Sunday Slugfest – Y: The Last Man #26

A comic review article by: Craig Johnson, Jason Cornwell, Michael Deeley, Jim Kingman, Shaun Manning, Jason Sacks
"Hero's Journey"

Jason Cornwell

The book takes a step backwards to look at key events in the life of Hero Brown, in an effort to reveal how she changed from a loving sister into a man-hating Amazon who was looking to kill Yorick. We see Hero was alienated from her family when they saw her throwing away her life for the love of a man, and when the plague hit Hero was left with nothing to live for. It was in this state that she was found by the persuasive leader of a group of Amazons.

I've always been a fan of the stories that take a step back to examine the events that shaped the life of an important character, and Hero was certainly deserving of the attention, as she's a key figure in Yorick's world, and her transformation from the anguished woman grieving her dead boyfriend, into a man-hating Amazon who was looking to kill Yorick needed to be explained. For the most part this issue does a nice job of connecting the dots, as we see she was pulled into the Amazons during a moment in her life when she was at her lowest, and this issue's final pages make it pretty clear that the hooks were sunk pretty deep, as the late Amazon leader is still trying to direct Hero's actions. In fact if nothing else this issue succeeds at making Hero into a more engaging character, as one can't dismiss her as a crazed Amazon who is looking to kill her brother, but rather she's a mentally tortured soul, who is trying to do the right thing but is tormented by the brainwashing that she underwent, which might overpower her good intentions. I also have to say I found the speech about the Queen's emergence as the most powerful piece on the chess board to be a fascinating bit of trivia, and it makes perfect sense that the Amazon leader would latch onto information like this to support her cause. I also enjoyed the return visit to the plot elements that were left behind on Yorick's journey, as one has to love Natalya's broken English, and her inability to keep a secret.

Pia Guerra is instrumental in selling the realism of this series, as it's very easy to buy into this nightmarish vision of the world when the art doesn't disrupt the illusion with visuals that project a fantasy style vision. Now this results in art that isn't overly flashy, but it's certainly worthy of closer study as there's a wealth of little details, from Yorick's childhood toy in the opening pages, to the Thanksgiving sequence where it's clear they're all dressed in their Sunday best. The visual impact of the scenes in the immediate aftermath of the plague are also very powerful, as the scene perfectly captures Hero's anguish, and the change in temperament when she comes to grips with her loss. There's also a solid display of emotions during the reunion scene Hero has with her mother, and the last page image does an effective job of conveying the madness still lurks beneath the surface.

Michael Deeley

I’m giving this issue two ratings for the two groups of people who will read this book. If you’ve been reading the entire series since issue #1, you’ll get a lot of questions answered and the return of a long-missing character, so that’s for you. For those of you relatively new to the series, you’ll be confused. The only way to clear up that confusion is to explain everything that’s happened so far. So you might as well just read the whole series. So that’s for you.

In this issue, we learn a little bit more about Hero, the older sister to Yorick, the titular “Last Man”. We meet her childhood imaginary friend, see an argument with her family (her father makes his first appearance in the series), her rough days after the disaster, and what she’s done since Marrisville, OH. We also learn the gender of the newborn baby of the female astronaut.

Reading this made me want more. I want an entire issue devoted to Hero, her childhood, her family conflicts, and all the things that shaped her into the woman she is. I suspect there’s more to her dislike of her grandpa than his sexist attitude. Her “deprogramming” of the Amazon’s doctrine would also make for an interesting issue, as it seems it didn’t work completely.

Side note: The Amazons, the militant woman’s group out to eradicate all trace of man’s influence on Earth, has also targeted sperm banks, hermaphrodites, and transsexuals. In short anything with sperm. Haven’t any of the members asked where the babies will come from? This must have come up at a meeting:
“We must finish what Mother Nature started and erase the mistake called men!”
“But, how will we get pregnant without them?”
That’s the kind of dissension that could lead to the dissolution of a group.

Back to this issue: It fills in some gaps between the previous storylines, but there’s precious little of Hero and what makes her tick. It’s still great to read. There’s just too little here. Like eating only one bite of a Snickers bar.

Jim Kingman

This is not a jump-on issue. While it focuses exclusively on a key supporting character, filling in a lot of the blanks regarding her personal development and connecting the dots of her appearances in earlier installments, it’s not new-reader friendly. New readers will have to fall back on twenty-five wonderful issues or collected trade paperbacks to catch up. Better late than never, I assure you, because this book is worth it. I’ve been with it from the start, and this is the first issue to compel me to go back and reread all the story arcs from issue one to the present. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon near the end of summer.

