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Y: The Last Man #58
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Art: Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan Jr.

Reading fiction is an intensely personal pursuit. The artist speaks directly to the audience as individuals, monopolizing each audience member's entire attention for the duration of the performance. And the audience member receives a performance entirely suited to his temperament and abilities, determining the pace of execution of the piece to the point that they can suspend a performance, if needed or desired, to garner elucidation on some not sufficiently understood passage, for reflection, in order to repeat some part of the work, or simply for rest.

This allows and, in the best examples, provokes the reader into more fully engaging with story elements than they could any perceived natural phenomenon, affording him the opportunity to hold each element in a mental suspension of time and space, allowing him to regard each element from every perspective.

Issue 58 of Y: The Last Man is one of the best examples of the execution of this art. For those of us who have been following the story from its inception this installment begins to draw the threads of the dramatic skein together for what we know to be the final two issues. Usually this is a weakness of serial fiction, the tell that exposes the bluff of a fictional world.

But Y #58 gives us an ending so final, so pitiable, and yet so satisfying, that what happens to the rest of the fictional world seems as though it can, in one sense, only be an afterthought, while suddenly throwing the possibilities for the concluding two episodes open from the seemingly small remaining scope of what could have been a formulaic denoument to possibilities unimagined and unimaginable.

Brian Vaughn so strongly evokes the sensations of love found and lost with such immediacy in a sequence so devastatingly logical that I was compelled to read it three times in lingering succession. Not because the nature of the sequence was unclear. The art is just as strong and clear and perfectly suited to the milieu as it has been since the first issue, the panels paced perfectly and fluidly moving one to the next. The script is lucid and natural and breathes the life of each character fully. It was not intellectual understanding but emotional comprehension that was challenged by the final pages.

The best fiction reminds us of what we are and who we are. It lets us remember and regard our total selves, our thoughts and feelings and the indivisible interplay that compose our consciousness and inform our souls.And of all the sensations that inform us the most important, the most crucial in the maturation of our minds and the formation of whatever wisdom we have the good fortune to come by, is those other people with whom we surround ourselves, either by circumstance or choice. Of those people those of paramount importance are those we love. The revelation of newfound love is a profound blow to the psyche that no amount of reason can overcome. And the sudden loss of a loved one is never fully comprehensible, not with any immediacy, no matter what physical evidence and rational explanation is provided. Only time can subdue these feelings, and never entirely. Any stray sensation can, unexpectedly, return that joy or misery to us anew.

For me, that was the effect of the last few pages of this story. For a piece of fiction, a popular pulp periodical, a mere comic book to sound the echo of memory both deeply personal and catholic is a laudible achievement. To so profoundly affect the audience by the death of one fictional character and the deep sense of loss in another is the pinnacle of art. This is what has made this series, in its finest moments, one of the very best fictional works of recent memory.

If song is the wind chime of memory then fiction is its library. The culmination of this series will provoke in the engaged reader the vivid remembrance of triumph and loss, a lasting reward of an intensely personal pursuit.

David Akhond

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