Ymagyne, yf you wyll, a world wythout men.That is the premise of Y: The Last Man, a Vertigo comic book that, at some point, will be a movie as well...maybe. Written by Brian K. Vaughan (creator and original author for Runaways and Ex Machina), it tells the story of Yorick, a New York City escape artist who, along with his pet monkey Ampersand (&), somehow stayed alive while all other male mammals, from rats to giraffes to New York City Hall employees, suddenly died.Being the Last of His Kind, or, in his case, sex, would be a good thing for an egotistical Lothario, but Yorick has in mind nothing but finding his Perfect Girlfriend, Beth, who was traveling in Australia on the day of the disaster. Complicating this quest, Washington DC is going through a war between Democratic senators and Republican widows, while the rest of the Eastern Seaboard is suffering from attacks by the Daughters of the Amazon, a female supremacy gang lead by Victoria, a charismatic but insane chess prodigy.In the rest of the world, Israel (having a considerable contingent of female troops) is now a belligerent military superpower while Australia (one of the few nations to use female submariners) rules the Pacific. Yorick's efforts at reuniting with Beth, finding the cause of the Gendercide and having himself and Ampersand cloned are repeatedly foiled as he, a scientist and a secret agent travel to California and beyond in a series of adventures which nicely subvert the standard After the End type of plot.The comic, drawn in realistic western style by Pia Guerra and written by Brian K Vaughan, is famous for refusing to be an Author Tract even when its plot is just asking for it.Help out with the character sheet.
This comic book contains examples of:
Action Girls: 355, Hero and almost every other "action" character in the series.
Action Survivor: Yorick starts the series with no combat or survival training at all and is frequently forced to rely on 355 for protection and Dr. Mann for explanations.
The scene happens with a random woman shopkeeper who refuses to sell her capuchin monkey to Toyota (who believes it is Ampersand). The capuchin is later shown in this pose with the unlucky shopkeeper's head.
Yorick does actually hold a skull in the catacombs of Paris while contemplating that one can not tell the difference between men and women with just bones.note Although in reality an anatomist can do just that.
Amazon Brigade: Every armed group/organization by default. The best example is probably the IDF special forces led by Alter; the actual Daughters of the Amazon are fairly disorganized and gang-like.
Answer Cut: "What's long and hard and full of semen?" Next panel: A submarine.
Apocalypse How: A large portion of the drama throughout the series is driven by the question of whether how severe an apocalypse it's going to be. At the very least, it's going to be a societal disruption (civilization is forced to undergo massive changes, but ultimately survives), and at worst it's going to be a slow-motion version of outright human extinction. The Distant Finale reveals that it is the former.
Applied Phlebotinum: How Yorick survived the plague. Turns out it is handling his pet monkey's feces that saved him. How the monkey survived in the beginning? That is another question...
Artistic License - Biology: Aside from the central concept itself being fictional, the story never really addresses the catastrophic environmental effect it would have if half of the mammals in the world died at once and the rest could not reproduce.
Artistic License - Linguistics: Yorick has an English degree, so he's prone to correcting people's grammar, but in doing so he repeats several common grammar myths, including not splitting infinitives and not ending sentences with prepositions. Neither of these are actual grammar rules, which someone with an English degree would know.
A lot of people (mostly main characters) recover from their wounds really quickly. Even considering that Dr. Mann is, well, a doctor, it shouldn't be that simple.
In mental health: Yorick becomes a Death Seeker, so 355 stages an intervention. Yorick's "therapist" decides to kidnap Yorick. She drugs him, humiliates him, insults him, and threatens to rape him. Then she encourages him to commit suicide. Somehow, instead of giving Yorick more problems, this technique actually cures him of his death wish. He doesn't even suffer any psychological side-effects in the aftermath. To top it off, this technique was something which the Marquis de Sade came up with.
Artistic License - Religion: The Swiss Guard don't wear the multicolor, striped uniforms and halberds outside of ceremony. When they're actually performing security, they're equipped like any other modern security force.
