Y: The Last Man
Ymagyne, yf you wyll, a world wythout men.
That is the premise of Y: The Last Man, a Vertigo Comics comic book that, at some point, will be a movie as well...maybe. Written by Brian K. Vaughan (creator and original author for Runaways and Ex Machina), it tells the story of Yorick, a New York City escape artist who, along with his pet monkey Ampersand (&), somehow stayed alive while all other male mammals, from spermatozoa to giraffes to New York City Hall employees, suddenly died.
Being the Last of His Kind, or, in his case, sex, would be a good thing for an egotistical Lothario, but Yorick has in mind nothing but finding his Perfect Girlfriend, Beth, who was traveling in Australia on the day of the disaster. Complicating this quest, Washington DC is going through a war between Democratic senators and Republican widows, while the rest of the Eastern Seaboard is suffering from attacks by the Daughters of the Amazon, a female supremacy gang lead by Victoria, a charismatic but insane chess prodigy (Or so she claims).
In the rest of the world, Israel (having a considerable contingent of female troops) is now a belligerent military superpower while Australia (one of the few nations to use female submariners) rules the Pacific. Yorick's efforts at reuniting with Beth, finding the cause of the Gendercide and having himself and Ampersand cloned are repeatedly foiled as he, a scientist and a secret agent travel to California and beyond in a series of "adventures" which nicely subvert the standard After the End type of plot.
The comic, drawn in realistic western style by Pia Guerra and written by Brian K Vaughn, is famous for refusing to be an Author Tract even when its plot is just asking for it.
Help out with the character sheet.
- Action Girls: 355, Hero and almost every other "action" character in the series.
- Action Survivor: Yorick starts the series with no combat or survival training at all and is frequently forced to rely on 355 for protection and Dr. Mann for explanations.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Batteries for vibrators are suddenly a lot more valuable. And then, of course..
P.J: Seriously, you've been the last cock on Earth for ages. How do you not bone one girl in that whole time?
- As a kid, 355 found out her family had been killed in a car crash immediately after one of these. It put her off masturbation for years.
- Aerosol Flamethrower: Yorick actually lampshades the real risk behind this; telling "Beth 2.0" that the can could explode if she lights the fumes.
- Air Vent Passageway:
355: You said we'd be able to use the air conditioning vents. They're six inches by four inches.
- Alas, Poor Yorick:
- The scene happens with a random woman shopkeeper who refuses to sell her capuchin monkey to Toyota (who believes it is Ampersand). The capuchin is later shown in this pose with the unlucky shopkeeper's head.
- Yorick does actually hold a skull in the catacombs of Paris while contemplating that one can not tell the difference between men and women with just bones. (You can, of course, but Yorick apparently assumes this because he can't.)
- All Part of the Show: Inverted with the play in Japan. The teenage hecklers are a part of the performance.
- Amazon Brigade: The Daughters of the Amazon... not to mention just about every other armed group/organization by default.
- Answer Cut: "What's long and hard and full of semen?" Next panel: A submarine.
- Apocalypse How: A large portion of the drama throughout the series is the question of if the Gendercide is going to end up a biotech dependent Stage 1 (Massive, but survivable dieback) or a slow-motion Stage 3a (Outright Human Extinction). The Distant Finale reveals that it is a Stage 1.
- Applied Phlebotinum: How Yorick survived the plague. Turns out it is handling his pet monkey's feces that saved him. How the monkey survived in the beginning? That is another question...
- Arrogant Kung Fu Guy: Toyota. Not a guy, and not kung fu, but still.
- Artistic License: Biology: Victoria reminds Hero once about her "temple", and compares it to the penis. According to her, men use the same hole for the removal of waste.
- Bait and Switch Lesbians: Inverted in that the woman Yorick spends the entire series looking for ends up falling for his sister after he dumps her.
- Bald Women: Most notably P.J.
- Big Bad: Arguably Alter because she hunts Yorick right up till the end of the series.
- Blah Blah Blah: A flashback to 355's teen years shows her sitting, minding her own business while two guys talk like this in the background. Then one of them calls her the n-word and things get painful (for them).
- Bodyguard Crush: 355 realizes pretty early in the series that she is developing some feelings or Yorick, but she realizes just as quickly that it is simply a minor infatuation that comes with protecting him around the clock for such a length of time. Then she and he fall in love for real.
