* Prices may differ from that shown
Y: The Last Man: Cycles is the second entry in author Brian Vaughan's phenomenal series about the adventures of the last surviving male; and his male pet monkey, after a mysterious plague has wiped out every other mammal with a Y chromosome. It follows directly from the end of the first book (Unmanned), so you should read that before reading this. Otherwise, beware spoilers aplenty.
All is not well following the end of the last book. Yorick; the last surviving man, and his bodyguard Agent 533, have successfully found the scientist they were looking for. Sadly they have also found that a group of Israeli militants have burnt her lab to the ground. Dr. Mann does have a backup lab across the country in California, but the trio must first survive the journey. Unfortunately this particular journey has been further complicated by the end of the world. You see, when every single man on Earth dropped dead during rush hour the freeways got a little blocked up. Then the planes all fell out of the sky, and there are not many women alive with the training to get rid of all that junk. So Yorick must barter his way (in his Gas Mask disguise) onto a train cart carrying livestock cross-country. A group of revolutionaries try to demand a toll for this service, and in the ensuing fight Yorick is sent flying off the train deep into the heart of nowhere; or Ohio to be specific.
Here Yorick is fortunate enough to find the idyllic village of Marrisville. In this village a group of women have managed to survive the post apocalyptic wasteland outside and seem to be doing a fine job. They have working electricity, running water, know how to chop their own wood, fix their own homes, and do all the hard work that the rest of the world lost when the men checked out. Yorick even meets a cute new girl with a crush on him and seems to have found a lovely place to rest up. The women of Marrisville though are hiding a secret that they will do anything to stop Yorick and co. from discovering. Also, what nobody has yet realized is that Yorick's older sister has joined the homicidal group 'The Daughters Of The Amazon' and is currently helping them to track him down. Their ultimate goal is to find; and murder, the last of the great oppressors. So he's got plenty to look forward to then.
Once again I have to admit to really enjoying this entry into the series. As much as I loved the first book I was initially worried that having a whole series dedicated to constant gang attacks would have become repetitive fairly quickly. However with the women of Marrisville Vaughan has been able to expand on his concept and show the story telling possibilities that can come from a world without men. Plus, the slower pace enables him to develop his characters a little more, and give them all fairly distinctive voices.
Never is this more true than in the women of Marrisville themselves. Each lady in this town has a fairly unique personality that shows through, even when they aren't given anything to say. For some of these women it's in the facial expressions they make at their visitors, whilst for others it comes way of a snide remark or 2 that they get to make. However the two girls most important to the story get developed nicely. The village leader Lydia comes straight out of something like the Golden Girls. She's an outwardly sweet old lady with a powerful bitter streak running through. Yet, she's also a strong hearted old lady willing to look past the faults of others when it means doing the right thing. At one point she decides that the village should stand by Yorick; who was minutes before hurling abuse at her, with the words "You're a sanctimonious little brat. Don't mean you deserve to be executed!' and her place among my favorite fictional old biddies was sealed.
Then there was the youngest girl of the village Sonia, whose romantic interest in Yorick was both enjoyable to read but also proved to develop both characters at a refreshing pace. Their interchanges of dialog were littered with both pop culture and literary references that highlighted why they would feel attracted to each other even before Yorick became the last man. Yet Yorick's response to her advances really help to develop him as a loyal hero you can route for. You see Yorick clearly likes her too, would clearly love to stay in this wonderful town with her, yet insists on talking about his fiancé Beth at every opportunity. There are hints that his feelings toward Beth go no deeper than loyalty. In some ways he may even prefer Sonia, but Beth was his girlfriend before he was special, and dammit if he's not going to stand by her for that fact alone. It fits in with Yorick's established personality, and, to be frank, such an old-fashioned display of loyalty made Yorick an even stronger hero in my book. Though he can still make some terminally stupid choices throughout the book.
Other highlights include the chilling speeches from the leader of the Amazons that are scary because you really could believe someone could say these things to incite others to hate crimes. This caused an insane level of sibling rivalry, with a particularly harrowing standoff between Yorick and Hero that left you feeling that this is one relationship that can never return to normal. There was also one surprising moment with agent 533; who sadly spends most of the book unconscious, that seems to show how her feelings for Yorick are already deepening from that of the charge and protector.
The rest is, as we in the know like to say, business as usual. The artwork is fantastic. Giving the right cartoony feeling for the books lighter moments, but at the same time bold enough for some of the more emotional exchanges. It's fortunate because, had the artwork been more realistic then the moments where violence does occur would have been abhorrent. However because they are so bold then the worst of the violence can be hidden, whilst the characters expressions give the full import of these mostly unexpected moments.
So there you have it. This is another fantastic entry into the last man saga. All the expected bases are hit, and yet Vaughan still manages to explore some fresh new ground and develop his central characters. If I had to choose anything to complain about it'd be that as one of DC's Vertigo titles the language content can be a little excessive at times, and you might not expect some of the more violent moments even if they all fit into the storyline perfectly. That would be a personal complaint that some people will feel strongly about so I feel it's only right to tell you here. However if you can look past that then you'll find a literary classic that could easily sit on your shelf next to all of your 'proper' books.
Volume one review - http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/comic-book/y-the-last-man-unmanned/1691421/