Badass Israeli: Alter and many of her troops. Because Israel has mandatory military service for all its women and allows women into combat roles, it's natural that Israel would become a disproportionately significant military power in Lady Land.
Bait-and-Switch Lesbians: Inverted in that the woman Yorick spends the entire series looking for ends up falling for his sister after he dumps her.
Bilingual Bonus: Anyone proficient or fluent in a Slavic language will be able to at least partially understand Natalya.
Bittersweet Ending: Humanity survives, but 355 has died, and Yorick is trapped in an unhappy marriage his whole life for the sake of humanity. He's forced to euthanize an aged Ampersand and spends decades mourning his loss by trying to clone a replacement. When we last see him, he's finally "escaped" his life.
Blah Blah Blah: A flashback to 355's teen years shows her sitting, minding her own business while two guys talk like this in the background. Then one of them calls her the n-word and things get painful (for them).
Bond One-Liner: Plenty are used, and subverted. In one story arc, when Dr. Matsumori is about to kill his daughter with an injection, he gets out "It's funny, the English word for mercy killing is..." and, well, suffice it to say he does not get to finish. 355 is more successful, though: "Yeah, I guess I got the short end of the stick..."
Book Ends: Yorick in a straitjacket, asking someone if they knew Elvis had a twin brother.
Yorick has a gas mask that he carried around for the entire series. He originally used it because he thought the gendercide was some kind of biological terrorist attack, but after he realized he was immune he still carried it around so he could cover his face to keep his masculine features hidden. In the penultimate issue of the series, it fulfilled its designed function by letting him shrug off gas grenades.
In the Distant Finale: Yorick is bald, a possibility that Yorick angsted over earlier in the series.
But What About the Astronauts?: The worldwide gendercide did not reach two men aboard the International Space Station, and in the third book they were forced to return to Earth after their technology started breaking down.
Waverly, the supermodel-turned graveyard-keeper, recognizes the President as one of the women who stole her truck once.
Yorick gets trapped in a pair of "unpickable" handcuffs. Much later in the series, he flashes back to a situation in which a magic shop owner is about to sell him keys to unlock the unpickable cuffs, but gets interrupted.
Country Matters: The leader of the Amazons gets called the C-word by a girl she has taken prisoner and calmly explains the origins of the word and claims its origins do not justify how it has come to be used as the most offensive swear in the English language. Then, after the girl calls her a bitch, she orders Hero to "kill this whore".
Death by Irony: Alter's parents believed in a superstition of never speaking her true name aloud in fear that the angel of death would be able to find her and take her life. Ironic because when Agent 355 reveals her real name to Yorick she is murdered seconds later by Alter herself. Alter reveals what her real name is Yedida shortly after this, explicitly asking the angel of death to take her, but doesn't get her wish.
Alter reveals herself to be one in the very end, which was her motivation for her evil deeds all along.
Also, 711. Upon being shot to death, she says, "Heh...thanks."
Depopulation Bomb: Just shy of fifty percent of the population killed off with the initial Gendercide, and millions more from the resulting plane/car crashes, environmental disasters (Several Russian nuclear reactors have apparently gone critical without proper maintenance), food shortages, etc. It affects animals as well.
Disc One Final Boss: Victoria, the leader of the Amazons, looks like a main antagonist, but she gets killed early on. From thereafter, the Amazons are a substantially reduced threat. They are replaced by the IDF.
Distant Finale: A sixty-year time skip. Yorick ends up a bitter old man, who does not even get along with his own daughter. Or his clones.
Double Meaning Title: A triple meaning: Y for Yorick, the Y (male) chromosome, and also as in 'Why is he the last man?', a recurring theme of the story.
Dramatic Gun Cock: Most confrontations involving guns will have at least one of these.
Dr. Jerk: Dr Allison Mann finds Yorick infuriating and has no qualms about venting her frustrations. However, she admits that she will miss Yorick when she chooses to stay in China while he and 355 continue to Paris.
Fan-Disliked Explanation: An Invoked Trope, when Yorick calls Doctor Mann's father's explanation for the gendercide "vaguely unsatisfying". The characters (and the comic) do not give that explanation any more weight than the other theories.
