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Y: The Last Man #21
writer: Brian K. Vaughan
artist: Goran Parlov

As Y nears it's second anniversary, one thing has become very clear: this book really doesn't give a damn where it'll end up because it's just having so much fun getting there.

Coming off the "Safeword" storyline, where Agent 711 forced poor Yorick into a pre-emptive suicide intervention, part one of "Widow's Pass" continues in the delightful trend of attracting new readers with quick arcs that depend on the reader knowing little more than the fact that all the men are dead.

After introducing the new threat of the Sons of Arizona (the ironically named remnant of an extremist States' Rights militia), author Vaughan quickly leads us along the familiar territory of Yorick, Agent 355, and Dr. Mann wandering down an abandoned road and running into just enough trouble to end their bickering. Yorick, naturally, bumbles into revealing his identity as the last living man to the first woman they run into, and, again naturally, she turns out to be a pretty good egg who warns them that the Sons of Arizona have cut Interstate 40 in two, stopping 90 percent of East/West ground shipment and essentially starving half the country to death. With alternate route choices ruined by the forest fire consuming the entire state of Utah, Dr. Mann finally blows her top, letting slip, yet again, that her clone child was a daughter and not a son, before recanting and generally confusing the hell out of Yorick and 355. Then she REALLY does something to lose their trust.

Y has pretty much become the gold standard for offbeat dramatic comics in recent years. I can just imagine someone trying to pitch this series as a movie: "It's like Planet of the Apes, but chicks instead of apes!" or "Okay, take The Stand, but then, like, turn it on it's side and backwards…" or "28 Days Later - no zombies, more frontal nudity!" All the comparisons are actually pretty fair, but Y isn't nearly as much of a sci-fi book as it is a character study.

However, with this issue, Vaughan seems to be returning to the external conflict that defined the book in the "Unmanned", "Cycles", and "One Small Step" arcs. The introspection that gave the "Safeword" arc such a slow pace is pushed aside while the new plot gets up and running with the typical flair that always leaves Y readers thirsty for more. With any luck, this could also mean that the book's heading back into the elements it's left us pondering for the past half year or so (i.e. what about Yorick's mom and sister? Is the astronaut from "One Small Step" pregnant with a male child? Where did that ninja in the "Comedy and Tragedy" arc come from?)

Guest penciller Goran Pavlov does a very nice job of staying consistent with the work of previous series artists, but a couple of his choices don't quite work, for me. Agent 355 just seems a little too cute. I wouldn't say it's a major flaw, but it's a bit distracting to see ol' iron jaw looking button-nosed and pouty in her close-ups. Then there's what I call the "Must-draw-hot-women disease" where many comic artists, having spent so much time drawing exaggerated female forms for superhero comics, tend to put an inordinate number of potential swimsuit models in their books. Pavlov isn't the first to commit the sin, and he doesn't do nearly as bad as some (his 40-something mother of three with the body of Wonder Woman is a stretch, to be sure), but it's certainly not the balance series penciller Pia Guerra has been able to achieve in so much of the book.

That said, his facial expressions are dead on and his treatment of Yorick's sword and sorcery dream is both exciting and chilling. Pavlov's a fine artist, no question there…

But I think Aron Wiesenfeld's cover steals the show; simple and powerful, yet, at the same time, not wholly unrelated to the story. If only more books (especially those from Marvel) would take the plunge and opt for covers like this rather than "cool pose" shots… well, I might read them.

As it stands, Y still continues to attract readers, and, barring the loss of Brian K. Vaughan, it doesn't look like much of anything can stop the continuing journeys of our heroic trio.

Except maybe an ending, and that'd be a damn shame.


Jason Schachat

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