Monday, July 14, 2014

Review # 121: "Y: The Last Man - 'Ring of Truth' and 'Girl on Girl'"

"Ring of Truth" is a pivotal volume of "Y: The Last Man." It adds two important characters to the mix, neutralizes a major villain, introduces another and answers a major question about Yorick's survival of whatever wiped out every other man on earth save him and his pet monkey.

Let's start with the villain situation. I've been tiptoeing around mentioning one of the antagonists for fear of spoilers, but I figure if you're bothering to read a review of volume five you've likely been following along up to here. The frightening character I've been referring to previously is Yorick's sister Hero, who's been brainwashed into becoming a dedicated soldier of the Amazons. In a single issue, we find out why and discover that Hero is mentally ill.

Herein lies a major qualm I have with "Ring of Truth:" the situation with Hero is solved too easily. I understand this is fiction, but her problems are far too complex to be dealt with at the drop of a hat. I would have reflected on this more positively as I expected her issues to return later in the series. Ultimately, they do not. And that's shocking. Either way, it doesn't sour Hero's spotlight issue. These would become a trademark for the series, and I don't think any of the other editions top her sordid tale.

Regardless of Hero's erasure as a problem, I can understand why Brian K. Vaughan did it: to set up a not-quite-as-frightening-but-much-more-threatening new villain: the ninja Toyota. She shows up at the worst possible time for Yorick, 355 and Mann, steals a precious resource and wounds Yorick's bodyguard in the process. Her arrival signals a shift in the series, as the scope becomes a little less isolated and a lot more global.

So Yorick and company set off on their trip around the world, which begins in "Girl on Girl." They board what they believe is a cargo ship and set out across the Pacific, heading for Japan and Australia. The situation is far more complicated than they realize as the vessel comes head-to-head with a submarine. The truth about the ship and what they've been up to is rather disturbing.

There's also a lot of sex during these two volumes. A couple of issues can't go by without someone sleeping with someone else as the tension reaches its tipping point. First, Yorick gets intimate with a woman in a church who shares the first name of his long-lost girlfriend Beth. Later, he sleeps with the "cargo" ship's captain. While that's happening the heterosexual Agent 355 cuddles up with the lesbian Dr. Mann. The amount of regret each situation generates among its characters is felt throughout the rest of the series. One has major repercussions.

So with everyone sleeping with each other, we finally get an update on "girlfriend" Beth who, through a fever dream in Australia, convinces herself that Yorick is still alive. The sequence where this happens has some of the coolest art of the series, including a great stylistic colouring switch to Pia Guerra's art.

Still, I feel like the series is slowing down losing a bit off its lustre. As the mysteries surrounding Yorick and his fellow characters unfold, it's almost as if there's an attempt to stretch things out ahead of the conclusion. Four volumes remain and with so much laid on the table here, the climax feels closer than it really is. That's not always a good thing... but that's probably not enough to bring an outstanding series down.

Rating(s): 8.5/10 ("Ring of Truth"), 7.5/10 ("Girl on Girl")

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