Sunday, February 10, 2008

Alas, and Anon: Y the Last Man, the Last Jester, the Last Issue

Amy Reads the Week (of February 10th, 2008)

I knew it well, Gentle Reader, could point to Just The Precise Moment in which I First Discovered one of the greatest comic books of all time: Brian K. Vaughan’s and Pia Guerra’s Y the Last Man. But I could go Further Back, if I so desired, looking far into My Past to see the bits and pieces that led up to my great enjoyment of this title.

Mary Shelley is one of This Humble Author’s favorite writers, and while Frankenstein is an amazing book, so, too, is her 1826 novel The Last Man. The novel is part-apocalypse, part roman a clef, part elegy for those Romantics who went before her: Byron, Shelley, her children, the ideals behind which Wordsworth stood, and then Wordsworth recanted. The Last Man is more elegiac than it should be, perhaps, because the inklings of the Vast Social Changes to be wrought by the Victorians already, in 1826, in sight.

Even farther and even faster, zombie movies watched too-young and too-impressionable, nuclear attack drills that urged Young Amy Reads to Duck And Cover, and even post-breakup, post-heartache Amy Reads wishing every member of the Male Persuasion off the face of the earth.

Dramatic? Most certainly. Warranted? Definitely not. Fulfilled in fiction? Interestingly, thanks to Mr. Vaughan and Ms. Guerra.

But responsible, too, is just the simple preview I viewed of Y the Last Man, and the urging of some Rather Intelligent Young Women of my acquaintance who read more comics than This Humble Author could ever pretend to read. These Intelligent Young Women pressured, coerced, nagged, and ultimately gave me the completed first issue of Y that I had seen in preview months before.

Reader, I married him.

That is to say, I fell in love with this complex little book that while one may question the preciousness of the siblings’ names, Hero and Yorick, there is in fact no preciousness, no pretension, and while there is, yes, Symbolism, it is not Heavy-Handed for all of that.

Mr. Reads and I just had the Unfortunate Occurrence to watch part of the new movie Across the Universe. My apologies to those Gentlest of Readers who enjoyed this film, but I must admit that Mr. Reads and I found the movie’s entire misunderstanding of Symbol and Metaphor to be an absolute travesty of writing. I will not ruin it for you in case you are desirous of viewing; suffice to say that when one’s head aches from the Rather Large Metaphorical Bat Of Metaphor being thumped repeatedly over one’s delicate head, one begins to be just a Tad Frustrated.

But Y—subtle, cunning, sly, smart, sad, pathetic, vicious, cruel, intelligent, metaphorical, symbolic, and resonating little Y—is a title that understands vision, plotting, character, and wish-fulfillment. Y the Last Issue only fulfills the promise set forth by the 59 issues prior.

Several times this title has brought me to tears, but it is not until the last issue that This Humble Author—yes, even I, Gentle Reader!—found herself mouthing obscenities in Mr. Vaughan’s direction. I did not cry, Friends; I wept. The loss, the rebirth, the discovery, the anguish, the guilt and questioning and triumph and despair of this issue just brought to mind How Books Should Be. This is what A Smart Comic looks like. This is a hero that one can love, and hate, as one always should love and hate one’s heroes.

Or, as Father Reads might say, if Father Reads were comic-book-inclined, this is a comic book for generations.

Alas, indeed, Gentle Reader. Where be his jibes now, you ask? His gambols? His songs and flashes of merriment?

They have gone, escaped into the air, because escape is what Yorick always did best.

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