What with all the excitement generated by The Dark Knight and anticipation of The Watchmen, I think it prudent to mention that one of my favorite current comic series, Y: The Last Man, recently issued its final paperback trade, making this, if one were so inclined, the perfect moment to start the series. The premise of the series is simple enough: a killer virus wipes out all of mankind, save the protagonist Yorick Brown, a nerdy young magician with a pet monkey. The catch? Mankind might be kaput, but womankind is left untouched. Yorick heads out on the road with a secret agent named 355 to find the origin of the killer virus, maybe have himself cloned, and stay the hell away from the various groups of women who want his, errr, head.
Given the potentially heavy topic -- killer viruses, that is -- Y is frequently hilarious. It never takes itself too seriously and it strikes the delicate balance between rich, fully-realized characters and incisive social commentary: investigating and skewering gender stereotypes and revealing some of the more alarming and unconsidered consequences of gender inequality, but never in a preachy or overwrought tone. Yorick's journey provides the central plot of the series -- and its an interesting plot, no doubt -- but it also provides an excuse for the reader to wander through a world made and maintained exclusively by women. Some of the most fascinating story lines have little to do with Yorick. Yorick makes only a brief appearance at the end of Comedy & Tragedy which follows the efforts of a band of actresses trying to stage a play in a remote Kansas town and deftly explores the interrelationship of artistic expression and communal trauma.
New Line Cinema has the rights to the film and Shia LeBeouf is rumored to be up for the role of Yorick. Whether or not the film is ever made, Y is well worth reading in its own right.