Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

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Anatomy may not be 100% accurate.

Hopefully, you’ve all done your homework assignment and read the first issue of Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. If not, here’s some reasons why you should have.

1) You like shows like Lost, Fringe, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Really anything that qualifies as character driven, accessible sci-fi or fantasy.

2) You enjoy the works of Stephen King. (His books, not the films based on his books).

3) You enjoy, um. I can’t think of a filmic counterpart to this, but Vaughan inserts all kinds of pop culture references so if you’ve enjoyed a Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino film here or there, there’s something for you here.

So, I’ve gone through some broad reasons why you might like this. If enough folks are interested, perhaps we can do a book-clubby walkthrough of the trades,* but for now, I’m gonna go just a level beyond broad recommendation and give a basic outline of the plot, as well as the strengths of the writer and artist.**

First off, I should tell you that the series opens with a catastrophic event: all the men are killed at the same time via a mysterious plague. Do not go into this series looking for an answer to this. Much like in life, there are various people who offer explanations as to why things have happened, but all are to be taken with a grain of salt. Make it a grain of sea salt. The extra salt will help it go down a little easier for all you “everything needs to be explained types.”

What should you be looking to get out of this, if not answers to why the men died? An emotional roller coaster. Yeah, that’s right, I pulled out the generic movie poster critic quote. But if this series hits you the same way it hit me, then the following will occur: You’ll laugh. You’ll be invested in these characters. You may get an erection. You’ll cry. Goddamn, will you cry (Final Issue). You’ll presented with a world in which everything has changed yet remained the same.

Another thing to expect: Cliffhangers Like A Mother Fucker. Again, I’ll call back to LOST. There’s a reason they brought BKV (How I will be referring to Brian K. Vaughan from this point on) onto that show. He knows how to make you salivate for the next installment like nobody’s business.

AND, INTRODUCING: I Don’t Know How to Talk About Art Good: If we go through things in more detail, I’ll scan things, I’ll take photos, I will show you examples of how Pia Guerra is a great artist. But for now, know this: characterization. In the world of comics, we’re talking about consistency in the look of a character, staying on model, making a character look believable in all their actions. Pia Guerra accomplishes this. Also, she makes a monkey EMOTE. You will look upon that monkey and weep. WEEP. (And laugh).

So, while I haven’t really followed up my last post with some legitimate or well written reasons to read this series, I’ve hopefully made you a little bit more excited to read it. Look at my last post, or Google all your reading options, and I’ll dive in a bit more into the series soon.

* Trades, or trade paperbacks are collections of comic books. Often collected 6 at a time, most modern comic books are “paced for the trade,” i.e. written in 6-issue story arcs so they can be collected neatly. Recently, a trend has begun to rebel about this, returning to classic “done in one” stories, or smaller 2-3 issue arcs that plant seeds for larger stories.

** While there are fill-in artists here and there during the series, for the most part I will be referring to Pia Guerra as the singular artist of this series. She co-created the characters with Brian K. Vaughan, and when there are fill-ins, they match her style. FYI, a fill-in artist is what it sounds like. It’s an artist who will take over for a single issue, or even multiple issues when the regular artist is unavailable.

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An Argument, A Theory, and Finally A Recommendation

An Argument, A Theory, and Finally A Recommendation

It’s a testament to my current lack of clear goals and low self esteem that I consider today my all-time writing achievement:

Getting retweeted by 4 people I don’t know, and becoming involved in an internet argument.

Anyway, I jumped into an argument between comic book journalists Tom Spurgeon and Heidi MacDonald. He writes for The Comics Reporter and she writes for The Beat. Google them. I don’t want them to see the trackback link to this and think I simply jumped in for the sake of boosting my ego.

No, I jumped in, because Mr. Spurgeon was calling out Ms. MacDonald about an issue he has with comic book news sites regurgitating PR from the “Big Two.” The “Big Two” are Marvel and DC Comics and are owned by Disney and Time Warner respectively. Often, comic book sites, especially Newsarama and Comic Book Resources will be primarily populated with copied and pasted news supplied by Marvel and DC. Anyway, he’s written more about it at length, and on his website, so go on, you can open up a new tab and hop over.

Now, where I jumped in, was when they were arguing about the validity of discussing The View mentioning that Marvel will be featuring a gay marriage in an upcoming issue of Astonishing X-Men. Aside from a “Batman’s gay” joke, it’s my understanding that the ladies on The View didn’t really break into any discussion on the subject. So, a show on ABC, owned by Disney, mentioned a news item about a Marvel Comic, also owned by Disney. And a portion of the comic book blogosphere patted themselves on the back for comic books getting mainstream coverage.