- Bond One-Liner: Plenty are used, and subverted. In one story arc, when Dr. Matsumori is about to kill his daughter with an injection, he gets out "It's funny, the English word for mercy killing is..." and, well, suffice it to say he does not get to finish. 355 is more successful, though: "Yeah, I guess I got the short end of the stick..."
- Book Ends: Yorick in a straitjacket, asking someone if they knew Elvis had a twin brother.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Hero falls under the influence of misandrist cult leader Victoria.
- Brick Joke:
- Yorick has a gas mask that he carried around for the entire series. He originally used it because he thought the gendercide was some kind of biological terrorist attack, but after he realized he was immune he still carried it around so he could cover his face to keep his masculine features hidden. In the penultimate issue of the series, it fulfilled its designed function by letting him shrug off gas grenades.
- In the Distant Finale: Yorick is bald, a possibility that Yorick angsted over earlier in the series.
- But What About the Astronauts?: The worldwide gendercide did not reach two men aboard the International Space Station, and in the third book they were forced to return to Earth after their technology started breaking down.
- Calling the Old Man Out
- Between Hero and her/Yorick's dad.
- Between Dr. Mann and Dr. Matsumori.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Yorick's lighter (see Shout-Out below) gets them in trouble when they are apprehended by Russians.
355: I told you to get rid of that lighter!
- The gun given to Yorick by 355, which he uses to shoot the militia girl.
- Also the "sex dummy" man in Tokyo, who is used to provide a distraction for their assault on the Yakuza, and then comes right around when the speakers in his mouth are used to reveal their boss's true nature.
- There's also a kinda-sorta reverse Chekhovs Gun - when Yorick is handcuffed by Alter, he is told that those particular handcuffs were designed to be unpickable. Later, in a flashback, it is revealed that the shopkeeper who sold Yorick the "magical" engagement ring also offered him skeleton keys that could open those very handcuffs. See Lost Forever below.
- Cool Big Sis: Hero clearly fills this role in Yorick's mind (making him especially bitter about her Face Heel Turn) because he fails to realise just how screwed up she is.
- Cool Old Guy: Yorick, in the final issue.
- Cowgirl: Hero in a Dude Ranch outfit, but with very real sixguns. Yorick is also chased by a horseback posse, much to his delight.
- Coming of Age Story: Yorick.
- Continuity Nod: The most hilarious of which is Waverly (Supermodel-turned Graveyard-keeper) recognizing the President as one of the women who stole her truck once.
- Country Matters: The leader of the Amazons gets called the C-word by a girl she has taken prisoner and calmly explains the origins of the word and claims its origins do not justify how it has come to be used as the most offensive swear in the English language. Then, after the girl calls her a bitch, she orders Hero to "kill this whore".
- Crazy Survivalist: The Sons of Arizona.
- Curse Is Foiled Again
- Death by Irony: Alter's parents believed in a superstition of never speaking her true name aloud in fear that the angel of death would be able to find her and take her life. Ironic because when Agent 355 reveals her real name to Yorick she is murdered seconds later by Alter herself.
- Death Seeker: Yorick turns out to be one, as does Alter. In the latter's case, though, she insists that she deserves to die at a man's hand, and goes to great lengths so this can happen. Also, 711. Upon being shot to death: "Heh...thanks."
- Depopulation Bomb: Just shy of fifty percent of the population killed off with the initial Gendercide, and millions more from the resulting plane/car crashes, environmental disasters (Several Russian nuclear reactors have apparently gone critical without proper maintenance), food shortages, etc. It affects animals as well.
- Destructo-Nookie: Yorick and Beth when they finally reunite.
- Distant Finale: Wherein Yorick ends up a bitter old man, who does not even get along with his own daughter.
- Downer Ending/ Bittersweet Ending:
- "Oh, man."
- "He escaped."
- Dramatic Gun Cock: Most confrontations involving guns will have at least one of these.
- Dr. Jerk: Dr Allison Mann finds Yorick infuriating and has no qualms about venting her frustrations.
- Dying Like Animals: The Daughters of the Amazon! And the too-dumb-to-be-ironic "Sons of Arizona".
- The End of the World as We Know It: Society is shattered planetwide by definition, and the prospect of looming extinction does not help efforts to pull things together.
- Engineered Public Confession: For Epiphany.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Ampersand is one of the most popular characters in the series.
- Eye Scream: One of Epiphany's girls gets stabbed in the eye with a syringe.
- 355 hits one of the Sons of Arizona with a stick so hard, her eye falls out of her socket.
