(c'mon - someone had to to make that pun)
Yeah, so, I guess I ought to knock off a few of those things on my to do list.
Let's start with the one that will get me lots comments. (yeah, right.)
Y: The Last Man roxxx!!!!!! Ok, well, not so much. But it's amusing. Er....at least, issues 1-5 and 37-42 are anyway. The rest may be as well, but I haven't read them yet. (so...I may be revising my opinion later on)
The premise is, of course, idiotic. It is assumed to be every (hetero) man's fantasy (all the women in the world to myself mwahahaha...) and what every idiot assumes is every feminist's fantasy (no more men - almost, anyway - let's throw a party!). For some reason this comic is supposed to appeal to women, and despite the fact that I actually do like it, I have no idea why people assume that I would.
Very little possibility of beefcake? check
Leading female characters that are only leading because there are no men to take their rightful place as leaders? check
A storyline that manages to be all about men (especially one in particular) even though all but two of the characters are female? check
"Nice guy" character being chased by feminazi's, protected by la femme Nikita in dreadlocks, and occasionally sparing time from his busy schedule of tracking down his girlfriend (oh, sorry, fiance) and saving the world by his mere existence to put the womenfolk in their place? check
Remind me again why women are supposed to like this?
Remind me again why I ever broke down and picked this up?
Oh, yeah, because it's written by Brian K. Vaughan.
If you haven't ever read anything else by Vaughan - and I'll admit Runaways and a few issues of Ex Machina is pretty much all I've read - then I should probably tell you that he and Joss Whedon are mutual fans of each other's work. Which has you either suddenly intrigued or rolling your eyes. I most definitely fall into the former group.
When I saw how Vaughan handled the practically all-female Runaways, I started to wonder if maybe Y wasn't so bad after all. Every time Gertrude opened her mouth, it became that much harder to imagine Y as the completely sucky comic I had presumed it to be.
So, I picked up the first trade paperback, and found it both surprisingly good and predictably bad.
Y: the Last Man is not an interesting look at what the world would be like without (almost any) men; it can be rather annoying when it comes to that. (The Washington Monument? Seriously, Brian. I, personally, would end up parking myself in front of the statue of Lincoln and bawling my eyes out; I would not be lighting candles in front of a big phallus.) It is, however, an entertaining (and at times infuriating) look into the mind of a feminist leaning man in a misogynist world. Y: the Last Man is not really about women at all. At most it is about Yorick's/Vaughan's perception of women and his struggle to be fair and respectful of women in a world that pushes him not to be.
Franny at So So Silver Age wrote:
Ultimately, Vaughan is using the unmanned scenario to explore manhood and masculinity through a character who is decidedly not the American ideal superdude, who is a composite of anxious shortcomings thrust from being a guy to not just being a man but the man. And ultimately, it serves feminist purposes to reevaluate and reflect on the meaning of masculinity.I think she has it exactly right and that this is the underlying and unspoken reason why people think women would be more interested in this comic than men: men aren't supposed to question these things (but all those feminists secretly wish they were men, right?)
When we are first introduced to Yorick he is practicing his escape artist skills. It's obvious - anvil sized obvious - that this is meant to foreshadow future events: in the near future he will be constantly hunted and must constantly escape capture. Throughout the story, pretty much everyone wants to tell him what to do. Those that don't usually simply don't bother telling, they just do.
I suspect it is also meant to by symbolic of Yorick's attempts to escape the constraints of gender - his struggle throughout the story is not just to escape physical capture but to resist being defined solely by his biology. His most valuable asset to society is his ability to help create the next generation (not that way - get your mind out of the gutter). He understands this and generally agrees that this needs to be his number one priority. He is often frustrated however, with the fact that he no longer matters as an individual - to everyone fighting over him he is an object, really. He spends much of his time trying to contact his girlfriend and is a constant advocate for the idea of romantic love, the importance of personal relationships, and the validity of emotions.
Of, course, Yorick being an escape artist is also a nice plot device; it makes it hard for people to keep him locked up - which would have made the story either really boring or forced Vaughan to focus on other characters. If it was possible to keep Yorick locked up, Vaughan might have actually had to write about a world run by women. Instead, he gets to write about about a man trapped in a world run by women.
Y: the Last Man does not turn the world on it's head by creating a world in which women fill men's shoes, it turns the world on it's head by putting a man in a traditionally feminine role. Sometimes the story shifts and it becomes the usual, annoying "nice, average guy searching for the perfect woman" but most of the time Yorick's story fits very nicely into the "fiesty heroine who is being forced to marry for the sake of the family reputation/younger siblings/war torn kingdom, but believes in true love anyway" cliche that pops up again and again in Romance novels. He's even got the taciturn bodyguard, the emotionally cut-off elder sibling who starts out as a hinderance but later becomes an ally, and the whole "physically weak but usefully clever" thing going for him.
Which explains why I like it: I read Romance novels. I'm not completely sure why everyone else is so into it, though.
I also find it odd but interesting that so much of the buzz about the book centers on not only it's gimmicky premise but on the Amazons - and the idea that they are stand-ins for radical feminists. With so many other examples of strong - feminist even - women in the series, it seems quite obvious to me that, in this world without men, they are meant to represent the unapologetic violence that men are supposed to embrace, not Andrea Dworkin and every woman who fails who disown everything she says. They are more than Rush Limbaugh's fictional feminanzi's brought to life, even if Vaughan has trouble shaking such stereotypes. Despite being women, they are "real men" who do what needs to be done and respond to heartache with destruction and anger, not tears. They understand that violence is needed and that the rest of the world "can't handle the truth." In some sense this is meant to be commentary on the human condition and the not so big differences between men and women. Mostly though, they are there to provide a foil for Yorick and create scenarios where he has to choose or reject violence.
It seems quite normal to me that a group like the Amazons would exist; anger is one of the stages of grief, after all. However, it also seems really abnormal that there wouldn't be other radical groups: ones that claim that the end is here and women were found unworthy, ones that blame women, liberals, the church etc. for the disaster, and so on. To me, it's the fact that such groups are almost non-existent in his world and the apparent focus on the Amazons that is troubling, not the mere existence of the Amazons alone - or even any of the actual interactions between Yorick and the Amazons (that I've seen). However, the Amazons exist and the religious fanatics don't because Vaughan sees the former as useful foils for Yorick, not because Vaughan thinks that feminists are evil, nasty, and out to get men. That doesn't mean his writing is any less flawed because of his lack of conscious intent, just that it's useful to keep that in mind when picking the story apart.
But, then, like I said, I met Gertrude first. It's hard to read a comic in which the fat, nerdy, cynic gets the hunk and think that the writer has it in for feminists.
(ps - don't worry about spoilers in the comments - I've obviously skipped ahead anyway.)