Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review # 98: "Y: The Last Man - 'Cycles,' 'One Small Step' and 'Safeword'"

Ladies and gentlemen, the TV show everyone will be talking about in 2016: "Y: The Last Man." This comic book is screaming for a broadcast adaptation and it looks like we're close to seeing it happen.

Inexplicably, when this title's film rights were sold to New Line Cinema the plan was to convert the material to a feature film. While the original script was faithful to the source material, I find it unbelievable that someone thought this could be effectively condensed into a feature film or even a series of them. The story structure, with its teases, obvious act breaks and the fact that each tale is segmented into a few issues at a time is built for week-by-week episodes.

Fortunately, that may be in the cards now. With seemingly no plans to start shooting, the rights are expected to revert back to Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra in the very near future. Something tells me they already have premium TV channels banging at the door. They are absolutely right to do so.

As I make my way through this series I am again extremely reluctant to mention anything that happens in these pages for fear of wrecking the many surprises. So let's see how much I can say about each volume without saying too much.

Volume Two - "Cycles" - is the first long leg of last man alive Yorick's trip to the west coast alongside government-appointed protector Agent 355 and cloning "expert" Dr. Allison Mann. The short-term goal is to reach her cloning lab, while the long-term goal is to reach Yorick's girlfriend in Australia. Getting from place to place in post-apocalyptic society is obviously difficult, as there are crazies at every turn. On the way, they reach something that resembles a well-functioning society but things are - of course - not as they seem. It is here that Vaughan establishes one of the most frightening villains that I can remember in comics. The showdown between Yorick and this villain is an unbelievably intense sequence, one with so much backstory that I can't believe this comic is only about a dozen issues in at this point. If volume one doesn't get its claws into you, this one definitely will.... and is an epic season finale in the making.

Things take a bit of a dive in "One Small Step." I appreciate Vaughan's attention to detail here, as he rightfully asks the question of what has happened to any men who weren't on earth during the calamity that wiped them out. It turns out that those who have been stationed in space - all two of them - are still alive, and are on their way back to earth. While the arc spotlights an excellent supporting character (Russian soldier Natalya, who sounds dumb when speaking in English but comes off as much more intelligent in her native tongue,) the resolution can be seen from a mile away. This story splits time with a slightly intriguing but ultimately flat tale about a traveling acting troupe that comes across Yorick's pet monkey and crafts their own story about the last man on earth. The only thing I can really give it some credit for is character foreshadowing and that's not enough for it to stand up with the rest of the material.

Fortunately, Vaughan bounces back in a big way. Volume Four - "Safeword" - is considered the best arc of the series by many. The first story featured here is an incredible character deconstruction of Yorick that redefines his motivations. Yorick was already an interesting character before this, but emerges as something completely different - yet the same - after a trip into his own mind. It's among the most compelling stories and character analyses I've ever read, heard or seen across all mediums. It proves to be an incredibly difficult act to follow, as the second story in this volume can't quite carry the momentum. That said, Yorick, 355 and Mann running into a roadblock features some strong emotional gutpunches and is cold in its brutality.

In earlier reviews I expressed little interest in watching "The Walking Dead" after reading (and enjoying) the first compendium. Despite my love of Daredevil and wanting to see Iron Fist succeed, I'm not shilling out for Netflix to watch Marvel's new shows. But "Y: The Last Man?" Count me among those who would LOVE to see a small-screen adaptation.

Rating(s): 9.5/10 ("Cycles"), 7/10 ("One Small Step"), 10/10 ("Safeword")

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