Sunday, February 03, 2008

Y: The last issue

I'm not sure when the last time was that I was so saddened by the end of a comics series, or when I had this much emotional investment in a series over the entire course of its run. My favorite series tend to be finite ones launched and carried throughout by a single writer (and often a single penciler as well): Transmetropolitan, The Maxx, Christopher Priest's Black Panther, Peter David's Supergirl, Promethea. Other than Transmet, though, I don't think I maintained the same level of personal attachment to those series all the way through to the end; a few went through creative declines and/or constant rumors of cancellation before coming to a close. But Y: The Last Man (written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn for the most part by Pia Guerra) stayed at almost the same exact level of quality throughout its 60-issue run, and I was almost always most excited to read it when it showed up in my weekly stack of comics. I probably took it for granted during these later issues, but reading this week's finale really brought home what a great series it was and how much I will miss it.

I wish I had time to re-read the entire series before tackling this issue; I recently traded in most of my single issues for collected editions, so it would have been particularly convenient. But I don't have time for that, although I'd like to make time in the future. So I did have to strain a little to remember which Beth was which, and what the name of the Russian cosmonaut was. But this isn't an issue about resolving plot points or tying up loose ends. Really, even the most recent arc wasn't about that, following as it did the supposed explanation of what caused the plague that wiped out the male population. This issue is basically an epilogue to the series, fast-forwarding to 60 years in the future, and offering a few glimpses of the intervening time. It's a nice way to wrap up a long-running serial, although I think it's more common on TV than in comics (the surprisingly good finale of Dawson's Creek springs to mind).

Although last issue's death of Agent 355 was a bit of a shocker and put a definitive period to one of the book's ongoing storylines, Vaughan doesn't offer any surprise developments or stunning revelations in this issue. We find out the final fates of certain characters, while the fates of others are left open. Most importantly, we see how the world evolves as Yorick grows old, and it's neither a reversion to the pre-plague status quo nor some bleak dystopia. Clearly no magic solution to the lack of males ever presents itself, but progress is slowly made, thanks largely to the efforts of the characters over the last 59 issues. Yorick in many ways saves the world, yet he loses two different loves of his life, and so he cuts himself off from the civilization that he helped rebuild. It's a sad ending for him but also a hopeful one, as in the last splash page we see he's off on some new, unknown adventure, never comfortable with his role as the savior of anything.

Guerra as always does excellent work here, and her artwork has always been low-key and realistic and thus rarely dazzling, but she deserves a lot of credit for what made this series work. The zany sci-fi concept never seemed less than believable because all the characters and everything that happened to them looked real. Even this issue's city of the future is understated while still looking plausibly futuristic. I hope she gets another assignment worthy of her talents, and I hope that Vaughan doesn't spend too much time working in Hollywood and give up on comics. I imagine it will be a while before another series comes along that grabs me so immediately and doesn't let go for more than five years.

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