Y: The Last Man Vol. 7: Paper Dolls
Y: The Last Man is a 10-volume graphic novel collection about what would happen if an unexplained plague wiped out every male on earth, animals and human alike, in a heartbeat. The premise of this story is that two males were inexplicably spared: a young man named Yorick Brown, amateur escape artist and generally something of a loser, and a capuchin monkey. The primary plotline is concerned with how to keep Yorick alive long enough to figure out just why he survived and whether that information can be used to help repopulate the earth, all while Yorick tries to find his girlfriend and would-be fiance, who was on a sabbatical in the Australian Outback when the disaster struck.
In the process, Yorick and the people who help him encounter crazed "Amazons," who believe it is their duty to remove the last vestige of the male of the species from the planet, an out-of-control Israeli Defense Forces commander who wants Yorick for her own purposes, Yorick's mother, a Representative and one of the few members of the U.S. government left alive, Yorick's sister (with a few plot twists I won't reveal), and various others, some who try to aid him, many of whom try to kill him.
The science in this set of graphic novels frankly doesn't make much sense, so you have to turn your brain off, much as you have to do when you read Superman. Some of the depictions of life without men make sense; some less so. There are plot twists galore and *everyone* has secrets, some of which aren't revealed until the final volume.
I found the artwork in this series to be adequate but uninspiring. It reminded me a little of the old Curt Swan Superman and Legion of Super Heroes days. It's clean and uncluttered but this isn't artwork that's going to blow you away or that you'll want to show off to your friends. The real attraction to this series is the writing. To a certain extent, I think that's appropriate, as this doesn't have the grandeur and the scope of, say, the latest Avengers or Justice League space battle.
In the last volume, Yorick, Agent 355, and Dr. Mann, were on an Australian submarine that had sunk the boat that was taking them to Japan, where they were looking for the other last male on earth, Yorick's monkey, Ampersand, previously captured by a ninja assassin named Toyota. Book 7 opens with the submarine in port in Australia, while a tabloid reporter on the docks is asking people if they had seen, or knew of, any surviving men (not because she knew about Yorick but because that's what tabloid reporters do).
Inside the submarine, Yorick is insisting that he be allowed to go on shore to at least have a try at finding his girlfriend Beth. Beth was on a walkabout in the outback but was home based to an anthropology center in Sydney, where the sub is currently docked. The others are reluctant but eventually agree that he and Agent 355 will make the attempt. They run into trouble at the center and Yorick is unmasked, upon which an onlooker immediately calls the reporter who had previously been interviewing people at the dock. She quickly arrives on the scene, takes out Agent 355 with a taser, and unmasks Yorick. Knowing that she has the story of the century, she has Yorick strip, hold up a current edition of her employer's daily paper, and takes a picture (warning: full-frontal nudity).
After a brief flashback which reveals more about Agent 355's past, she awakes to find Yorick in his boxers and finds out what has taken place, so they head out looking for the reporter to see if they can stop the story. Meanwhile, Dr. Mann and Rose, the eyepatched sub crew member have been getting closer and learning more about each other, leading to a midnight kite-flying expedition where, for the first time in this series, Dr. Mann manages to relax and to even smile, leading to ... um ... activities that make her smile even more. Afterward, Rose reveals that she wants to join the team and go with them to Japan.
Yorick and Agent 355 manage to track down the reporter, who proves to be resourceful enough and determined enough to take on Agent 355. She forgot one thing, though, and so Yorick and 355 get another chance. The ending of this sequence might surprise you, though, so I'll just stop right here. I'll also not reveal the next bit about our eyepatched crewman, Rose. Suffice to say that, as usual, Vaughan has a few surprises up his sleeve.
And speaking of surprises, with the reporter issue resolved, Yorick and 355 finally get some news about Beth. They track down her favorite watering hole only to find that she's just taken off for Paris, due to a discussion that she and Yorick had had (revealed in an earlier flashback).
Since it's been a while since we've looked in on the rogue Israeli general, Vaughan reveals that she's made her way to America and to the office of Yorick's mother, now a Secretary in the new presidential administration. The confrontation between the two is brief and violent.
Vaughan seems to be touching all the bases in this issue, since our next visit is to California where Yorick's sister Hero has found Beth, whom we last saw making love to Yorick in an abandoned Catholic church. Much to Hero's, and our, surprise, their brief tryst had some consequences, as it is a very visibly pregnant Beth that answers the door. Beth is convinced that she's bearing a son but has not been to a doctor for fear of the consequences of having to explain just how she can be pregnant.
Hero's journey to Beth was to deliver a letter that Yorick had written. Beth claims that it's just a goodbye letter but we find out later that it's a bit more than that. Again, you'll have to read the book to find out the contents. Both women are surprised by a nun and two women dressed as Catholic Swiss Guards, who are looking for a male born of a virgin birth, who is reputed to be the next pope and savior of the Catholic church. Is that Beth's child? You know the drill... read the book to find out.
The next sequence consists of some flashbacks which reveal more about Agent 355 than we've seen thus far and provide a great deal of insight as to just why she is the way she is. Some of it is moving, some of it is violent, all of it is well written. The next set of flashbacks, oddly enough, are about Ampersand, and how Yorick ended up with what we now find out was the wrong monkey: a lab monkey instead of a monkey to be trained as an assistant for disabled people. We then flash forward to the present day, where Toyota gets her comeuppance from a mere monkey, who escapes from her and gets lost in the crowd at the port where her ship is docked. And on that note, the book ends.
There is a lot going on in this book, a lot of insight about the characters, a lot of continued movement on the various threads. I think another reviewer had it right that we've got a big jigsaw puzzle here and this book just laid out several pieces for us to see. I still really like what I read and love what Vaughan is doing with these characters. The writing is strong, consistent, and believable, and we really do care about, and want to see what happens to, Yorick, 355, and Mann.