Stereotypically, comic books focus on adolescent power fantasies. Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man, vols. 1-6 (the individual volume titles are visible on the archive page, but I don’t feel like typing them here) eschews the adolescent trappings of superpowers to instead explore a world where all the men on Earth mysteriously die, except for the protagonist, who has to make his way through a world full of women. Definitely not the stuff of adolescent fantasy.

Adolescent fantasy or not, Vaughan’s series is pretty darn good for adults. In fact, despite the SF trappings, Y is primarily about people and their relationships to each other — the overall feel is like that archetypal chick-book Strangers in Paradise, but with more coherent actiony bits. Where SiP ends up with this elaborately baroque backstory of secret societies and assassins, Y is able to develop its characters against a backdrop of a post-semi-apocalyptic world rife with story potential and intriguing mysteries.

Obviously, a character-based series doesn’t work at all if the characters are either annoying or poorly-written, but Vaughan’s characters are neither. The protagonist is heavily reminiscent of Peter Parker sans superpowers, and the dialogue is witty and well-written. Despite its praise from mainstream circles (I’m always suspicious of comics that are liked by people who don’t like comics), this is a fine series. Highly recommended to SF readers who like comics, but don’t like superheroes.


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