- Eyepatch of Power: Rose.
- Face Heel Turn: Resulting in a rather unpleasant Family Reunion.
- Leave The Plot Threads Hanging: An Invoked Trope, when Yorick calls Doctor Mann's father's explanation for the gendercide "vaguely unsatisfying". The characters (and the comic) do not give that explanation any more weight than the other theories.
- Fan Service: It is a cast filled with women. What, do you expect them to make all of them ugly? Of course, Yorick has plenty of nude scenes too.
- Fashionable Asymmetry: The Amazons' habit of removing their right breast to signify membership.
- Gang of Hats: Taken to the extreme. Mastectomy as initiation, anyone?
- Gendercide: All male mammals get wiped out by a mysterious plague at the very beginning. A number of possible explanations were given throughout the course of the book, but none are definitive answers. The author has stated that one of the offered explanations is the correct one, but he refuses to specify which, and every wild theory is potentially correct.
- General Ripper: Alter.
- Genre Savvy: Yorick.
- Girl-On-Girl Is Hot: Used, subverted and deconstructed ALL over the place. One volume is even called Girl on Girl.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: One of the Beths has a cool scar running across her face. And of course the Daughters of the Amazon have one that's (debatably) historically accurate for proud warrior women who were also accurate archers: voluntary mastectomies.
- Goggles Do Something Unusual: Toyota's do.
- Halfbreed: Dr. Allison Mann is half Japanese and half Chinese.
- Heel Face Turn: Hero, Sadie, and Kilina.
- Honor Before Reason: The two surviving male astronauts shove the female astronaut out first when they crash, dying in the process, even though their lives are worth infinitely more than hers. The survivor even lampshades it.
- I Call It Vera: Natalya calls her rifle Rodya, after her husband.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: In the first arc, a would-be hostage taker who's never held a gun before kills her hostage when her finger slips.
- The Immune: Yorick and Ampersand, who (for most of the series) are the only male mammals known to be immune to the plague.
- Incestuous Casting: In-Universe: Yorick and Hero were cast as Romeo and Juliet in high-school. They flipped a coin to see who would drop out; Yorick tried to use one of his two-headed coins, but Hero caught him - and dropped out anyway, in spite of how much she wanted to do it.
- Info Dump: During the "Motherland" arc, someone dumps a huge amount of info on Dr. Mann and Yorick. The latter responds "Could you slow down? I wasn't this confused when I read Heretics of Dune!"
- Ironic Name: Yorick, was named for the Shakespearean character of the same name and his most interesting trait is that he doesn't die. Similarly his sister Hero spends a lot of time as The Atoner for a good reason...
- It Gets Easier: 355's character arc, to her dismay.
- I Will Find You: Yorick's primary motivation for most of the comic is finding his girlfriend, Beth.
- Kick the Dog: More like Cut The Monkey. How do we know Toyota is truly villainous? When she starts cutting off bits of Ampersand's tail.
- Last of His Kind
- Lady Land: It is anything but voluntary, neither disproportionally utopic or dystopic, and for the most part men are badly missed to the point where prostitution and sex slavery involving remotely acceptable stand-ins remain a going concern.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall
Agent 355: They can say 'fuck' in comic books?
- Living MacGuffin: Yorick and Ampersand.
- Lost Forever: Seen in a flashback where Yorick could have obtained a key to the "unpickable" handcuffs which are eventually used on him.
- Loving a Shadow
- Woman Bites Woman: 355 is taught to do this by her mentor, whom she later kills by this method after the latter breaks her arms.
- Male Frontal Nudity
- Male Gaze: More subtle than in most comics, but it is certainly there.
- Meaningful Name: Almost everyone; mainly Yorick, Hero, Alter, Dr. Mann. One interpretation of images and dialogue from the last few issues is that 355's real name is Peace. Yorick's father was a drama professor, which helps explain the strange names his children got.
Yorick: I guess he thought naming his kids after obscure Shakespeare characters might help him get tenure. Either that or he was punishing us for being born. Still, in a weird way, Hero and I sort of grew into our names. She got a gig as an EMT... I became a worthless joker.
- The Medic: Dr. Mann, despite a background in biotechnology research, spends most of the comic in this role, much to her aggravation.
- Missed Him by That Much: Yorick and 355 are in Paris looking for Yorick's old girlfriend Beth DeVille. At the same time, Hero, the other Beth, Natalya, and Ciba are also in Paris looking for Yorick together. Yorick and 355 go into a pastry shop to get something to eat just before the other four women walk by the corner they were standing on.
