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On perfect endings

I read the first 16 issues of Y The Last Man in white-heat mode one 2004 night. After that, every couple of months, there would be an influx of fresh issues that I would consume as soon as I could. I said this then, and I will say it again now – I had no clue of where the story was going or how it would end, Brian K Vaughan’s plots devilish enough to batter my mind into enfeebled submission at the end of every issue. I generally pride myself on figuring out the inner workings of a story, having subscribed to and mapped Campbellian ideas of myths and storytelling from the time I figured out who Campbell was and where I could get ahold of Hero Of A Thousand Faces. ( Damn, I sound like a sanctimonious bastard, don’t I? Nothing new about that, eh? ) But BKV stumped me at every turn of the plot, his characters becoming more than heroes and villains and bad guys and good guys and….uh…I meant bad girls and good girls, sorry about that.

And then I decided, at the end of issue 39, that enough was enough. I couldn’t stand it any longer. None of that waiting business for me, Mr Cliffhanger-Loather. So I gave up reading Y. Let it finish, I said to myself, and then I’ll finish it, in a single session of orgasm-inducing eye-humpery. The series was scheduled to last 60 issues, and that was just another two years or so away.

So issue 60 of Y The Last Man came out this week, and after getting my hands on it today, I sat down and did what I had promised myself I would, and read all 60 issues at one go.

I love you, Mr Vaughan.

What a ride! BKV tells his story as if he has all the time in the world, negotiating a huge supporting cast and a multitude of subplots with the skill of a Chess Grand Master. Needless to say, this series ranks up there with Vertigo’s finest – Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, Gaiman’s Sandman, Ennis’s Hitman and Preacher – the last one having been cited by Mr Vaughan as one of his inspirations for his approach to the series. It shows in the narration of the origin sequences of the characters, as we are given layers of their motivations and lives peeled away little by little towards the beginning, and the denouement that begins about halfway into the series, as small things fall into place. Red herrings and MacGuffins abound throughout, because this series is in part a mystery, or rather, a series of mysterious events unfolding one after the other. When I read issue 1 again today, I was struck by how much of groundwork Vaughan lays down in the very first issue, something Ennis did not do in Preacher until the end of the first arc.

As the series draws to a close, there are single issues devoted to tying up loose ends to EVERY SINGLE subplot and character that was introduced, I kid you not. The most important MacGuffin is revealed, quickly followed by one of the saddest moments in recent comics. The ending to issue 58 – mother of God, Vaughan, how could you??

There was something I had been agonizing over the last couple of months – what if the payoff, the ending to this great series is something that completely pissed all over the reader? The cover to issue 60 really freaked me out, because it can be interpreted in a very very nasty fashion. But you know what? The last issue was Perfect. The last panel actually had me gaping at the page for quite some time and just trying hard not to tear up. I am really really glad that I didn’t read anything at all about where the series was going and avoided all the buzz until today – it helped. A lot.

And oh, let me not give Brian K Vaughan all the credit – it was in equal parts the contribution of the co-creator and penciller Pia Guerra and inker Jose Marzan Jr, supported by occasional guest artists Goran Sudzuka and Paul Chadwick. One of the coolest things about the book is how the art looked remarkably consistent throughout, even with the guest artists around. I suspect Jose Marzan Jr has to be given credit for that, for it was his inking that was the constant all throughout these sixty issues. Major brownie points also to the cover artists who designed such memorable paintings – starting from JG Jones on the initial 20-odd issues, Aaron Wiesenfeld on some of the middle ones and then series regular Massimo Carnivale.

I know you guys are busy and shit with your life and work and your families and about how precious your time is and how you cannot be spending too much money on buying graphic novels, but you know what? Give up a day of your life and read this series. You will be glad you did.

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15 thoughts on “On perfect endings

    • Give it a chance – I nearly got frustrated with the series around issue 15, when there was a subplot that didn’t involve the main characters at all. Persisted, and look at where that’s got me! Two days, and I am still caught up in the afterglow of the last issue.

      • Define intensity: # 60.

        I know what you mean about the cover- but that wouldn’t just be mean, it’d be petty and cheap- something I don’t think BKV is capable of. So the idea never crossed my mind until you suggested it. ;)

        And yes, best ( or at least) most affecting escape in a long, long time.

  1. Read issue 60 the day it came out! :)

    But yeah I should go back and read them all in one sitting soon. But only after a while, so that things will seem fresh when I read again. I’ve already read the first 30 or so issues a couple of times (since I had the TPBs.)

    • I am pretty sure this series is going to be part of my books-to-reread-once-a-year. Amazing stuff. I remember you passed on some of the issues between 19 and 39 to me as they were coming out, when I was a wee bandwidth-starved one.

  2. The local library has tons of TPBs of Y The Last Man, which gave me an opportunity to read much of the series, and seriously, what an awesome and engaging series it is. These recent television shows that have been coming out wish that they could be as well written. Vaughan is just all around impressive.

    Speaking of Vaughan, did you ever read his Swamp Thing series? It lasted about 20 issues, thanks to low sales, and I was really sad to see it end. :(

    I have completed the entire 75 issue run of Mike Carey’s Lucifer, but I haven’t had the time to read the who thing like I would like to.

    • I haven’t read Vaughan’s ST series, though I bought the lot. Quite a bit of lag on my reading, let me assure you, because I haven’t even had the time to finish Lucifer, which I stopped reading somewhere around issue 25. I suck, I know. :-)

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