Fanservice: It is a cast filled with women. What, do you expect them to make all of them ugly? Of course, Yorick has plenty of nude scenes too.
Gang of Hats: Taken to the extreme, with a ritual mastectomy as initiation.
Gendercide: All male mammals get wiped out by a mysterious plague at the very beginning. A number of possible explanations were given throughout the course of the book, but none are definitive answers. The author has stated that one of the offered explanations is the correct one, but he refuses to specify which, and every wild theory is potentially correct.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: One of the Beths has a cool scar running across her face. And of course the Daughters of the Amazon have one that's (debatably) historically accurate for proud warrior women who were also accurate archers: voluntary mastectomies. But the Daughters remove the left breast while real Amazons supposedly removed the right.
Honor Before Reason: The two surviving male astronauts shove the female astronaut out first when they crash, dying in the process, even though their lives are worth infinitely more than hers. The survivor even lampshades it.
The Immune: Yorick and Ampersand, who (for most of the series) are the only male mammals known to be immune to the plague.
Incestuous Casting: In-Universe: Yorick and Hero were cast as Romeo and Juliet in high-school. They flipped a coin to see who would drop out; Yorick tried to use one of his two-headed coins, but Hero caught him - and dropped out anyway, in spite of how much she wanted to do it.
Infodump: During the "Motherland" arc, someone dumps a huge amount of info on Dr. Mann and Yorick. The latter responds "Could you slow down? I wasn't this confused when I read Heretics of Dune!"
Informed Flaw: Yorick mentions his thinning hairline and zits, but the artist never depicts this.
Instant Awesome Just Add Ninjas: The most "comic-booky" aspect of the story is the inclusion of a badass ninja who dresses and fights using all the classic weapons and methods.
Ironic Name: Yorick, was named for the Shakespearean character of the same name and his most interesting trait is that he doesn't die. Similarly his sister Hero spends a lot of time as The Atoner for a good reason...
I Will Find You: Yorick's primary motivation for most of the comic is finding his girlfriend, Beth.
Katanas Are Just Better: Toyota and her katana easily defeat all other combatants, including 355 and her collapsible baton and Dr Man and her jian.
Kick the Dog: More like Cut The Monkey. How do we know Toyota is truly villainous? When she starts cutting off bits of Ampersand's tail.
Lady Land: It is anything but voluntary, neither disproportionally utopic or dystopic, and for the most part men are badly missed to the point where prostitution and sex slavery involving remotely acceptable stand-ins remain a going concern.
Layman's Terms: When Dr. Mann figures out how Yorick survived, he wearily explains that his attempt at a baking soda volcano nearly blew off one of his testicles. "Can we dumb the technobabble down about a thousand percent?"
Yorick's name starts with a Y, emphasizing his Y chromosome. He's also a joker, like his Shakespeare Namesake. It's also ironic that he's named after the most famous Posthumous Character in English literature, but is himself only notable for still being alive. His sister is named Hero, and she became an EMT. Yorick notes that he and his sister grew into their names.
Dr Mann is trying to clone a man through most of the story.
The Medic: Dr. Mann, despite a background in biotechnology research, spends most of the comic in this role, much to her aggravation.
Missed Him by That Much: Yorick and 355 are in Paris looking for Yorick's old girlfriend Beth DeVille. At the same time, Hero, the other Beth, Natalya, and Ciba are also in Paris looking for Yorick together. Yorick and 355 go into a pastry shop to get something to eat just before the other four women walk by the corner they were standing on.
Hero: This is pointless. Ciba: What are you talking about, Hero? Five minutes ago, you said that you could feel that Yorick was close. Hero: That was just bullshit to keep you guys on the hunt, Ciba.
Motivational Lie: In the last volume, Alter attempts to keep the morale of her troops up with several of these. At least one of her soldiers sees them for lies, and Alter promptly kills her to keep it a secret.
No Name Given: 355 and Alter, until the second-to-last issue. Even when Yorick learns 355's name, we do not.
