I’ve recently finished an amazing comic book called “Y: The last man”. “Y” as in the Y chromosome. It’s the story of a man who finds himself the only survivor of an apocalypse – but only one that affected all the men on the planet. A gendercide.
Him and his pet capucin monkey called “Ampersand” (lol) go on a journey to first aide doctor Alison Mann in creating a clone for him that will save the world and to also find his girlfriend/fiancée Beth to whom he proposed just when the plague hit.
Why am I mentioning this comic on “International Women’s Day”?
Because feminism is a strong voice in these comics. Anti-feminism too.
In this day and age there are many positions that share both female and male employees. But there are some jobs that most women don’t have the body for. I don’t think it’s anti-feminist to say so just realistic. To be a feminist means to literally believe men and women should share equal rights and opportunities. However, abilities is completely different ball game. Most women do not have the physical ability to lift, pull and move as much as men can. And sure, there are plenty of men who are not able to do these things as well, but there are at least men who are built to do them.
A world like Y the Last Man would be a struggle. The balance of power will go from being in the hands of men, like it is currently, and into the hands of women. And although we have more opportunity then we used to we still have a long way to come. But I found Y the Last Man empowering because they came across women who were trying to survive in a disheveled world. And they were surviving. They just had to man-up, pardon the pun, and become more heartless and cold. That isn’t putting men up on a pedestal at all, in my opinion. That’s showing women are better, but we definitely have the option of becoming more like men as well.
Because it’s both a cautionary tale of what would happen if no men were around to abuse women or to tell them what they can or cannot do and also what would happen when women pack together. They are still evil and domineering or scared and looking for comfort. Male robots are a thing now. Women that wear glued pieces of hair as beard are a thing now, taking steroids and hormones to change their voice and grow muscle.
It’s a funny part in the issue where “Y” gets caught by a reporter and made to undress at gunpoint to prove he’s a male.
Daughters of the Amazon appear and are burning down everything male-related including sperm-banks and defacing the Washington Tower as a phalic symbol (that we all know it really is). Yep, that’s his willy. Truly uncensored. And non-threatening in “Game of thrones” style as it’s nice and small and un-erect.
The picture gets published and no-one believes it to be true – photoshopped they think. Only the boy’s mother silently cries happy tears seeing that her foolish boy is still alive and well, half a world away.
But what really affected me were the stats thrown into the story about woman inequality. And in 2002 it was still a massive gender gap between the sexes.
The concept allows Vaughan and Guerra (the writers) to examine the fundamental power structures in society that favour and are dominated by men. In a single page before the start of issue two, key statistics are summarised which bring home the prevalence of men in key positions in important industries: 85% of all government representatives, 495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs and almost 100% of the leaders of certain religions are (were) men. It also underlines how vulnerable women are in a world where many of them have little experience or confidence of running society.
There is a refreshing range of complex female characters, from the easy-going to the outright crazy. To keep the action from lagging Vaughan switches between various character plotlines and timeframes at regular intervals and at moments that accentuate tension. Guerra’s artwork is clean, evocative and features a range of realistic body types, and José Marzán Jr’s inking is clear and well-judged. The result is a story that’s driven by an intriguing mystery and engaging characters.
Underlying the story is a consistent analysis of the impact of men on women’s lives, be it through patriarchal power structures or the dominant cultural meme that encourages women to look to men to lead and save them
What I liked:
Women’s gender identity seems to change as the story progresses. Stewardesses land planes, super-models find out that peddling their bodies for profit is not as good as doing something better for the world, like ridding a stadium of half-burned corpses. Once the brain-washing Daughter of the Amazon Victoria is killed and all the women are re-programmed, we still get the odd new type of “racism” against women who want to go trans-gender.
I liked Yorick. Be it that he was only good as an escape artist, he really shines through after 711’s intervention with the whip 😉 She really cured him of his desire to kill himself and that therapy would have worked for some other desperate souls in the series if 711 wasn’t immediately killed…
I liked the Russian chick (Natalia) with her broken English (She’s even joking in Russian with them that her broken English is a thousand times better than their in-existing Russian skills). I was laughing every time she opened her mouth (on paper, in a bubble).
“You mean this male human breathed air exiting through a woman vagina” she exclaims when seeing the baby boy the astronaut woman birthed on Earth.
And I liked Agent 355. I kept on thinking she’s like Michone from the Walking Dead (or Michone is like her). She is your ideal secret agent/babysitter. She constantly denies being in love with Yorick, even after admitting in a drug-induced sleep that she loved him.
She corrects herself time and time again, claiming that her affection for Y was nothing more than a leopard feels for the baby she’s taking care of. She even goes as far as to get it on with Alison, just to prove she does not like men. But she does and her story arc is close to amazing.
I loved the geeky Alison – who goes in an all-out “race to birth a clone” with her father, and we only get to see her smiling once – when flying out a kite with her new lover. She’s a lesbian even before the plague hit and she had a crush on 355 which gets cured slowly when she finds a new love. Her and 355’s bond stays on and their Pig-latin is amazing.
What I would have liked:
A happy end. It’s not much to ask, the ending I got was kinda happy but it left a sour aftertaste. The world was all right, they were making clones of Yorik and 60 years later, Y was in a straightjacket locked in a palace. The world was filled with women, mostly clones of other women that lived and men were rare, about 60 of them in total.
In the last chapter, Yorik performs his last escape, disappearing into the crowd of women.
I don’t think Yorik was ever happy after 355 died. He loved her and no-one else came close (and I don’t think they could come close to this true wonder-woman).
Imagine that, go around the world for five years, be faithful to your girlfriend from across the sea, be engulfed in women who would do anything for a man (or kill him on sight) and when he finally founds Beth, after a night of passion and finding out she wants to truly marry him, also find out that before the plague hit, she wanted to break up with him. But now, she wanted to marry him. While this hits home, he realizes that the one he really loved all along was 355, his vision in the 711 torture scheme. His reason to live.
As he runs back to her, all the things come together as Beth, his second-Beth with whom he had a one-night stand in a cemetery which produced Beth Jr. and a platoon of Israeli women, a Russian with a cosmonaut baby-boy born in isolation get together in one room. Sounds like a lot but this was a finale that was unavoidable.
And 355 dies in his arms. Shot in the head just after she whispered to him her true name.
I cried 😦 again…
What I didn’t like
Well, the reason for the plague – seriously? A disturbance in the force caused by the birth of a clone? Really? Meh.
All in all, a great read and if you are not put off by waaaay -too independent women, this book is for you.