Hey all! Welcome back to Part 2 of Billy & Mandy’s weekly review of Y: The Last Man. For those that missed it, last week’s article can be found here. In this installment, we will be commenting on issues 13-24,or the second year of the series. WARNING: there will be spoilers in these articles, so if you don’t want to get spoiled, please read the issues before you read the articles. Or, read them along with us! We welcome your comments and hope that you enjoy the show.
Now, it’s time for more self-indulgent wankery with the Bill-Sauce and Man-Dizzle. If you enjoy that type of thing, read on. If not… what are you doing here? Go back to CNN.com.
Billy: So Mandy, when we last left our heroes…
Mandy: When we last left our heroes, they were waiting for the astronauts to crash land in a field. Yorick, more than anyone, is hoping WITH ALL HIS MIGHT that there are men on board and that he will be off the hook with the whole saving the future of humanity thing.
BZ: Is that how you would react? The “I don’t want to be a hero” thing?
MP: Yeah, probably. Because honestly, at this point if I’m him, I’m thinking, “Is it really realistic that I’m going to be able to save humanity? Probably not. Half the time I can’t keep track of my pet monkey”
BZ: Yeah, I guess you’re right. I guess a normal person wouldn’t be romanticizing the situation… although his ideas about finding Beth are pretty unrealistic.
MP: Yes. He’s completely romanticized the idea of finding Beth… but I think that’s like a realistic goal because he’s thinking, “I know she loves me. I know she’ll feel so lucky that SHE’S the girl whose man survived.” I think clinging to this “normal” thing from his old life helps him ignore the fact that he might never have a “normal” life again.
BZ: Okay, you win this round. I want to talk about that crazy Israeli chick, Alter. In the astronaut storyline, we finally get a good feel for her. First, do you buy her reasoning for wanting to start a war?
BZ: “Yes”? Good one.
MP: It was a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question.
BZ: I’m just wondering what you thought of the whole “we must start a war to unite our country” bullshit. Do you, as a person of reasonable intelligence, believe it’s a valid reason to start a war? And do you think it would be a successful strategy?
MP: I think it’s believable that in all the chaos of there being no men, it’s the Israeli that is ultra concerned about country over the fate of humanity.
BZ: Well, does it reveal something about her character? That metaphorically, she is one of the last “men” on the planet? Or, does it reveal that women are just as war-mongery as men?
MP: I think given those two ideas, I’d choose the first…
BZ: That she is a man in this woman’s world? I thought you would have said the second.
MP: Yeah… because look at the amazons.
BZ: Doesn’t that go more to the point that “aggression” is universal?
MP: They could be called “war-mongering”, but all of their actions are marred by stereotypical feminine concerns and emotionality.
BZ: I guess you could see it that way, because Vaughan doesn’t give us any men to compare them to within the story. He gives us Yorick, not your typical overly masculine male… an obvious subversion on Vaughan’s part.
MP: Well, yes. Yorick isn’t worthy enough to save humanity… if a MAN is what humanity needs.
BZ: I agree on that, but we’ll just have to disagree on the aggression thing. I see men and women as equally capable of committing reprehensible acts, given the right circumstances. Moving on, how did you feel about 355 after she killed one of the Israelis… the one that was spitting all those useless American phrases?
MP: Yeah, I don’t know how I feel about 355. I don’t trust her, obviously… and she’s a little quick on the trigger.
BZ: I felt really sad. I don’t know… through all this chaos, one would think that the women of the world could unite in their common grief and build a better world… but in that one little scene we see that there still exists that great divide. It kind of shatters your hopeful preconceptions about women…
MP: Shut up. The idea that women would band together in the absence of men is ridiculous. People, men and women, alike are self-serving beasts… I have no hopeful perceptions of women.
BZ: Yorick manages to save the day in this arc (beating up Alter)… has your opinion of him changed at this point? Can we like him now? Or is he still a whiny little bitch that needs a spanking?
MP: I like that he couldn’t get out of those handcuffs.
BZ: But he got out of the chair! Which seemed even more impossible.
MP: Well, if he hadn’t gotten out of the chair, it would have been pathetic, but if he’d managed both, it would have been unbelievable. Yeah, no… I think that he’s still sort of whiny. He had to take it to Alter though. At this point, no matter what he believes about 355 or the Culper Ring, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. Even if the devil you know does drop you off with some psycho dominatrix chick.
BZ: Agreed, but hold off on that for now!
MP: HA HA, okay.
BZ: Do you think that having the two male astronauts die in the crash was a cop-out? Of Lost proportions? I kind of did. I think if he let them live, he’d have to explain more about the cause of the plague and he wanted to leave it ambiguous, so… KILL THE MEN! It felt like a cheat. And the stupidity of tossing the woman out first, even if she is pregnant…
MP: Although, the pregnancy – did you see that coming?
