‘Y: The Last Man’: The Wrapup, By Kurt Loder

The great comic-book series comes to an end. Next stop, Hollywood?

After more than five years of roaming through an all-girl world filled with raging Amazons, sultry drug smugglers, kickass ninja-women and the threat of “death by chick flick,” young aspiring magician Yorick Brown finally comes to the end of his journey today in Issue Number 60 of “Y: The Last Man.” Does the final installment of this madly imaginative comic-book series measure up to all that’s gone before — the international action, the scientific exotica, the wise-cracking sexual jousts? Yes, it does. It also has an unexpectedly haunting emotional charge, but let us say no more about that.

In the first issue of “Y: The Last Man,” back in the summer of 2002, the series’ creators, comics virtuoso Brian K. Vaughan and ace illustrator Pia Guerra, set forth a simple but resonant premise: What would happen if every man in the world — in fact, every living creature with a Y chromosome — were suddenly to expire? Well, you can imagine the mess; airplanes falling from the sky, football games halted in mid-kick, the Vatican transformed overnight into a nunnery. But would this be such a bad thing? In “Y,” many of the surviving women were bummed, of course, especially those who’d just gotten boob jobs. Others, however, saw the demise of the male half of the species as a long-overdue liberation from rapists, dictators and serial killers — in short, the dawn of a better day.

Wandering through this strange new world were Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand. They appeared to be the only two males to have survived the great die-off — “the plague,” as the women of the world now called it. They were thus objects of instant interest to female political and military leaders looking to repopulate their unmanned countries. Soon, Yorick was reluctantly embarked on a mission to find the source of the plague, and possibly an antidote. He was accompanied by Agent 355, a shadowy government spy, and Dr. Allison Mann, an expert on asexual reproduction. Hot on their trail was an ever-swelling number of unladylike pursuers: right-wing vigilantes, an Israeli hit team, even Yorick’s own sister, who’d been brainwashed by a cult of man-hating women warriors. A lot of arcane information was also strewn along their path about rodent lifespans, naval minutia, the theory of morphic resonance (think Jung) and the Culper Ring (America’s first spy organization, formed under George Washington). Believe me, I’m only skimming the surface here.

It’s been a wild ride, and now that it’s over, “Y: The Last Man”
would seem ready for its Hollywood close-up. The series was optioned by New Line Cinema two years ago, and Vaughan himself, an NYU film school graduate, turned out a script for the proposed movie. (Finding the time to do this couldn’t have been easy: Over the course of the “Y” years, he has also launched two other extraordinary series, “Runaways” and “Ex Machina,” and he currently works on “Lost.”) Then another writer, Jeff Vintar (“I, Robot”), took a pass at it. And when D.J. Caruso signed on to direct the picture, he brought in Carl Ellsworth, who’d co-written “Disturbia” for him, to weigh in on “Y” as well. But then came the current writers’ strike, which has left the project in a developmental fog bank. Vaughan doesn’t seem too upset.

“It might be fun to see a live-action version of our characters,” he said. “But I never saw our series as glorified storyboards. Comics are obviously a unique medium with lots of strengths that film and television will never have, and I only ever envisioned ‘Y’ as a comic. So it’s always a little disheartening when people tell me that they’ll be crushed if ‘Y’ never becomes a movie or an HBO series or whatever, like the comic was just the means to an end. The only destination that ever mattered to me was Issue Number 60.”

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