Page 45 Review by Stephen
Gripping premise in which everyone on the planet in possession of a Y chromosome haemorrhaged in an instant. Now every male on the planet is dead except escape artist Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand. What happened and why?
I love a premise you can précis so succinctly.
From the writer of SAGA, EX MACHINA, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD etc come a series whose ramifications have been so well thought through as I explained in our review of Y - THE LAST MAN BOOK 1 so if this is new to you I suggest you start there. Y - THE LAST MAN originally ran for ten shorter volumes now being repacking as thicker books so if you want the thicker editions look for "book" on our site rather than "vol". This collects vols 5 and 6.
Here's Dr. Mann who can explain things in much longer words than I:
"For the last few months, I've been looking for an external source that allowed both you and your pet to escape whatever killed all the other males. Environmental exposures, your nutritional intake, shared fucking belongings, whatever
I've been insanely careful to study your biological samples independently, in order to isolate whatever the x-factor might be. But then it hit me, what if one of you is the x-factor? What if an internal variable somehow shielded both of you."
you think I'm what kept Ampersand alive?"
"No, I think he's what kept you alive."
"Oh. Wait. Huh?"
"I finally started combining different samples from you two, and observing the reactions with immune electron miscroscopy. At first there was nothing, but then I used purification immune adherence hemagglutination, and ran those results through microtiter solid-phase -"
"Doc, when I tried to build one of those baking soda volcanoes for the second-grade science fair, I nearly blew off my own testicle. Is there any chance we can dumb down the technobabble about a thousand percent?"
"It's a bit like the trivalent antitoxin I doped you up with to protect you from any further exposure to botulism
but on a much different scale. When I compared your altered cells to my male embryonic specimens that were destroyed during the genderside, I founds yours synthesized proteins differently than -"
"Something inside of Ampersand masked you to the effects of the plague."
how did it get inside me? 'Cause if you're accusing me of blowing this thing
She's not. So what did save Yorick and how did it get inside him? It's got a great punchline. And rather a pungent smell.
So. Having trecked across an America populated by militant, self-styled "Amazons" (amongst whose number is Yorick's own sister), communities of escaped prisoners, warring intelligence agencies, rogue factions and a thespian outfit, Dr. Mann thinks she's found the answer and therein a potential longshot of a solution: Ampersand himself - or at least the bits he likes to fling across the room.
But the monkey's manky biological by-products have gone missing along with Ampersand himself, so Yorick, Agent 355 and Dr. Mann have to follow the trail of his abduction across the Pacific to Japan where they find themselves in a war between smugglers and a trigger-happy Australian navy. Plus, those are very small cabins, so who knows what will happen?
Also: Yorick's sister's back, she's armed to the teeth, and she has Agent 355 in her sights. She's not the only one.
The strengths of this series lie in Vaughan constantly thinking up new ramifications of the gender fallout, and Yorick's vulnerability which he masks under a veneer of banter. Being a much earlier work than SAGA and EX MACHINA that banter's not as polished, I concede, but it begins to really hit its stride. The twists are all here, though. *zips mouth tightly shut*
Pia Guerra's art is sympathetically soft and gentle, her characterisation ensuring a sense of the ordinary so grounding these individuals within the extraordinary that envelopes them. Even Agent 355 - she's very much an individual human being who once learned to knit. There's plenty of downtime spent lounging on beds in jim-jams.
Don't think this means there aren't sequences so harsh you won't wince, but when one of our posse picks up a great big sword, for example, they don't transform into the ultimate warrior unless they already are. They're shown to be precisely who they are: someone unused to wielding a sword in self-defence.
Finally, for the moment, and this is a thing: people's hair grows. It gets messed up. It gets tied back or otherwise tidied up. It gets cut. Honestly, look around you: this happens, and so it does here.