Nightmare Dreams: Yorick has some shockers, usually featuring his girlfriend Beth. Even 355, the hard-as-nails secret agent, mentions that she would not like to live in his head for even a single night.
Overly Narrow Superlative: Hero compares being the highest-ranking woman in the Catholic Church to being the leggiest guy in the Rockettes.
Paper-Thin Disguise: Later on, Yorick does not even bother obscuring his face, probably due to the number of women who are trying to look like men anyway - they would think he's just a woman doing an exceptionally good job.
Pirates: The Whale is supposedly crewed by pirates, and the captain embraces the classic stereotypes right down to the saber, but they're actually smugglers, not pirates.
Pre Emptive Apology: After Yorick decides to give himself up to the Amazons, he apologizes to Sonia for the two times he kissed her. "Two times? But you only kissed me-"
Reckless Gun Usage: An untrained woman is holding a hostage at gunpoint, whom she kills by mistake when her finger slips.
Red Herring: Dr. Ming is set up as the obvious candidate for Dr. M. She's established as having a a very sharp personality as well as three facial moles that would make identifying an older version of her very convenient. It turns out that she's already dead.
Riddle for the Ages: What caused the gendercide? During the story, several explanations are offered. According to Vaughan, one of them is correct, although he refuses to reveal which one.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: After the mass death of most members of her various Parliaments and senior civil servants, it appears that a great deal of political power in the Commonwealth nations has reverted by default to Queen Elizabeth II.
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: It is specifically mentioned that the plague did not occur instantaneously, but traveled at the speed of light, a fact which is used to triangulate the origin of the plague using the exact moment the plague occurred according to "accounts". However, it only takes 67 milliseconds for light to go halfway around the earth, which is way too short to notice a significant time difference. However, this was said by M who might be considered a bit of a crackpot.
Self-Deprecation: During one of the 'Fish & Bicycle troupe' interludes, one of them suggests giving the "last man" in their play a more Shakespearian name.
Cayce: If there's one thing I hate, it's crappy works of fiction that try to sound important by stealing names from the Bard.
Sexbot: Expensive "male" robots have been modified for prostitution use in Japan.
Random characters will often start spouting statistics about how many women (pre-Plague) were involved in which professions in which parts of the world at the slightest provocation. The comic's hypothetical predictions also seemed to be rooted in present-day global politics.
The Australian submarine crew are shown wielding Steyr AUG assault rifles, which is the standard issue for most Australian troops. A trivial fact that most people would have missed.
After Yorick finally reunites with Beth, she tells him that she was planning to break up with him before the plague hit. This immediately leads to Yorick breaking up with her.
Even worse, Alter massacred her way through half the story's cast why? Because she wanted to die at the hands of a man. Who doesn't even bother killing her, after which the rest of the Israeli troops just let him go.
Shout-Out: Yorick constantly makes reference to popular culture. One of the most notable is his possessing a lighter with "FUCK COMMUNISM" carved into it, a Preacher reference. When another character asks him why he has it he says that it was something he saw in a comic book. And oh boy does it make him popular with the guards on the train he rides together with the taxidermied comrade Lenin.
Show Within a Show: A recurring subplot involves a troupe of actresses trying through various media to inspire the survivors, first with a play about the last man on earth. Which Yorick half-heartedly pans. And then there's the issue devoted to the comic I Am Woman, devoted to a world in which all the women died, leaving one woman and her horse Earhart. Which Yorick AGAIN half-heartedly pans.
Smart People Play Chess: Victoria, the cult leader of the Amazons, is a self-described chess genius who is always talking in chess metaphors.
Spit Take: Referenced. After hearing something surprising from Rose and Dr Mann, Yorick wishes that they had waited for him to take a drink so he could do this.
Stealth Hi/Bye: Yorick pulls this constantly, usually pissing off his bodyguard in the process. Toyota, on the other hand, favors the Smoke Out.
Straw Feminist: The Daughters of the Amazon are a militant organization that not only says "Good riddance" in their attempts to deal with the situation, but actually work to ensure that the gendercide is complete.
Submarine Pirates: 'The Whale' is attacked by an Australian Navy sub turned pirate... or so they claim.