BZ: Yeah, kind of.
MP: I thought it was obvious they were all doing each other.
BZ: Yes, it was! They were pretty touchy-feely in the space capsule.
MP: So fine. He kills the men. If the baby is a girl or it’s a boy and its head explodes, I’ll be pissed. Right now, I’m just annoyed at the dead astronauts.
BZ: Ok, big scene: when Yorick asks 355 if she really meant what she said, about being in love with him… thoughts on that sequence of panels?!
MP: YES! I’m glad you brought this up. What is going on with that? I thought it came out of nowhere, right? And then she dismissed it as a ploy so fast… but her face in the silence, after she says she wasn’t serious… what the hell? I keep forgetting that it’s been SOOO long that they’ve been hanging out. You know, because I sit and read them really fast but the timeline – a year and a half – who knows.
BZ: I was gonna say the same thing. Because when I first read it, this seemed kind of natural, but now… now, I’m like, “WHOA, slow down!”
MP: And if her intentions are nefarious in the long run, falling in love with him will definitely complicate that. And when she says it to Alter, it really does come out of nowhere. But, there again, a commentary on women. Because an argument like that never would have worked on a man, right?
BZ: Yeah, no way.
MP: 355 is another one of the “man” characters, in my opinion. I mean, I don’t think she’s androgynous for no reason. Artistically speaking, don’t you think her hard features are intentional?
BZ: Well, I just think the art is very loose, because a lot of the characters look the same. Her short hair? Yes, very intentional. Her clothes? Sure. Face? No. I mean, look at Mann and her lack of Asianness as a prime example.
MP: Alright, maybe. THEY ALL LOOK LIKE YOU. But seriously, I think on the one hand, Vaughan is trying to say something about gender roles and attitudes, subverting those things, but at the same time, he has to use signs we understand, ideas that we understand.
BZ: Sure, you have to utilize the conventions that people are used to… then you can subvert them to show the audience new meanings.
MP: 355 totally wears the pants in her relationship with Yorick… because he’s a pansy.
MP: Anyway, moving on…
BZ: “A plague on both your houses!”
MP: HA HA, yes!
BZ: How wanky was that two issue arc?
MP: Wanktastic. Major hat tippage to the bard.
BZ: I don’t remember what was going on at the time of that arc, like how the critics were treating Y, maybe this was a backlash from Vaughan against the praise?
MP: Why would he do that?
BZ: Poking fun at himself before somebody else does. To diffuse the potential audience backlash, maybe? It was just very apparent that he was wanking on his own supply… much like Joss Whedon, but in a different way. Whereas, Joss does it because he likes himself too much, Vaughan seems to find a self-deprecating way to do the same thing, but also charms the audience.
MP: Yeah, you’re saying that because that’s what you do. It definitely had that feel. Also, do you think it sort of buys a writer some time in the grand scope of things if you’re starting to get into parts of the storyline where maybe you’re not sure where you’re going and you need some time to suss things out, so you throw out this little one-two off and then you have an extra month to think?
BZ: That was a long sentence…
MP: BUT, I will say that Vaughn uses the play within a play in a similar way to Shakespeare’s use of it in Hamlet. In Hamlet, he stages the play to discover the guilt of his step-father… the play provides a moment of revelation… Don’t you think that Yorick’s desire to hear the way that Cayce chose to end the play shows that he’s starting to think about how this is all going to turn out, that he’s maybe starting to feel a little more the weight and responsibility of being the last man?
BZ: OK, first, yes, it does let the writer buy some time… but it also lets the artist catch up if they have a hard time hitting their deadlines. If you notice, the regular artist, Pia Guerra, doesn’t return for about 4-6 issues? And second, good call on the Hamlet thing. I loved his bit of dialogue at the end about the play, about it being a piece of shit… but what’s really cool, is the playwrights response. That’s totally Vaughan right there, heckling his critics
BZ: Favorite bit of wank? the Glengary, Glen Ross line and the housewife’s response to it… “Wouldn’t have any swears, would it?’
MP: How about that ninja’s name?
BZ: How about that NINJA!?
MP: UM YEAH.
MP: HOW ABOUT THE FACT THAT I’M SO DUMB I THOUGHT IT WAS A GUY? And I wasn’t even like, “WTF? THERE’S ANOTHER GUY?” No, I just thought, “DUH, IT’S A NINJA. OBV GUY.”
BZ: That IS dumb. So it was a double surprise for you?
MP: And then I was like, “OH WAIT. ALL THE NINJAS DIED TOO… and the pirates.” And then I had a moment of silence because I hadn’t even thought of the pirates.
