16 April 2009

Y: The Last Man, by a whole bunch of people

A mysterious plague kills all the men in the world... Except one.

If this doesn't sound particularly appealing to you, then we have something in common. But what if I tell you that the last man alive is a fairly average guy named Yorick, an English major who has spent most of his time since graduation learning magic tricks - particularly escape art, a la Houdini? What if I add that he's kind of pathetically in love with his girlfriend, who's doing some work in Australia when the plague hits, and mostly wants to track her down (what? The two of us can repopulate the world! Leave me alone!). If this is more appealing (especially theEnglish major part) then we have something else in common.

I've only read the first couple books in the series (I think there are 10 total, but don't worry - they're all super quick reads, an hour tops per book), but I'm totally hooked. The art isn't particularly thrilling (did I mention these are graphic novels?), but certainly gets the job done. 

What's fantastic about the books is the way in which they subtly explore the intricacies of the problem from a number of different angles, including some aspects that really hadn't occurred to me. For instance, almost all the religious leaders in the world are men. So what would happen to organized religion in a woman's world? Also much appreciated is the text's global perspective - it's not just how AMERICA handles the crisis, but how the WORLD does - always refreshing, but especially in graphic novels, which tend to be somewhat obnoxiously US-centric. There's also a lot of amusing mirroring of various literary works, a kind of play on various hypothetical post-armageddon scenarios from literature or film, which is really entertaining if you're as nerdy as I am. Ultimately though, what makes the books so compelling are the characters, who are warm, friendly, funny, and generally likeable people who you're honestly interested in. Lots of fun. Highly recommended.

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