Monday, April 05, 2004

solve for y

while sitting in the jury-pool room all day friday -- my first and thankfully last day of Very Important Civic Service -- i re-read the first three volumes collecting "y: the last man" -- a comic book about the last man on earth. it appears to have a precedent in a mary shelley story, "the last man," among other things. the comic book tells of a mysterious plague that in 2002 kills every male animal, except for a young new yorker named yorick brown and his pet ... monkey. (yep. guffaw, guffaw.) its name is ampersand, which is a crap name for a monkey if you ask me, but whatev.

in another wink-wink nudge-nudge irony, yorick doesn't do much well (being a recently graduated english major and all), except adore his girlfriend, conveniently in australia when the plague hits, and be an escape artist. escaping even death, eh? (which someone in the book does point out, as you'd have to.)

it is a mystery why these two survived, as much as why all the other males did not. (although it may have something to do with a ring he bought at a magic shop, but i think that's a red herring.) and so we follow yorick's adventures through a world radically changed. he is the son of a u.s. congresswoman (his dad was an english prof, hence the weird first names of him and his sister, hero), who tries to ... well, it isn't clear if she's trying to hide him or save him or what. i mean, her motives seem selfless-mother-like, but i am suspicious. (maybe it's just too much time spent in the worlds of joss whedon.) he is pursued by the fanatical daughters of the amazon, a man-hating group that apparently torched all the sperm banks, and whose members believe the plague was some sorta cosmic rebalancing of the scales. due to men being rapist oppressors and all. they also burn off one of their breasts to signify their membership -- allegedly a la the original amazons -- so that kinda tells you their sanity level right there.

as if that weren't enough, yorick also is pursued by israeli soldiers (israel, what with its most liberal ideas about women in combat, naturally has the best military in the world following this little shift of the global paradigm), as their government wants the last man for its own purposes. and he is guarded/accompanied by 355, an agent of the u.s. gov't's secret "culper ring." the secretary of agriculture is now president of the u.s., and what's left of congress are largely democrats -- at one point the wives of dead republican reps and senators briefly lay siege to the white house to demand their husbands' seats. which ends in disaster, and doesn't get them what they want.

anyway, it's all very wry and grim -- great shit. it makes me think about a lot of stuff. the writers weave relevant real statistics and info into the story line, and these things often help you visualize the enormity of the situation. stuff like that an overwhelmingly huge percentage of pilots are men (therefore, when the plague hit, 5,000 planes dropped out of the sky). but sometimes it's the personal moments that resonate more, and make me think of all the men in my life who would be gone, wiped out, just like that. most of the people i count as friends, in fact. it can be a little unsettling, actually.

but also there is just flat-out humor, like how the makeshift national memorial to the men is at ... ba da bing! ... the washington monument. hah hah HAH. and how a disguised yorick encounters a woman there who explains that it just hit her how the rolling stones are dead. and then they tick off a list: dylan, bowie, the who, the rest of the beatles, the eels, u2, tom waits, tom petty ... chuck d. that was both funny and sad.

it's interesting, as well, to see certain ... philosophies of feminism taken to their extremes. the daughters of the amazon are led by this professor with some serious issues. but it doesn't seem a caricature so much as ... a combination of catharsis and opportunism. in such a post-apocalyptic world, any type of charismatic leader would garner followers. especially one who claims to have answers -- the men are gone b/c they were genetic mutations, and nature is simply making things right, etc. -- at a time when no one knows anything for sure except that they're all in a world of hurt. (and cockamamie theories as to what happened are in no short supply, it turns out.)

the story takes lots of angsty twists and turns, especially what happens with yorick's sister, hero. but i think what i'm liking most about yorick brown is that -- in my sadly "buffy"-addled mind -- he is like xander harris, all hail the mighty xander. the heart of the buffy troika of willow (head), xander (heart), and buffy (fists). yorick is probably even about xander's age. in his early to mid-twenties. basically clueless about how, but wanting to help. always seeming light-hearted, even inappropriately joking, but deeper down grappling with some serious horror -- just like everybody else on earth. suffering a lot of loss in a deceptively offhand way. he's open-minded, after a fashion, yet still with ideas of his own. (all yorick wants to do, understandably, is find a boat to australia.) more resourceful than he looks, as 355 puts it. real good with a lockpick. spunky, basically. kind of like nancy drew.

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