When a mysterious plague wipes out all the male species on earth, Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand find themselves alone in a world full of women. Yorick, accompanied by the mysterious Agent 355 and the brilliant Dr. Allison Mann, set off to find his fiancée Beth. The trio run into more trouble than they ever thought possible as the search for true love turns into a search for why only one smart-mouthed magician and his monkey are the only two creatures with a Y-chromosome left alive.
When the series started, Vaughan was an up-and-coming writer with a number of Marvel and DC credits lined up. But as soon as Y hit, Vaughan was catapulted to the top of the heap and became a fan-favorite writer, able to pick just about any project he wanted. While he did his fair share of work-for-hire on books like Ultimate X-Men and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vaughan prided himself on focusing on newer creations like Runaways for Marvel and excellent creator-owned pieces like Ex Machina and The Pride of Baghdad. His pride and joy, however, continued to be Y: The Last Man.
Vaughan became a master of cliffhanger endings that drove fans into a frenzy of anticipation for the next issue. He kept a pace and a focus for the story he set out to tell, and Y became the flagship title of the prestigious Vertigo line at DC Comics, picking up where other acclaimed titles such as Preacher and Transmetropolitan left off.
In an industry where the majority of the fans are males, a comic-book world inhabited almost solely by strong, believable female characters was a tough task to pull off, but Vaughan and artist Guerra took the challenge and struck gold with it. Not only that, but Vaughan was able to showcase any strange, obscure pop culture reference he stumbled across in his research and managed to make it work each time.
Guerra’s illustrations were another element that gave the series an edge. Her character designs and the emotions she captured were simply stunning, adding another dimension to an already impressive. Having a female co-creator probably made Vaughan’s job a lot easier, too, since he always had a woman’s opinion handy for advice on such a female-centered title.
While Vaughan said he had the ending mapped out from the get-go, anyone who has written a story knows that wrapping it up can be the hardest part, and comic books are no different than long-running television shows in that regard. The pressure to end on a high note must have been unbelievable, yet Vaughan handled it with the perfect balance of emotion, humor and class. The final issue leaves ambiguity, but the main characters are all addressed and, as we learn what happens, it’s like hearing a story about long-gone friends. All the pieces finally fit together, a satisfying reward for longtime fans who have been burned by more than one bad comic book ending in their lives.
While it’s always disappointing to see something great come to an end, there’s a bright side. Vaughan still has an excellent comics series that’ll be around for a few more years (Ex Machina) and another high-profile writing job that takes up most of his time (a little television series called Lost). It’s a good thing at least someone working on that show knows the value of a solid resolution.
Y: THE LAST MAN Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, Vertigo