Hero: This is pointless.
- No Name Given: 355 and Alter, until the second-to-last issue. Even when Yorick learns 355's name, we do not.
- Nightmare Dreams: Yorick has some shockers, usually featuring his girlfriend Beth. Even 355, the hard-as-nails secret agent, mentions that she would not like to live in his head for even a single night.
- Non-Action Guy: Oh, the irony. Eventually turns into an Action Survivor type.
- Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: Impressively, Yorick remembers to say this while 711 has him hanging from a ceiling in her dungeon.
- The One Guy: Naturally.
- Only You Can Repopulate My Race: Oh boy, literally...
- Overly Narrow Superlative: Hero compares being the highest-ranking woman in the Catholic Church to being the leggiest guy in the Rockettes.
- In case anyone was wondering, the highest-ranking woman in the Catholic Church is Sister Enrica Rosanna, F.M.A., Undersecretary (n°3) of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The highest-ranking "laywoman" is Flaminia Giovanelli, Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. (Of course, according to Catholic theology, the "highest-ranking", ie the holiest and closest to God, is the Virgin Mary, who "ranks" higher than all men except Jesus).
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Later on, Yorick does not even bother obscuring his face, probably due to the number of women who are trying to look like men anyway - they would think he's just a woman doing an exceptionally good job.
- Prepositions Are Not to End Sentences With: Yorick, as an English major, is somewhat pedantic about language usage.
Yorick: I knew I wanted to keep living in any world that you were a part of. But that was hard to admit to myself, and not just because it ended with a preposition.
- Pretty Little Headshots: Agent 355's demise.
- Psycho for Hire Ninja: Toyota.
- The Reveal: M's identity is quite a doozy.
- Reckless Gun Usage: An untrained woman is holding a hostage at gunpoint, whom she kills by mistake when her finger slips.
- Riddle for the Ages: What caused the gendercide? During the story, several explanations are offered. According to Vaughan, one of them is correct, although he refuses to reveal which one.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: After the mass death of most members of her various Parliaments and senior civil servants, it appears that a great deal of political power in the Commonwealth nations has reverted by default to Queen Elizabeth II.
- Self-Deprecation: During one of the 'Fish & Bicycle troupe' interludes, one of them suggests giving the "last man" in their play a more Shakespearian name.
Cayce: If there's one thing I hate, it's crappy works of fiction that try to sound important by stealing names from the Bard.
- Sex Bot: Expensive "male" robots have been modified for prostitution use in Japan.
- Shaming the Mob
- Shown Their Work: Random characters will often start spouting statistics about how many women (pre-Plague) were involved in which professions in which parts of the world at the slightest provocation. The comic's hypothetical predictions also seemed to be rooted in present-day global politics.
- The Australian submarine crew are shown wielding Steyr AUG assault rifles, which is the standard issue for most Australian troops. A trivial fact that most people would have missed. However, the creators did mess up on one occassion - the "Reverse Balducci" (the levitation trick Yorick does in issue #25 to convice the Amazons attacking the church that he is "God") cannot be performed while facing the people you are tricking. The angle shown would have clearly given away the trick.
- Simple Staff: Agent 355 wields an expandable baton with proficiency.
- Situational Sexuality: To be fair, it is quite the situation.
- Shaggy Dog Story: After Yorick finally reunites with Beth, she tells him that she was planning to break up with him before the plague hit. This immediately leads to Yorick breaking up with her.
- Even worse, Alter massacred her way through half the story's cast why? Because she wanted to die at the hands of a man. Who doesn't even bother killing her, after which the rest of the Israeli troops just let him go.
- Shipping Bed Death: Invoked (with reference to Moonlighting) and Defied by Yorick as the series came to a close.
- Shock Value Relationship: Dr. Mann is on the wrong end of this in her college days.
- Shout-Out: Yorick constantly makes reference to popular culture. One of the most notable is his possessing a lighter with "FUCK COMMUNISM" carved into it, a Preacher (Comic Book) reference. When another character asks him why he has it he says that it was something he saw in a comic book.
- Show Within a Show: A recurring subplot involves a troupe of actresses trying through various media to inspire the survivors, first with a play about the last man on earth. Which Yorick half-heartedly pans. And then there's the issue devoted to the comic I Am Woman, devoted to a world in which all the women died, leaving one woman and her horse Earhart. Which Yorick AGAIN half-heartedly pans.