Suddenly Always Knew That: Dr Mann suddenly reveals that she's an excellent fencer, but then gets immediately defeated by a ninja. It might have helped if she were using a rapier rather than a jian.
Survivor Guilt: Pretty much every main character suffers this to some degree.
Swallow the Key: Yorick does this trick as he is a trained escape artist, and he's taught it to his sister Hero, who uses a regurgitated key to escape prison.
Take That: One scene is probably intended as a Take That against the Left Behind series. When the plague hits, the "other Beth" is on a plane whose pilot has just died. She needs to try to land the thing herself and radios the tower for help.
Beth: ...The whole crew is dead. I think there's been some kind of attack. Air Traffic Controller (with a resigned expression): It's not an attack, sister. This is the Rapture. God didn't choose us. Beth: WHAT? Air Traffic Controller: It happened to all the men down here, all the men in the planes, all the men in the world, probably. The Lord took them. I...I read a book about it once. We've been left behi— Beth: This is germ warfare, not the End Times! Why would God take only men? Air Traffic Controller: Because we're daughters of Eve! We created sin when we tempted Adam in the— Beth: Listen to me, you dumb cunt! You will pull yourself together and help me land this plane, or me and the dozens of women I'm carrying will kick the shit out of you in Hell. [beat] Air Traffic Controller: What's your current altitude, Flight 229?
Title Drop: A few times (the "The Last Man" part, anyway.)
With an artistic version in one instance - during a Fish & Bicycle Troupe interlude, a woman morally outraged by their play "The Last Man" tears a poster for the show in half vertically, into the same Y shape used in the logo.
To the Pain: Both Alter and Toyota do this; the first to encourage people to talk, the second because she is just plain sadistic.
Took a Level in Badass: Yorick improves his combat skills under the tutelage of Agent 355. Also subverted in a sword fight scene in "Kimino Dragons".
True Companions: Yorick, 355, Dr Mann, and later Rose. Plus the all-female group of Hero, Beth II, Natalya and Ciba.
Unexpected Successor: Margaret Valentine, Secretary of Agriculture. Between the Gendercide and the chaos that ensued, she was suddenly President Of The United States.
The Unreveal: 355's name. Repeatedly asked by Yorick, and never told until almost the end. She whispers it to him, and the reader does not get to know.
Furthermore, what exactly caused the death of all men is never revealed. Word of God states it is one of the theories mentioned in the books, but doesn't state which one.
Unwanted Harem: Deconstructed. Yorick even explained it to a wrench-monkey girl sheltering him one night in Arizona: "I'd feel like a real scumbag, taking advantage of them just because they were lonely and I was the only possibility" were more or less his exact words.
Villainous Breakdown: Of a sort; the opium smuggler Yorick befriends and falls for on the way to Australia initially defends her trade by reasoning that, since humanity's doomed anyway, she might as well help the few survivors achieve some sort of release from the misery this knowledge brings. Once she realizes that, through Yorick, there is hope after all, and that all she's done is contribute to people's misery further, it's too much for her to take.
What Happened to the Mouse?: A bit of a literal example. Rats are spotted in a trashcan several years after all the rats should have died out due to an inability to breed. We never find out why or if this has any wider implications.
White and Grey Morality: The series is pretty scrupulous about showing that every character has a reasonable or at least understandable motive for their actions. Even the Amazons are implied to all be victims of rape and violence. Even the primary antagonist claims to be trying to ensure the security of her much-embattled nation and in reality is simply a broken-down Death Seeker.
Who's on First?: Lampshaded on a couple of occasions. Yorick is disappointed that they couldn't get such an exchange going when they encounter a woman named You.
Worth Living For: During Yorick's suicide intervention, 711 forces an epiphany on him that shows him what he finds worth living for. At the end of the series we find out that it was 355.
You No Take Candle and Eloquent In My Native Tongue: Natalya. 355's Russian is also patchy (though not half as bad as Natalya's English). During the epilogue, an offhand comment is made about Natalya's apparent mastery of the English language in the time since the main story.