Σάββατο, 18 Μαΐου 2013

What I Think About Stuff-Y the Last Man Review



Yorick Brown, hard at work trying not to look like he’s taking a shit.

What I Think About Stuff-Y The Last Man


I don’t like Y the Last Man.

But it’s the feminist comic book epic of the decade, effenti!

Yes. I know. And I don’t like it. To be honest, I didn’t not enjoy it because it was poorly written, or because the premise offended my overly masculine sensibilities or because its art was shit or even because the comic book failed miserably at bringing its point across. This is not at all the case.


If anything, Y The Last Man excelled at bringing its point across from the very first issue, when it very boldly killed every single living male on the planet. Where it began to fail, in my opinion, was when it decided to drag on after it had set its point and reached its thematical conclusion perfectly in just three frames of issue #17, like so:

Here. The series could have ended right goddamn here and it would have been solid gold.


For those of you who have not read the comic book, a little context in order for you to understand the point that is being made: Y the Last Man deals with the simultaneous death of every being with a Y chromosome on the planet Earth. This is a disaster of such magnitude that it does not just eliminate half the human population; it also means the inevitable death of most species on Planet Earth.

This is a bold scenario to begin with, one that needs finesse and some deft juggling on the writer’s behalf in order to maintain interest and not turn this into a boring-as-fuck orgy of dialogue like the Walking Dead or a depressing-as-all-hell piece of fiction like Cormack McCarthy’s The Road.
The idea of the Last Male On Earth is one that has existed in fiction since pretty much the 50’s (with some very interesting fictional examples that you can find in this here link) but features very few intelligent examples. Most stories are either overly chauvinistic (with the last dude on Earth getting all the punani and saving everyone) or impossibly misandric (with the women making the world a picture-perfect place by virtue of all the hairy penis-owners being gone). Brian Vaughn knew this very well and I am certain that he did his absolute best to tread the middle ground and tell his own version of a very special kind of Apocalypse.

With all this information in mind, allow me to elaborate on why I hate this comic book so goddamn much…

Exhibit A: Yorick Brown is an unfunny, unlikeable dickbag



Being the Last Man on Earth is obviously NOT an easy task. With the world’s human and animal y-chromosome population dead, the Last Man suddenly becomes not only an asset that is necessary to our species’ survival, but also a cultural and political asset of unimaginable magnitude.

In short, the last man on Earth is more than just a dude: he’s a very, very valuable oddity. Imagine him as being the equivalent of the very last oil reserve left on the planet, or better yet, the last resource of potable water.

Women COULD and WOULD go to war over the Last Man, not because they’d desperately want to bone him 

To be fair, Yorrick somehow fails at that, even under the circumstances

But because owning him would suddenly turn the country that controlled him into a veritable superpower and I’m not talking the rich, nuclear-powered kind. I’m talking the kind that’s going to make it past a single generation.

That’s no small feat and it could cause any man to break down, mentally and psychologically, but would still need to deal with his responsibility (y’know, like a man). Let’s see how Yorick Brown deals with it, shall we?

Issue four, barely 12 pages after Yorick blows his cover in front of a group of feminazi separatists that want to eliminate all traces of men from the face of the Earth.

Yorick starts the story as an unwilling hero (as he ought to be; this is a daunting task that’s been set before him) who can’t bring himself to handle the weight of responsibility. But the problem is that during the 60-issue course of the narrative, YORICK DOESN’T ACTUALLY CHANGE.

Oh sure, he experiences some shifts, but during the entirety of the tale he remains a whiny little bastard who constantly gets himself and his entourage of people that wish to defend him into trouble, defending himself only occassionaly, when Brian Vaughn realizes what an unlikeable piece of shit he’s written and wants to present him in a more favorable light.

Yorick is a coward, who tries to mask his cowardice by keeping a humorous façade but the problem is that this kind of character does not work for this kind of story. While some levity is necessary for the proceedings, Yorick starts off unfunny and remains so FOREVER.

You know which version of Yorick actually worked for me? Old Man Yorick.

Octogenarian, mad-as-fuck, surrounded by monkeys Old Man Yorick.

