Wednesday, March 7, 2012

GN Review -- Y the Last Man, v. 2: Cycles / Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, & Jose Marzan, Jr.

I've read the first volume of Y the Last Man, but unfortunately don't have it on hand to review at the moment.  I don't think it should be too big a problem; I'll review it eventually, and if someone wants to read the reviews in order, they can do a search for them.  In the meantime, I'll move on to the second installment, Cycles.

In the wake of an as-yet unexplained disaster, all men in the world are now dead, with the exception of Yorick Brown, an amateur escape artist, and his pet monkey, Ampersand.  Having met up with his Congresswoman mother in Washington D.C. and utilized the help of Agent 355 to successfully unite with Dr. Allison Mann at her lab in Boston, they now face a long and dangerous trek west to California.  Their aim is to retrieve Mann's backup data and samples, which may hold answers to the plague that suddenly killed all men on the planet.

Yorick, wanting to reunite with his girlfriend in Australia, reluctantly agrees to go with them.  They find their way onto a train, but are assaulted by a group of hobo women, one of whom throws Yorick from the train.  355 and Mann jump off to go after him, but an injury to 355 forces them to seek shelter in the town of Marrisville, Ohio, where a group of women have set up a virtual utopia in the town.  One of them, Sonia, takes a liking to Yorick, but when he learns these women are former convicts from a nearby correctional facility, he wants nothing to do with any of them.  When a group of man-hating women known as the Daughters of the Amazon, of whom Yorick's sister Hero is a member, track Yorick to Marrisville with the intention of killing him, the women of Marrisville defend him, leading to Sonia's death.  Unable to kill his sister despite her actions, Yorick agrees to leave her behind in the correctional facility.  Shortly after he, Mann and 355 leave, Hero spits up a key, implying that she and her sisters will escape to resume tracking him.  In a shuttle above the earth, supplies have run out, and the crew--at least 2 of whom are men--decide they must return to the planet, despite the apparent risk to the men.

Vaughan's writing in this series continues to delight me.  Where the first volume introduces the reader to a horrifying  crisis and its immediate aftermath, here we have the heroes dealing with the its consequences and the women who are enduring it.  Marrisville, ironically, has endured better than most places they're likely to find, if only because the women of the nearby penitentiary had the town bequeathed to them by their jailers.  The implied context for a lot of their crimes is also eye-opening, particularly to Yorick, whose own black and white view of them demonstrates his ignorance when they plan to save him from the Daughters, moments later.

355 is not used much in this tale because of her injuries, which creates a lot of opportunities for growth and discovery for Yorick.  He's slowly becoming aware of just how dangerous it is for him to be the last man on Earth, and without his bodyguard in place, he has to learn to trust people he otherwise likely wouldn't have allowed himself to trust.  He's also coming to realize that he's as confused and affected by this situation as anyone else, allowing himself to kiss Sonia and having to endure an estranged relationship with his psychotic, brainwashed sister Hero.

The art here, while not particularly spectacular, is more than adequate for the purposes of the storytelling here.  I felt Guerra's pencils are proficient, but the finished work has less depth than I generally prefer in my comics.  I've seen this in other Vertigo titles--Fables comes to mind--and I'm guessing that your flashier, more finished-looking artwork is likely reserved for the bigger-selling superhero titles.  In any case, Guerra clearly knows how to draw women of different types and builds, and her settings succeed in setting the proper tones for each mood.  Marrisville seems too idyllic and good to be true, and she does a good job of making it look that way.

Overall, I'm enjoying this series a great deal.  It's one of those arguably must-read stories for comic book fans, and one that certainly contains an interesting premise.  Fans of post-apocalyptic science fiction will definitely enjoy this, as will readers who like a little less superhero and a little more semi-realism in their comics.  Highly recommended.

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