Step one, read every ‘Y: The Last Man’ comic. Step two, follow Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra into every other title they touch.
Scam / DC Comics
By Brad Gullickson Published on September 10, 2021
This article is part of The Reading List, a recurring column where we encourage you to channel your excitement for a particularly groovy movie or television series into a variety of extracurricular studies. This entry lists the best comics to read alongside Y The Last Man.
After the speculator market imploded in the early 1990s, the comic industry went into a tailspin. The two big companies (Marvel and DC) struggled with their identities and looked for gimmicks before they – gasp – let themselves into – gasp – quality stories. In these turbulent waters, DC’s vertigo imprint, born of Saga of the Swamp Thing, Sandman, and Hellblazer, thrived. They were a big idea brand, and readers who had OD’s on pretty but hollow splash pages flocked under their umbrella.
Released in 2002, AND: The last man was a post-apocalyptic epic that delivered a seemingly unimaginable horror while making its characters and their unique relationships the main selling point. From the first edition, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Pia Guerra, we immediately connected with protagonist Yorrick Brown and his plight. As the last person to carry the Y chromosome, he represents our survival, but he’s also a bit of a lovesick fool who puts all his hopes in the heart of a fiancé who may – well, probably not – share his admiration.
When comics were at their darkest, Y: The Last Man represented everything the medium could do. Its canvas was massive and addicting; You would be damned if you missed a single issue. Guerra’s art walked a fine line between realism and caricature exaggeration. Even when their faces got wider, the emotions found in them were more real than real. As a reader, you felt like you were in control of the pace, but Guerra pulled you along as quickly and as slowly as she wanted. We were their puppets.
The new TV adaptation on Hulu shares most of the elements you can find in the comics. Ben Schnetzer‘s Yorick is Vaughan and Guerras is Yorrick. The same goes for Agent 355, Dr. Allison Mann, and the little scratchy Capuchin Ampersand. The show is certainly more in tune with today’s politics and living in a pandemic. But if you’re drawn to it and can’t handle the anxious wait between episodes, you will find absolute relief in the comics.
Y: The last man, the comic
We saw the first six episodes, and while it certainly doesn’t follow the comic beat for beat, the general vibe of the series stretches straight from the source. And who would like an adaptation that follows the original word for word, image for image? That’s not fun. We need a change, especially in perspective. The show gives a lot more space to the comics’ supporting characters, and gives us much-needed comfort from a Yorrick struggling to understand its meaning. Something you have to fight an arc or two with in the book before it breaks from its cataclysm sonic shock.
With these reading lists, I usually take the stimulating movie or TV show and use them as a basis for recommending different titles with the same characters and concepts. This is a one comic list for Y: The Last Man. You’ve read it all – all sixty issues or the three big Brick Omnibi by Vaughan and Guerra. And I am confident that because of your enthusiasm for the series, you will.
But from there, you’ll want more. Y: The Last Man has a definite ending and you will love and hate it alike. The easy way is to follow Brian K. Vaughan. And Pia Guerra. None of the creators replicate the exact magic of Y: The Last Man, but that’s fine. That’s better than okay. In fact, you’re likely to find a comic book series or two that you’ll love even more than Y.
No, that has nothing to do with Alex Garland’s film of the same name. Ex Machina was written by Vaughan around the same time that he was creating Y: The Last Man. On 09/11/2001 Mitchell Hundred put on his flight suit as “The Great Machine”. In the air, Hundred, with the unique gift of communicating with technology, succeeded in preventing the second tower from collapsing.
As America adjusts to life after the attack, Hundred runs for NYC Mayor and wins. The comic jumps back and forth along Hundred’s timeline, depicting his struggle as an aspiring political leader as well as a crime fighter. Friends become enemies; enemies become friends. Ex Machina juggles multiple genres and never fails one against the other.
Tony Harris serves as the primary pencil for the book. His art gives the superheroes a grave reality while masterfully capturing the tense subtleties in Hundred’s angry mayoral expressions. Reading Ex Machina is similar to the first time you read Watchmen. In your head you just think, “Yeah, this feels the way it would be,” even when the plot goes way beyond the normal.
I the people
Pia Guerra has kept me sane for the past few years. Your political cartoons for The New Yorker let me know I wasn’t alone. The world is crazy. I see it, she sees it, and she puts it on its side with wild, sharp anger.
Me The People from Image Comics collects her best prints. There is no real narrative other than our compulsion to self-annihilate. And while you won’t find the characters from Y: The Last Man here, you will absolutely recognize the knowing anger that fuels her collaboration with Brian K. Vaughan.
Guerra’s collection is loud and impossible to ignore. A single image conjured up by her will cut deep into your soul and you will discover a connection through this shared pain. Me The People is not a book to pick up when you are feeling well. No. You read this book when you are good and upset. It’s a battle cry, a call to action. You will definitely take it with you to the voting booth.
At Paper Girls, those comics get a little weird. Fantastically implemented by the artist Chiang cliffwho have favourited science fiction coming-of-age story begins like the best Stephen King novels. The year is 1988. Erin recently arrived at the sleepy castle of Stony Stream. She starts delivering newspapers on her bike to make some money and quickly becomes friends with three other newspaper girls.
One night, the four of them are attacked by another gang of teenagers. They go on a chase, follow these punks into a house still under construction, and when they go into the basement, they discover a time machine. Further discussion would rob you of numerous surprises and escalations. But believe me, this comic is more than Stranger Things meets Back to the Future.
Paper Girls contains a great mythology. Like Y: The Last Man, the comic takes on a full narrative, but the world beyond the characters offers so much additional potential. The universe it presents itself could branch out in many more directions if Vaughan and Chiang were ever to let go of their baby’s reins. Doubtful, but it would surely be fun to see other creators play in this field too.
Black canary # 4
Pia Guerra jumped up Brenden Fletcher‘s Black Canary franchise for a single issue more than a decade after the launch of Y: The Last Man. This is not an epic. It’s a bang in the mouth, a short, sudden impact that burns long after the action is over.
The Birds of Prey teammate roams dive bars in search of a kidnapped guitarist. Everywhere she meets with resistance. They are all idiots and quickly crumble under their martial prowess.
Guerra seems to be having so much fun with Dinah Lance. She gives Black Canary a quick but weighty move, and her look is pure film noir. Issue four is a perfect story, something you would tell someone who was a little curious about the character who just saw the latest movie. Or someone looking for a little pia guerra change from Y: The Last Man. The artist can work with the best in capes and spandex.
If you’re reading this list and are already a Brian K. Vaughan fan, this is the title you came to expect first. I’ve never met a person who didn’t like Saga. Or didn’t like Saga if they made it over the first few pages.
The back of the book promises a science fiction spin on Romeo and Juliet. Two couples in love with stars desperately try to celebrate their attraction for each other, while their warlike clans do everything to tear them apart. Plus, they have a newborn baby, and this little guy symbolizes atrocities for so many political parties.
In the book itself you will discover the liveliest, most imaginative building in the world that could not possibly be reproduced on film. Artist Fiona staples provides a realm that would cost billions to implement on the screen. The images are so aggressively offensive that they would send grandmothers to wipe out the multiplexes. Totally uncool grandmothers, mind you.
The last edition of the Saga in 2018. It ended with a cliffhanger and a brutally painful cliffhanger. Vaughan and Staples share the same philosophy as Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard on The Walking Dead. Characters you love must die. I am only saying this as a warning. Calm your heart; it will break.
Those who have read Saga are eagerly awaiting the next issue. It is coming. We were promised.
Those who haven’t read Saga, well, now is the time. Do some research while the rest of us torment themselves over the excitement. Image Comics has just collected the first nine trade paperbacks in a nifty box set. Hopefully after devouring Y: The Last Man and the available saga titles, the next installment will be ready for you on time.
AND: The last man Premiere via FX on Hulu on September 13th.
Related topics: FX, Hulu, The Reading List, y: the last man
Brad Gullickson is the weekly columnist for Film School Rejects and senior curator for One Perfect Shot. When he’s not talking about movies here, he’s co-hosting Comic Book Couples Counseling on comics. Follow him on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He him)