- Smoke Out: Toyota is a fan.
- Spit Take: Referenced. After hearing something surprising from Rose and Dr Mann, Yorick wishes that they had waited for him to take a drink so he could do this.
- Stealth Hi Bye: Yorick pulls this constantly, usually pissing off his bodyguard in the process. Toyota, on the other hand, favors the Smoke Out.
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: Hero; three guesses who she falls in with.
- Straw Feminist: The Daughters of the Amazon are a militant organization that not only says "Good riddance" in their attempts to deal with the situation, but actually work to ensure that the Gendercide is complete.
- Note that these seem to have been included largely to avoid accusations of the work being anti-male by saying "See! There would be bad women too!" Except much stress is given to the fact that the Amazons are actually a very small group and many are simply having their grief and pain manipulated by their power-hungry leader. Much like the supposed feminist extremist in Fables, their leader doesn't really care about women at all.
- Strawman Political: The whole scene with the wives of dead Republican congressmen. It starts out with saying that Republicans are worse than looters or terrorists and goes downhill from there.
- Submarine Pirates: 'The Whale' is attacked by an Australian Navy sub turned pirate... or so they claim.
- Survivor Guilt: Pretty much every main character suffers this to some degree.
- Swallow the Key: Yorick does this trick as he is a trained escape artist, and he's taught it to his sister Hero, who uses a regurgitated key to escape prison.
- Take That: One scene is probably intended as a Take That against the Left Behind series. When the plague hits, the "other Beth" is on a plane whose pilot has just died. She needs to try to land the thing herself and radios the tower for help.
Beth: ...The whole crew is dead. I think there's been some kind of attack.
- Theme Naming: Yorick and Hero, both minor characters in Shakespeare. They even Lampshade it. (See Self-Deprecation.)
- There Is Another: Double subversion.
- Title Drop: A few times (the "The Last Man" part, anyway.)
- To the Pain: Both Alter and Toyota do this; the first to encourage people to talk, the second because she is just plain sadistic.
- Too Dumb to Live: Yorick behaves this way in the first few volumes. He's not really too dumb to live, though. He's just trying to be.
- Took a Level in Badass: Yorick improves his combat skills under the tutelage of Agent 355. Also subverted in a sword fight scene in "Kimino Dragons".
- True Companions: Yorick, 355, Dr Mann, and later Rose. Plus the all-female group of Hero, Beth II, Natalya and Ciba.
- Unexpected Successor: Margaret Valentine, Secretary of Agriculture. Between the Gendercide and the chaos that ensued, she was suddenly President Of The United States.
- The Un-Reveal: 355's name. Repeatedly asked by Yorick, and never told until almost the end. She whispers it to him, and the reader does not get to know.
- Furthermore, what exactly caused the death of all men is never revealed. Word of God states it is one of the theories mentioned in the books, but doesn't state which one.
- Unwanted Harem: Deconstructed. Yorick even explained it to a wrench-monkey girl sheltering him one night in Arizona: "I'd feel like a real scumbag, taking advantage of them just because they were lonely and I was the only possibility" were more or less his exact words.
- Villainous Breakdown: Of a sort; the opium smuggler Yorick befriends and falls for on the way to Australia initially defends her trade by reasoning that, since humanity's doomed anyway, she might as well help the few survivors achieve some sort of release from the misery this knowledge brings. Once she realizes that, through Yorick, there is hope after all, and that all she's done is contribute to people's misery further, it's too much for her to take.
- Walking the Earth: From Big Applesauce to Gay Paree the long way.
- Who's on First?: Lampshaded on a couple of occasions (by name at one point).
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Required in spades to accept the instant and near-total Gendercide. The Mantra won't cut it here, since it's a core element that can't be ignored for the sake of the story.
- Worth Living For: During Yorick's suicide intervention, 711 forces an Epiphany Therapy on him that shows him what he finds worth living for. At the end of the series we find out that it was 355.
- Wrench Wench: P.J.
- You No Take Candle and (Trope Namer) Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Natalya. 355's Russian is also patchy (though not half as bad as Natalya's English). During the epilogue, an offhand comment is made about Natalya's apparent mastery of the English language in the time since the main story.
- Your Costume Needs Work: Yorick would be a passable drag king with a little work, at least according to one prostitute he ran into.
- Zero-G Spot: Mentioned in an early issue.