Comic books are not just for children. There is a growing market of adult comic book readers, and this article will help you find your way into it.
The long-awaited FX on Hulu adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s comic classic Y: The Last Man is an apocalyptic best-of. The Stand will be compared to The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later will be compared to The Strain, Revolution will be compared to Jericho, and so on. The most striking similarities, at least for me, were to a more frightening kind of dystopia, namely a real-world colored by COVID and climate change and intertwined with vivid recollections of September 11, 2001.
Perhaps this is why showrunner Eliza Clark’s retelling of the classic tale (which ran from 2002 to 2008) is so appealing. It even improves on much of what was rich and evocative in Y: The Last Man, and delivers to many of its favorite characters successfully at moments, while falling short in one key area. Although there is some terror and severity in the comic, it is mostly a humorous tale. Throughout six episodes, the TV show has lost a lot of its appeal. The program is often divisive, always interesting, and almost never as entertaining as it should be.
Don’t get me wrong: a TV program portraying the sudden and terrible death of half the world’s population would be depressing. It is not, however, the comic’s tone. A postapocalyptic environment may also contain a broad variety of bright colors and even silliness, as Netflix’s newest Sweet Tooth adaption demonstrated.
Clark’s and Louise Friedberg’s film Y, which was written by Clark and directed by Louise Friedberg, has a dark tone from the start. Unlike the comic, the series spends a lot of time setting up the characters and circumstances before the unexpected arrival. This causes everyone with a Y chromosome on the planet to bleed horribly out in the midst of their everyday activities. Massive traffic jams, hundreds of aircraft catastrophes, worldwide political instability, and, of course, corpses everywhere are all the result of this.
The exceptions to the Y-chromosome disaster are Yorick (Ben Schnetzer), a 20-something want tobe escape artist, and his useless aid monkey, Ampersand (Computer effects are surprisingly well-rendered). Yorick is the brother of paramedic Hero and the son of Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane), a Democratic member of Congress who has been promoted to the president as a result of these terrible events (Olivia Thirlby). During the pandemic, her actions have left him traumatized.
I believed Y: The Last Man was basically Yorick’s story when I first read the comics 15 years ago. However, further readings showed Yorick to be an immature and limitedly motivated protagonist. 15 years ago, I was most likely an uninformed and unmotivated protagonist. And that the story is really a group effort. By entirely eliminating certain narrative threads and fully rewriting others, Clark explains the ensemble structure.
Among the characters are Agent 355 (Ashley Romans), the late president’s right-wing pundit daughter Kimberly (Amber Tamblyn), and his former press adviser Nora (Marin Ireland). There’s also Dr. Allison Mann (Diana Bang), an ethically complex scientist who gets a lot of laughs. While Yorick is an annoyingly reactive leading man, he remains the center point around which the other characters join, separate, and interact at such a rapid speed that it seems like a lot happens in the first few episodes while only covering a fraction of the comics.
The comics by Vaughan and Guerra are really great, but in a 2002 sort of way. They comprehend how the loss of half of the population would impact politics, as well as what a manpower crisis would entail for certain institutions that already have demographic imbalances. The comics were aware that a chromosomal pandemic would target cisgender men, but they weren’t prepared to explore what it meant at the time.
Clark and her writing team are better equipped to confront the fact that not everyone with a Y chromosome is a male, as well as explore what it means to be a trans man in this environment. This is achieved by using Hero’s buddy Sam (played well by Elliot Fletcher) as a springboard for many of the series’ most interesting conversations. It’s a more realistic portrayal of a civilization that has gone beyond a binary concept of gender, as well as a shift in the stakes for how people in this world would react to Yorick. The series, in my opinion, is more equipped to engage with the former than the latter.
Due to the increasingly poisoned and contentious discussion on gender problems over the past decade, Clark has some good fresh material. To the existing resonance, add contemporary restrictions on reproductive rights. Even though COVID-19 isn’t mentioned in the narrative, it’s still a post-pandemic situation in which the lone surviving white man puts self-entitlement above community survival and refuses to wear a mask even when it might save lives. As a result, draw your own conclusions.
Clark’s measured approach to Y: The Last Man provides the film with a solid foundation and thematic depth, as well as many great monologues that emphasize the film’s speculative decisions. It also makes the show talky and convoluted, and although the plot isn’t precisely slow, it never manages to find the right mix of action and adventure. And if you like pop whimsy in your comics, you’ll notice that it’s generally absent here. The series’ creators were preoccupied with what was sad and frightening, oblivious to the fact that some of the series’ genre clichés should be pleasant and exciting. It’s conceivable to want to leave a fictional world while yet have it function as an escapist.
Schnetzer adds some fun to the story and masterfully depicts the puerile element of a person who has no desire to be humanity’s savior in a section that some people may find annoying without recognizing it. He and Romans, who became my favorite part of the show, had a great bickering relationship over time. Bang’s addition establishes the show’s main three after just a few episodes. Lane, Thirlby, and Ireland all strike a good mix of toughness and vulnerability. Tamblyn, on the other hand, provides a lot more of a feeling of threatened humanity than you’d anticipate from a one-dimensional villain.
Y: The Last Man is a comic for grownups who are still young in heart. The TV series is maybe too adult for its own good, from the violent portrayal of the illness to the nudity flexibility that most likely comes from the “on Hulu” component of “FX on Hulu.” But the fact that Y got it to the screen at all is remarkable. As a result, I’m willing to give the series more time to loosen up, or the actual world more time to become less dystopian.