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Y: The Last Man: One Small Step is the third entry in author Brian Vaughan's phenomenal series about the adventures of the last surviving man; 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 second book (Cycles), but these books follow a strict chronology so you really should start way back in book one (Unmanned). Otherwise, beware spoilers aplenty.
After the events of the last book Yorick Brown; the last man alive, thinks that his life is starting to quiet down. However there are certain things going on in his life that he is unaware of. His doting mother believes he has been kidnapped by the woman hired to protect him, and so has sent a group of Israeli militias to retrieve him. This same group has been tailing him behind the scenes for the last two books, but is actually more concerned with capturing him to gain worldwide leverage for their own nation. More to the point his recently brainwashed sister has just escaped from a prison that he himself put her in.
Things start to look up when he meets a Russian Woman named Natalya, whom he had previously witnessed ranting about how men from space will be coming soon. Well, you can imagine his excitement when she reveals that three Astronauts were in space the day that a plague killed every male on Earth, and two of them were males who actually managed to survive up there. Of course these men will need to survive getting back to Earth before their oxygen; or fuel, runs out if they want a chance to become the heroes who repopulate the Earth. Yorick feels it only right those actual heroes get this privilege, rather than 'some skinny little white boy who meant nothing to the world before'. So it means that Yorick and his companions must help Natalya find her way to the biological safe house in Kansas where the shuttle has been arranged to set down. Will the safe-house be enough to protect these men from the plague? Will the Iranians cause them any problems? Well, these are questions that can only be answered by reading the book for yourself.
It's definitely worth doing so as One Small Step is (for the most part) another sterling example of how to develop concepts like this. The world itself is developed that little bit further as Yorick; who has grown a beard since book two, meets a woman with her own hair gummed to her face. It's a small touch but it was something that added to the depth of the story in a very believable way. It was also very funny when she commented on how fake Yorick's beard actually looks.
It's these sorts of things that have made the saga so believable though. I absolutely loved the way Yorick has started to look down on himself and question his worthiness as a hero. It's something we have all done in the past, and so when Yorick; who has been flung into this role, finds out that he may soon be passing on his mantle to men who were heroes before the plague, his reaction is oh so relatable. I also liked that you get to see more of Yorick's struggle to remain faithful to Beth despite being the last man on Earth, and was quite amused when he had to ask Natalya not to mutter in Russian due to her accent.
Once again it was Vaughan's dialog that helped make these scenes work. Dialog among any of the characters here is handled in a very believable way, but still manages to be both light hearted and surprisingly poignant. For instance Yorick's flirtatious banter with Agent 355 (her real name is classified) is light and perfectly paced, but moments where 355 starts acting irrationally to protect Yorick show that there is more to it than just friendly banter. Then the exchanges between Militia leader Alter and her soldiers make for a fairly solid commentary on the act of warfare whether men are involved or not. The beauty of the book; and series as a whole, is in the way it gets the balance right in all extremes without compromising the overall tone.
Unfortunately in this particular book the perfect pace meant that the whole story could be told in as few as four issues of the monthly comic. So some padding was required to get it up to trade paperback (the collection of comics that make up one book) length. In this book it comes as a two issue storyline where Yorick's pet Ampersand is picked up by a group of actresses after being attacked by some ninja chick.
It was a decent enough story, with some hilarious satirical jabs at the entertainment industry, and raised some important questions for the future. (what's with the ninja chick?) However you never have time really to get to grips with the characters due to the length of the story. There was also one moment where Vaughan mocks modern cinema with the girls play by showing them play out what many people would expect from the plot of one man in a planet full of women. It was only one page, but the graphic sexualized language on display made me feel very awkward.
There is strong language in the rest of the book no doubt. As a Vertigo book you have to expect some adult content; in fact the book at one point mocks people's perceptions on this point with a character telling you what words you cannot say in a comic. However in that one instance it felt pretty extreme, and kind of pervy at the same time. I'm glad that Vaughan did not unnecessarily drag out the pace of his central story to fit it into a trade, but am forced to knock a point off due to the awkward content of the filler story, and the fact that I found most of the characters kind of annoying to boot. Although credit should be given to Vaughan to the superb way that the end of this story builds Yorick's character.
Still there can be no denying that this is otherwise another fine book. The artwork is still as bold and beautiful as ever, the highly detailed covers look amazing, and the writing is still intelligent and perfectly paced. I would still rank it among the best literature I've read, even if I did not like that one page in the filler story.
Book 1 Review - http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/comic-book/y-the-last-man-unmanned/1691421/
Book 2 Review - http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/comic-book/y-the-last-man-2-cycles/1692213/