BZ: Well… not all the pirates.
BZ: HOBO PIRATES!
MP: Okay. Dude! Now that we’re completely off-topic can we just talk about plot ninjas for a minute? Are you familiar with the term?
BZ: Please to explain.
MP: Okay, so this might have been born from the NaNoWriMo movement… that’s that thing where you write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days… but anyway, it’s a device you employ when your plot is stalled… you bring in the plot ninjas. You look at your action and you say, “Hmm, how would this scene move forward if suddenly THERE WERE NINJAS?” and then you write that and it gets you through the writers block.
BZ: Mayhaps that was a plot ninja then?
MP: OBV PLOT NINJA.
BZ: Okay, so now we can talk about the “spankage” arc.
MP: OBVIOUSLY, I’VE BEEN WAITING.
MP: I have to admit, I was a little excited when I thought that Yorick was finally going to get laid. Is that awkward?
BZ: Not at all. I was too! But, then it turns out that he’s gay? That must be rough… hey, how much better would this series be if Yorick WAS gay?
MP: Oh, I can’t believe you just said that.
BZ: Do you think it would auto-play more comedically? And that would undermine any of the points Vaughan is trying to make?
MP: Dude, your questions are all over the place. Also, can I just say, for the record, that you are so conflating being gay with being sexually assaulted as a child?
BZ: Oh, I’m not. But that issue is brought up in the book. I’m just responding to the content, man!
MP: I know, but let’s revisit what you said about it being “rough”? HE’S CRYING AT THE MEMORY.
BZ: What I meant was… being gay in a world with no men might mean never finding true happiness.
BZ: Hypothetically, if he was gay from the start, I think the conflict and tension that creates, if played seriously and not for the obvious laughs, could have been just as interesting.
MP: Could Vaughan have told THIS story if Yorick were gay? I don’t think so.
BZ: It would be a different story, maybe more interesting in some ways.
MP: Yeah, but it would confound many of the gender issues he’s trying to explore.
BZ: I don’t think it would. Yorick is already pretty effeminate. I think it just adds to the tension if Yorick is acting more feminine and 355 is being masculine… or, what if Yorick is very macho?
MP: But that’s against type right now. If he were gay, I think the attitude would be that it makes sense… there would be less of an expectation for him change. Do you know what I’m saying?
BZ: Not really. A macho gay man, that’s pretty stereotype shattering. How does that not explore gender issues? Okay, bear with me, being gay in a world without men, you could explore the concept of Yorick seeking companionship with a women. Maybe the tradgey then would be that he could never be satisfied. See, Vaughan has his female background characters “go gay” in the absence of men, we’ve seen that… and men in prison engage in homosexual behavior sometimes to cope with loneliness…
MP: Yes. But look at how those two things are perceived differently in the world. Women seek the company of other women for companionship, comfort, etc. When men “go gay” in prison, it is often for power.
BZ: Prime stereotypes to bust. And to your other point, for men and women, sex is always about power.
MP: These are constructs, obviously. I’m not saying that they aren’t.
BZ: I think a lot of people think we are these heterosexual creatures, when in fact, in the right circumstance anyone could be bisexual…
MP: Okay, but how we SAY things are is often (always) more important than how they actually are.
BZ: Good point… if we’re done veering off topic, let’s move on… the “suicide intervention”. Let’s talk about that.
MP: She should have told him a safeword up front.
BZ: I felt really disconnected from this arc the first time I read it. I didn’t get it at all that Yorick was trying to off himself. I was also the same age as Yorick at the time, so maybe I was just as stupid…
MP: Aside, have you read Ex Machina? Looks like he’s exploring the ambiguous orientation issue with Mayor Hundred.
BZ: Yeah, I’m reading it now in trades.
MP: Yeah, me neither. I’m not sure it was clear. I wonder if Vaughan worried about it himself. It seemed like there was a lot of back story exposition in this one issue. What did you think on the reread?
BZ: I noticed that he put himself in danger many times and in many stupid ways. And 711 lists them off for us. Vaughan even gives us one more way with the cowboy scene right before the story starts to refresh our memories.
MP: Okay, so I’m dense maybe? I think I read Yorick’s death defying feats completely wrong?
BZ: The stunts to get himself killed?
MP: Because to me, I think, if every man on earth dies… except you …you’re feeling kind of invincible.
BZ: Like that scene from Big Trouble in Little China where they drink the magic potion?
BZ: At the time, I read them just as stupid macho shit… which I think was either great writing or very terrible writing. He covers it so well, that I can’t tell. But, you know, it’s so obvious now that he’s suffering from survivor’s guilt…
MP: TRUFAX.com, for all your faxing needs. So he’s hot and brilliant?