But comic books didn’t get mainstream coverage. Marvel did, and in a broader sense, the superhero comic book genre did, but really it was about Marvel saying “we love the gays!” Which is of course, awesome, and in addition to my family, I feel that my open minded worldview is heavily influenced by reading the X-Men growing up.

However, the thing that comic book news sites seem to love more than putting out Marvel and DC PR is pointing out when the mainstream media picks up such things. This somehow serves as a validation of the medium.

It is not, and its not what most of them want.

That’s right, Internets, I’m telling you what you want.

Boom, I just beat the internet with a superkick.

What you want is validation of superheroes. You want it to be cool, to be okay in the same way that your cousin being a sports fan is.

Well, I hate to be the one to tell this to you, but it’s already happened. The Avengers has broken a billion dollars. The Dark Knight did so as well a couple of years ago. My mom knows who Hawkeye is. There were government certified douchebags in the theater, excited to see a movie about superheroes at a midnight showing of Avengers that I went to. They will probably be at The Dark Knight Rises and help that to over a billion dollars as well. Superheroes? They’re alright with everyone.

The real hurdle is comic books are not just superheroes. Comic books are an art form and a storytelling medium just like television, film, and literature. There are horror comics, mysteries, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, crime, hard sci-fi, every day life (is that a genre?) and so on and so forth. I think Anthony Bourdain’s even working on a spy/cooking mashup. So yeah, pretty diverse.

But no one pays that fact any mind. It’s an industry that is caught up in the conventions and the comfort offered by one genre and by doing so is keeping people out. It’s not mainstream media coverage that’s going to get people into comics. It’s people who love comics telling people about comics that will get people into comics. (Did I say “People” and “Comics” enough? I DO NOT OWN A THESAURUS. BUY ME ONE).

So, to finally give some purpose to this blog now that I’ve given some further context to my mission statement:

READ THIS COMIC BOOK: Y: The Last Man: by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. Yorick Brown is the last man on earth. Further discussion of the concept and this comic, next post!

Low-risk investment: Y: The Last Man #1, FREE on Comixology. For those with iPads, Kindle Fires, other tablets, or even a laptop, you can read the first issue for free here, by signing up for a Comixology account.

Slightly higher-risk investment: Y: The Last Man Volume One: Unmanned, $9.77 on Amazon. You’re buying the first six issues collected. You can also get the first volume digitally on Amazon for $9.28 if you have a Kindle Fire.

We’ll discuss this next time. Consider yourselves bookclubbed.

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE

Whenever a book is adapted into a film, that book is suddenly everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

Look at The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Look at it!(Bale-Batman voice)

Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you. And my throat hurts now. Anyway, you couldn’t ride public transportation, go to the beach or do some other activity where people read in public without seeing Stieg Larsson’s book. Pleasantries of “Oh, I’m reading that, too!” were exchanged, as they have been with The DaVinci Code, The Hunger Games and, um…that other thing everybody else read and then you felt you kinda had to read too.

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Iron Man: Demon in a … it doesn’t matter, you’re not going to read it anyway!

Ok, my point, and there is some semblance of a point in here, is that through the magic of Hollywood buying rights to high concept or popular novels, people then will read the novels so that they know what’s going on in time for the release of the film. Why this is necessary, I don’t know, since the movie’s taking all the hard work of reading on for you, but hey, people are crazy. So why doesn’t this work for comic books and comic book movies? Everytime a movie based on a comic book comes out, the comic book internet fanbase bemoans the fact that the publishers aren’t doing enough. That there should be free comics with movie tickets. That the end credits should tell you where to buy comics. Etc. ETC, dammit.

No. The point is, superhero comics are confusing. A person who DOES want to read the comic the movie is based on is going to have some trouble, since its very rare that a comic book movie is based on an actual comic. Oh yeah, superhero movies are confusing too. Because rather than take an individual story from 70+ years of serialized content, they cherry pick here and there and put it all in a pot, and baby, you’ve got a movie. And for the rare films that can be traced back to some source material, the publishers pretty much fail at putting a big old “NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE” sticker on the front.

???

But anyway, what’s this all about? I want people to read comics. Not just superhero comics. I know they’re not going to read those. I want my sister-in-law who watches The Walking Dead to read the comic it’s based on. I want my dad who loves crime novels to read Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell. And I want the coworker who bitches about “comics today” to read Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba’s Casanova. I want to use this site to get the word out to all my friends and followers and I guess my jerk family(j/k, love you guys!) too about the art that I love. I want to share this with you, and this site is going to help me do so.

I gave my friends Seth and Chris access too so they can write some stuff. This is mostly going to be about sharing comics, but it’ll also be about other stuff too. I try to relate and to communicate myself through art. And when I’m not making my own, which is more often than not, I tell people to: See this movie. Watch this show. Check out this book. And now, Read This Comic!