberg will direct the film.[16] In June 2013, producer David Goyer announced having "a script that’s as close as it’s ever been," and suggested the film could go into production in 2014.[17] However, in January 2014, Brian K. Vaughan stated "It's my understanding that the rights to Y: The Last Man will revert back to co-creator Pia Guerra and me for the first time in a decade if the planned New Line adaptation doesn't start shooting in the next few months."[18]

Collected editions[edit]

The series is collected in trade paperbacks.

# Title ISBN Release date Collected material
1 Unmanned ISBN 1-56389-980-9 January 2, 2003 Y: The Last Man #1–5
2 Cycles ISBN 1-4012-0076-1 September 1, 2003 Y: The Last Man #6–10
3 One Small Step ISBN 1-4012-0201-2 April 1, 2004 Y: The Last Man #11–17
4 Safeword ISBN 1-4012-0232-2 December 1, 2004 Y: The Last Man #18–23
5 Ring of Truth ISBN 1-4012-0487-2 July 13, 2005 Y: The Last Man #24–31
6 Girl on Girl ISBN 1-4012-0501-1 November 23, 2005 Y: The Last Man #32–36
7 Paper Dolls ISBN 1-4012-1009-0 May 1, 2006 Y: The Last Man #37–42
8 Kimono Dragons ISBN 1-4012-1010-4 November 22, 2006 Y: The Last Man #43–48
9 Motherland ISBN 1-4012-1351-0 May 9, 2007 Y: The Last Man #49–54
10 Whys and Wherefores ISBN 1-4012-1813-X July 1, 2008 Y: The Last Man #55–60

After the finale, the series was re-released, in parts, as oversized hardcovers with alternative cover art.

# Title ISBN Release date Collected material
1 Deluxe Book One ISBN 1-4012-1921-7 October 28, 2008 Y: The Last Man #1–10
2 Deluxe Book Two ISBN 1-4012-2235-8 May 6, 2009 Y: The Last Man #11–23
3 Deluxe Book Three ISBN 1-4012-2578-0 April 13, 2010 Y: The Last Man #24–36
4 Deluxe Book Four ISBN 1-4012-2888-7 October 12, 2010 Y: The Last Man #37–48
5 Deluxe Book Five ISBN 1-4012-3051-2 May 3, 2011 Y: The Last Man #49–60

Awards and honors[edit]

Y: The Last Man, Volume 10: Whys and Wherefores was nominated for the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. In 2008, Y: The Last Man won the Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Heyman, Marshall (February 17, 2008). "The Last Man Exits". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b Schedeen, Jesse (February 1, 2008). "Y: The Last Man - The End of an Era". IGN. Retrieved December 13, 2009. 
  3. ^ http://multiversitycomics.com/reviews/review-y-the-last-man-script-by-brian-k-vaughan/
  4. ^ a b "Y: THE LAST MAN VOL. 9: MOTHERLAND". Vertigo Comics. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  5. ^ McNary, Dave (July 23, 2007). "Caruso, Ellsworth take on 'Man'; Bender, Spink, Novick, Goyer to produce". Variety. Retrieved July 24, 2007. 
  6. ^ a b Vespe, Eric "Quint" (March 25, 2008). "Quint vibrates on the set of DJ Caruso's EAGLE EYE starring LaBeouf, Monaghan, Chiklis & Dawson! Plus Y: THE LAST MAN tid-bits!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  7. ^ Matheson, Whitney (January 29, 2008). "A chat with ... 'Y: The Last Man' director D.J. Caruso". USA Today. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Fans: No Y: The Last Man for Shia LaBeouf". ComingSoon.net. June 9, 2009. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  9. ^ Weintraub, Steve (June 21, 2009). "Exclusive: Shia LaBeouf talks Y: THE LAST MAN - Says the Project Could Still Happen". Collider. Retrieved June 22, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Alicia Keys in Y: The Last Man?". UGO.com. July 26, 2008. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  11. ^ Marshall, Rick (August 4, 2010). "D.J. Caruso 'Loosely Attached' To 'Y: The Last Man,' Still Pushing Studio For Trilogy Treatment". MTV Splash. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  12. ^ Philbrick, Jami (November 20, 2010). "EXCLUSIVE: DJ Caruso Talks Y: The Last Man, Dead Space and The Shield Movie". MovieWeb. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  13. ^ Marshall, Rick (November 10, 2010). "Louis Leterrier Confirms 'Y: The Last Man' Interest, Prefers TV Series Treatment". MTV Splash. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  14. ^ Kit, Borys (March 14, 2012). "New Line Sets Writers for Y: The Last Man". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  15. ^ Brodesser-Akner, Claude (September 9, 2012). "Y: The Last Man Now One of New Line’s First Priorities". Vulture.com. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  16. ^ "BREAKING: Dan Trachtenberg To Direct Y: The Last Man". iFanboy.com. January 9, 2013. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Exclusive Interview: David Goyer on Man of Steel". CraveOnline.com. June 14, 2013. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  18. ^ "From "Swamp Thing" to "Saga" to TV with Brian K. Vaughan". comicbookresources.com. January 22, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2014. 
  19. ^ "The 2008 Eisner Awards: 2008 Eisner Award Winners". Comic-Con.org. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 

External links[edit]