Yorick, the last man of the book’s title, appears only in flashback. His current story will be picked up again next issue. Meanwhile, Yorick’s sister, Hero, is given the spotlight. We follow her from childhood to teenage angst to young adulthood; to where she was the day the ‘plague’ struck (it killed all males on the planet); how she became an ‘Amazon’; her imprisonment, release and reunion with her mother; and finally to her present search for her brother. The story ends with quite the cliffhanger. Will she give in to the voices in her head and kill the only male baby on Earth? And what will she do when she finally locates her brother, the last man on Earth?

Pia Guerra’s artwork may first appear a little bright and relaxed for such a serious storyline, but it fits perfectly. Her rural landscapes are exquisite. Brian Vaughan is making his strong writing skills known on many books, notably Ex Machina, but Y: The Last Man is where he really shines. The man knows how to pace a story, and he is a true master of the cliffhanger. One month between issues is just too long!

Shaun Manning

This one-off story, “Hero’s Journey,” catches up on the adventures of Yorick’s sister from before the plague to the present, revisiting previous episodes of the present, revisiting previous episodes of Y where Hero’s path crosses her unique brother’s. Thrill to a young girl’s childhood with Queen Victoria! Weep as she bears witness to man’s extinction! Wince as she severs her left breast! All this, and another clue about the plague’s nature.

“Hero’s Journey” is perhaps not the strongest issue of Y: The Last Man, but it is a fascinating alternate perspective by another human being who is experiencing the post-plague world in a unique manner. Hero’s been a militant Daughter of the Amazon, but she also knows that at least one man has survived, and that man is her brother. She’s struggled with the impulse to ensure feminine dominance by executing the “last oppressor,” but stayed her hand because of family bonds. Now, though, we get more of her motivation, the influences that led her to the Amazons in the first place, and how that influence has shaped everything that came after. Here’s a hint: seems Hero’s a bit schizophrenic. Or possessed, but it all comes down to the same thing.

Vaughn’s script is noticeably less funny than his standard post-apocalyptic fare, but there are a few gems. BKV’s ear for dialogue is such that, when writing foreign characters, he knows exactly how “off” their syntax should be–this is rare, as most writers will just give Russians and the like stilted, clipped sentences or have them botch phrases entirely. What is amusing about this issue, though, is that Vaughn takes it a step further. Natalya, the Russian scientist looking after Y: The Last Baby from the astronaut arc, is exceedingly agitated at Hero’s gun-totin’ arrival; as a consequence, her English suffers, in very believable ways. Bravo.

Pia Guerra’s art has been a strong part of this book’s tone, in which really nasty things happen in just about every issue, but the characters retain a sense of humor. Guerra’s art, then, is light-hearted, even a little cartoony, but is colored in dull and muted tones. She is also quite adept at portraying strength or weakness, kindness or deception, simply through a character’s posture.

As Y: The Last Man approaches the half-way mark, there will be fewer and fewer chances for new readers to jump in and still get the full effect of the drama. This issue is one of them. The creators have promised to reveal the mystery of Yorick’s survival in the next arc, so this is the time to sample and, after sampling, go back and pick up the TPBs. DC’s been keeping up pretty regularly with this series, so one should be able to fill in most of what’s gone before in the collected editions.

Jason Sacks

"Hero's Journey" shows several events in the life of the sister of Yorick, the last man on Earth. We see Hero, the sister, go through a series of life experiences both before and after the event that killed almost every man on Earth, each one giving us a deeper understanding of who she really is. She emerges as an emotionally complex character, and each event seems to build on the one that came before.

Writer Brian Vaughn does a terrific job with what must have been a real challenge to him. The keys to Hero's character are shown to us readers as vignettes without narration. Instead of spelling out what readers should think about events, we are left to form our own opinions, find our own patterns of behavior. Vaughn trusts both himself and his readers to fill in the unexplored gaps, and the story is much stronger for that.

As always, the art by Pia Guerra is wonderful in her typical clean-line style.

Y #26 might not advance the comic's overall plot by much. I mostly read this saga in TPB form, so I'm not really sure where this issue fits in the larger scheme of things. But as a standalone piece, this issue was really a pleasure.

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