Retro Review: Y: The Last Man #56 by Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra
by Joe Smith on October 23, 2012

Retro Review 3:  Y: The Last Man #56

Published by Vertigo (DC Comics)

Written by Brian K. Vaughan

Pencilled by Pia Guerra

Inked by Jose Marzan, Jr.

This one I did not expect to review for the column.  It’s not that I never wanted to, but it’s due to something else entirely.  What is this comic doing in a box that contains early ‘90s X-Force and (adjectiveless) X-Men comics? Perhaps someone was looking at my comics at some point, this is a mystery for another day though as I review one of my all-time favorite series.

The Plot

The story begins (and is close to ending) with Yorick and 355 in Paris, France standing in front of a pastry shop.  He is excited at the opportunity to finally be able to eat some chocolate as it is available to women there because it works as an anti-depressant and something something something (his translation was lacking in some areas).  His sister, Hero, and Ciba are also in Paris as are Natalya and Beth number 2 (who has his daughter).  Beth discusses how she wouldn’t interrupt Yorick’s relationship with Beth (number 1) and that having their daughter was her decision.  However, Hero insists that she will not allow Yorick the opportunity to become a deadbeat dad.  Later that evening, Yorick and 355 are breaking into the catacombs where 355 is successfully taught how to pick a European deadbolt.  355 maintains that they should continue to sleep in isolated areas for his own safety.  While down there they casually talk about his tricks (handcuffs, leg irons, and straitjackets) and 355 mentions how he’s never explained his disappearing trick that he pulled many issues back.  Yorick then counters with the fact that she’s never told him her real name.  They come across a large pile of skeletons that were there prior to the plague and Yorick holds a skull (which is reminiscent of Hamlet).  Meanwhile, Alter continues to search for Yorick and has narrowed down the coordinates of his location.  As Eliana becomes more inquisitive, Alter murders her.  Back in the catacombs, Yorick is writing up a recommended reading list for 355.  They have a discussion about fatherhood and what’s it like to be excluded by people.  The following day, 355 gives Yorick the scarf that she’s been working on for a few years who then executes his disappearing trick (from the Washington Monument).  Immediately afterwards, one of the most anticipated moments occur, which of course, is brought to us as a cliffhanger.

The Breakdown

This reminded me how much I miss this book.  I enjoy Saga (I could take and leave some things there), but I loved this book.  I think that it had the legs to get to issue 100.  By this point, fans knew that the end was near; however, the story was still enjoyable and filled with some great moments.  The standout character for me in this issue was 355.  It was in this final arc that I realized how endearing this character became.  Initially, I didn’t care for her very much, but gradually she became either my first or second favorite character…without me even realizing it.  It was almost strange having Hero, etc. all finally being in the same place at once.  It was also interesting how everyone (Beth 2, 355, Hero) approved of Yorick being with Beth, but I could see how Yorick was changing at this point (compared to the beginning of the story).  Seeing Ampersand biting on Yorick’s gasmask was simple.  It reminded me how much I actually liked this little character and how this simple character was responsible for the possibility of the human race not dying out.  The conversation between Yorick and 355 in the catacombs was the real highlight of this issue though.  Yorick (while still procrastinating writing his great American novel) writes out a list of books for 355 to read.  They discuss fatherhood as Yorick is concerned about being responsible for reproducing so many offspring yet not having anything to do with many of them afterwards.  355 comforts him by mentioning successful people who didn’t have fathers.  Yorick then talks to 355 about a kid from his youth named Sully.  They talk about exclusion and Yorick says that he never felt bad about him until he met her.  His journey to this point has been about growth for Yorick.  355 giving Yorick her scarf was such a poignant moment as well.  In rereading this issue, I was reminded how much the exchange between Yorick and 355 really overshadowed the long awaited conclusion.  This comic was story-driven and the art complimented that.  Pia Guerra had a style that worked for this comic because it supported the storytelling by not being too flashy or over the top.  Would it work for an action-driven comic like Justice League? Probably not.  But for this comic it was perfect, the emotions she was able to render in these pages were incredible.  It made you empathize with what the characters were feeling and what they were going through.  It was just great to look at.  What a great comic.

BUT…

The one character that never really grabbed me was Alter.  I didn’t like her near the beginning and I didn’t like her at the end.  I know she wasn’t made to be likeable, but I just didn’t care about her.  The cover initially confused me the first time around because of the colouring.  I was confused about the ethnicity of the people on the cover.

Rating 8.5/10 (9 when originally read)

This comic was always the first or second to be read the week it came out.  I originally started buying it in an effort to expand my reading horizons (at the time, I was reading only super hero books).  Holy crap did it ever expand my comic horizons.  This comic was so story and character-driven.  At one point when I was younger (during the early ‘90s) I would’ve scoffed at the art because it wasn’t as flashy as Silvestri or Lee.  Thankfully I was a bit older when this came out (this book started in 2002) and I had matured…a bit.  I still enjoy the aforementioned artists, but now I enjoy all kinds of artists and much of that is because of Pia Guerra’s work.  I do strongly recommend for people to buy the trades.  Like I said before, I miss this book.



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