BZ: First thought when we see him tied up? I thought, “Whoa, how do you tie ropes like that?”
MP: HAH. Would you ever see a dominatrix, Billy?
BZ: No comment… Okay, Yorick’s “OZ” delusion? Who do you think the Lion was? Who was the Wizard?
MP: Lion – yer mom. Wizard – yer mom… I don’t know!
BZ: I don’t know and I’ve read them all! We should ask this question again at the end.
MP: I’ll write it down.
BZ: At the end, when 711 gets capped, I felt so sorry for her. Because all that time, no one was around to give her a “suicide intervention”. She never gets to see that image/thing that makes her want to live. And then, suicide by cop and shit. Boo-URNS!
MP: Aso, a little bit like her death extended the metaphor about Yorick and the fact that he can never be happy, because he’s like a curse. Yorick… he’s bad juju, so the whole time I was thinking she was going to kick. Die. Get offed. Because all the randoms he runs into die. Kick. Get offed.
BZ: last question from this story… when did you first suspect Mann was a lesbian?
MP: Um. NEVER. I’m dense. OR AM I?
BZ: You are. Some chick in real life could be crushing on you and you’d have clue zero. Anyway, she was always so totally gay.
BZ: Too numerous to enumerate. Let’s move on to the Interstate Trade arc, or the arc I like to call “Why you so militant?” I think this arc goes a long way to explain why they can’t just get to California already.
MP: Yeah. Definitely. And personally, I needed that. Because I kept thinking, “WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG?”
BZ: Yeah, the fact that the countryside is burning and some gun nuts have gone all “Mad Max” on the highways makes a kind of sense… supports my violence theory from earlier as well I think… heh.
MP: Dude, the bald chick is cute right?
BZ: UM, YES. The bald chick IS hot. I loved what she said about not sleeping with Yorick, how it would degrade them both. Taken to the next level – Vaughan’s talking about him as a writer and Us as readers. So that was pretty excellent commentary. Billy-Approved Wank.
MP: What would you do Billy?
BZ: I’d totally tap… degrade away! That reminds me of what 711 said to Yorick… how she exposed the fact that the real reason he doesn’t sleep around is because he’s repressed, not that he loves Beth so much. Thoughts? Are we disappointed in him now? Because he’s been lying? Or, do we just pity him because he could’ve been sexing it up this entire time!?
MP: Yeah, well it definitely explains a lot… like how he’s having a relationship with someone who is on the other side of the world in the first place. And like, Beth is now the perfect excuse… which makes me want to explore what happens with Beth 2.0… but we can’t talk about that yet.
BZ: OH, how about the eyeballs getting knocked out of heads? Did you know 355 was so BADASS?!
MP: That was a new level of bad-assery.
BZ: Dude, do women actually have a secret code language? If that’s true, I had no idea.
MP: Were you completely confused?
BZ: It was gibberish!
MP: It’s not. I’ll demonstrate for you next time I see you.
BZ: Mann admits her feelings for 355? Whoa… awkward. So let me set the scene before I ask the REAL question. While Mann and 355 are tied up and about to be executed, Mann admits to lying about her clone experiment because she wanted 355 to “LIKE” her. Right after that, 355 kills the entire Militia while Mann is blindfolded… and when Mann asks if she can remove the blindfold, 355 says “no”. So… does 355 have feelings for Mann?
MP: I have no idea. I have to be honest, I was a little blindsided by the romantic plotlines…
BZ: She obviously doesn’t want any of her companions to know just how badass she is, and especially in that moment of extreme violence, she doesn’t want Mann to know. But, yeah, the romance was kind of like, “OH HAI!”
MP: Not sure how I feel about all of that.
BZ: Why did Yorick lie about killing that militia girl?
MP: Because he felt guilty. Because he’s in love with 355. Because he thinks he’s above killing people. Could be anything! That was the first person he killed, right? She was a child. I’m sure it felt horrible.
BZ: So all three of the leads are concealing something. All of them are just doing what they need to do to survive, yet they’re all lying to each other about it.
MP: And it’s getting harder as time goes on. Also, I like that Vaughan continues to point out the futility of extremism in all it’s forms.
BZ: Okay, let’s end this one on a cliffhanger… HERO’S BACK!!!!
MP: BEST NEWS EVER. I cheered.
BZ: And she’s all butch and shit. Is she back for good or ill?
MP: I still can’t believe she cut off her breast. I would NEVER do that. Sang.
BZ: And the baby’s a boy… was there anything else you wanted to add?
MP: Your face. I’ll add your face.
BZ: Good one.
Stay tuned for Part 3, covering the third year of the series, coming next week!
If you haven’t read Y yet, you can pick up the Trades at your local shop or order them online from Amazon.com at these links: