A mysterious disease has wiped out all the men on Earth. All that is but one Yorick Brown, a young slacker and amateur escape artist. Utterly unprepared for this, Yorick now lives in fear of the various women who want to kill him or capture him for their own purposes. He travels with his monkey, Ampersand, the only other surviving male mammal, trying to stay out of sight and hoping against hope to somehow make it to Australia and be reunited with his fiance, to whom he had only just proposed when all the dying started.
In this first volume, Yorick is on the run from a group of female Republicans who want to control the government, and from a cult called the Amazons, who now include his sister, Hero. He is accompanied by Agent 355, his bodyguard, and employee of a mysterious government agency. Bodyguard or no bodyguard, the idea that the people in charge let Yorick and his monkey, the owners of probably the only viable sperm left on the planet, go wandering around the countryside with so little protection is a little hard to swallow, but I guess a little suspension of disbelief is always necessary to enjoy stories like this.
There has been no explanation given so far as to what caused the disease, though the characters offer various theories. Presumably all will be revealed as the series goes on. The characterisation of Yorick and the women in the story has so far been a little sketchy but hopefully that will be filled out as the story progresses. I'm also hoping that we might get to see more of what is going on in the rest of the world since so far the story has been very much focused on the USA. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just that so many comics, especially of the post apocalypse type, are set there and personally I'd like a little more variety.
The story explores the implications of what a world without men might be like. I have often heard people say that the world would be a peaceful place if it were inhabited only by women, but I think the reality would be nearer that in Y the Last Man. There are still political struggles and people willing to commit violence for ideological reasons. There is still revenge, betrayal and murder. The characters also take the time to reflect on the great men who have been lost, such all the world's male musicians.
I have heard this series described as a reversal of P.D. James' novel Children of Men, in which humankind has apparently lost the ability to reproduce except for one pregnant woman. Some of the themes are similar but by and large the focus here is different since the effects of the Incident are much more immediate. It's not just the inability to reproduce the survivors need to deal with but the efficient disposal of so many corpses, grieving the dead and rearranging the labour force. The extent to which civilisation comes to a halt without men seems a little over the top. I would think there would be enough skilled women workers around to, for example, keep the electricity running across the country, or at least get it going again pretty quickly.
The art is great, with nice clean lines and characters you can actually tell apart (indistinct characters is a pet hate of mine). I am grateful that the artists spared us some of the gorier details of the deaths, such as the virus' effect on young boys and male babies.
Y the Last Man would be a decent starting point for someone who isn't into comic books, especially if they're into science fiction or stories about the end of the world. Idealogically it's a bit of a mixed bag, but it's a page turner with plenty of action and a storyline that provokes discussion.