This dude was the character I’d have wanted to see during the course of the story. He was mad, he was scared but he was cool and cynical and hurt, above all. Yes, this is the end result of 80 years of a very peculiar lifetime, but young Yorick could have been a foreshadowing of just such a character, instead of the whiny, useless bastard I had to put up with for 60 damn issues.

Exhibit B: Ham-handed sociopolitical commentary or ‘You should feel guilty for having a cock’

 



It’s painfully obvious that despite our advances, we still face a very jarring and very obvious inequality between the sexes. Women are still excluded from certain lines of work, get paid less and are discriminated socially and in the workspace.

When Brian Vaughn began writing Y The Last Man, this was one of the points he wanted to bring across: how women, once kept far from the reins of power and the absolute freedom of career choice, suddenly found themselves deprived of the boundaries set by men and had to fill in those places for themselves if they were to survive the catastrophe.

Also, getting their shit together. Because it helps.

When this is handled subtly throughout the series, thanks to moments like the one above, it’s pure goddamn genius. I got every point the writer was trying to make and I honestly understood women’s plight. But you know what the problem is?

The problem is that those subtle bits are damn few and very far between. Most of the comic book’s run (from the extremist standpoint of the Amazons to the VERY FUCKING ENDING which I will get to in a while) is set in such a way as to blatantly and shamelessly rub gender inequality in the reader’s face.

You know what, Mister Vaughn? I got it. In fact, I got your point from issue #2, when I was informed that there were no pilots because there are no women pilots. I got it when I found out that there’s only ONE manned submarine left in the world, because the only Naval Force that allowed for female crew members in a submarine was Australia’s.

But when the entire goddamn run gives me a stupid, unfitting, unfunny and useless Last Man and keeps rubbing inequality in my face, then the entire point kind of gets stuck in the mire of preachiness.
 
Exhibit C: Act of God? Moar Liek Nature’s Fuck-Up

SPOILER-HEAVY TERRITORY-PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.

So this happens:

Every dude, every boy, every male pornstar dies at the same second

We’re talking major apocalyptic shit here, right? Three and a half billion people, their lives snuffed out in a second. It’s a terrible disaster even without considering all its long term implications and as such, it begs the questions:

-Why?

-What caused it?

During the run of the series, Brian Vaughn takes the high (and more intelligent road) by presenting a series of madcap, half-baked theories proposed my madmen, scientists, religious nuts and conspiracy theorists that try to grasp at the magnitude and cause of the disaster and you know what?

It works perfectly.

When destruction rains down on humanity and we seek for reasons, then we tend to clutch at straws and formulate beliefs and ideas that will help us cope. Some of them are religious in nature, while others are pseudo-scientific. Despite their nature, they all seek to do the very same thing and that is to provide answers. This isn’t something that you see a lot of in post apocalyptic science fiction: the confusion, the post-megadeath desperation. Usually, the end of the world is explained in the very first hundred words to set up the mood and the pace. 

But Y the Last Man appeared not to do that. APPEARED NOT TO DO THAT, until it decided to pull this:

Oh fuck you, comic. Just, fuck you.

Long story short, the plague happened because someone cloned a human baby and Nature reacted like Nature has always reacted: by IMMEDIATELY KILLING EVERY MALE EVERYWHERE AT THE SAME TIME (except of course for the mad scientist that was in its epicenter and Yorick Brown, who had magic anti-bullshit plague antibodies).

This explanation is so goddamn weak, stupid and pseudo-scientific, it makes comic book logic appear like a perfectly valid and thought-out narrative process. Not ONLY does this explanation attribute divine qualities to Nature (who, as we are all aware, is an uncaring bitch that likes shit done at her own leisure), it also assumes that

  1.   Nature is dumber than dogshit, what with killing every male mammal on the planet because one crazy Chinese fuck cloned a baby and
  2.   She obviously also said ‘Oops, my bad’ and took it back, after she realized that one dude was spared the plague which leads to the conclusion that...
  3. This only happened within the context of the narrative so Mr. Vaughn could reinforce his  point.


    The plague of Y the Last Man, this unspeakably destructive driving force, is only there as an excuse to reinforce the preachy feminist horse-shit that the comic book peddles during its entire run and ruins its very last chance to save its goddamn narrative.

Exhibit C: Alter Yesod is a cheap knockoff Her Starr with tits

Yes, honey, whatever helps you masturbate.

Alter Yesod is immediately painted as this rough, ragged woman in one of the worlds’ most experienced and ruthless armies. Her life is marred by tragedy and her purpose is singular, mad and ultimately, self-destructive. 

Oh and she’s also privy to some inexplicably inexhaustible resources.




She’s Herr Starr, except way less funny and far less driven.

Alter Yesod is a boring fucking antagonist that (like Yorrick) keeps getting rubbed into our faces by the comic book in the hope that she will stick. There is no real motivation or rationale behind Alter’s M.O. From what we gather during the comic book, her purpose is to save Israel, but also not. Then, her purpose becomes revenge. Then, it becomes saving the Last Man and finally, it is revealed that her true goal had been suicide all along.

It’s painfully apparent that Alter was supposed to be Yorrick’s darker counterpart, a brooding creature that snuffed out life where Yorrick was supposed to preserve it but you know what?

Neither of thsese characters represents this or gets it done. Yorrick is useless and Alter is moustache-twirlingly evil and vacuous. Hell, I hated the feminazi bitch Victoria better than I did Alter and she was just a straw-woman!

She also took an axe to the face early on and didn’t chew the goddamn scenery for 60 issues.

Exhibit D: The Unconvincing Romantic Subplot

Sorry, puked in my mouth a little.

I’ll be very brief on this because I’d hate to drag this on for longer than I ought to:

The romantic subplot between Agent 355 and Yorrick doesn’t work, because women aren’t really attracted to incompetent idiots who blunder into shit from which they need to constantly be dragged out of. Unresolved Oedipal syndrome or not, no woman wants you because she can be your goddamn mom.

Agent 355 is the only character in the series that is not an insufferable cunt, a straw-woman or a set-piece. She’s a capable person that kicks metric tons of ass and in many ways, she’s the only reason I kept reading the damn series.

But when Brian Vaughn just turns around and tells me ‘she loves Yorrick now and always has’ I can only say: no. No, fuck you.

Agent 355 put up with this asshole forever. He never did one thing straight, or grew as a person, except marginally. They have absolutely fucking nothing to connect them, adventuring career or not. If she wants to fuck him because he’s the last cock on the planet she’s more than welcome to (God knows she’s fucking earned him) but what is it exactly that draws her to him? The comic doesn’t ever adequately explain. For every single good or competent thing that Yorrick achieves, he performs two epic-level blunders that undo it, forcing Agent 355 to clean up his mess.

The romantic subplot is horseshit and it’s obviously only there so the readers would shut up about a possible love affair. If not, then I am mightily disappointed in the fact that I got to see the series' weakest, sorriest character hook up for no other reason than sappy narrative convenience.


Exhibit E: The setting makes for better stories than the story itself.

Supermodel-turned gravedigger. A way better character than Yorick Brown.

The Fish and Bicycle Company. The grave-diggers. Hero Brown. These are secondary characters that barely involve themselves with the madness that is Y the Last Man’s main story line
AND THEY ARE SO, SO MUCH BETTER.

They are clearly defined characters, having straightforward awesome adventures and dealing with problems that address current issues while avoiding horsheshit preachiness. 

And that’s what Y should have been in the first place: intead of the adventures of Yorrick Asshat and the troupe of women burdened with him, it should always have been the stories of EVERYDAY WOMEN trying to make a living and rebuild the post-plague world!

All in all, Y the Last Man is a wonderful story idea turned into a couch feminist’s wet fucking dream. It was a giant waste of my time and wholly unworthy of its hype.

Some better alternatives to Y the Last Man:

Here are some much Better examples of comic book feminist fiction that don’t bust your balls and have much more likeable characters.


The Ballad of Halo Jones is the story of a woman who wanted to get away from the everyday drudgery of her crappy life and carve a place in the Universe for herself. She crosses the Galaxy, fights in an intergalactic war and changes goddamn history every step of the way.



Promethea is the tale of a Goddess reborn in modern times, as a superhero in a Universe where language is magic is language and everything’s awesome and kick-ass. Sure it gets pretentious at least a couple times during its run, but it’s a kick-ass read!

Try those ones, son. They cost less, are a ton more fun to read and way less a waste of fucking time than goddamn Y the Last Man.


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