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Y: The Last Man: Ring Of Truth is the fifth 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 the end of the fourth book (Safeword), but these books follow a strict chronology so you really should start way back in book one (Unmanned). Otherwise, beware spoilers aplenty.
As the series has progressed Y: The Last Man has drifted away from the standard six issue story line approach usually used in trades (the collection of comics that you can buy in a book store) in order to keep the priority away from the trades and on the story line as a whole. This is a good thing for those of us who are reading the entire ten book story ark as we can get chapters of a book dedicated to incidental characters that we are still attached to. Unfortunately it does mean that those picking up an individual book may be left thinking that their product is incomplete. This will be even more noticeable in this book as it features three separate story lines that are fairly short in themselves, but really build and develop the bigger picture for you.
The first story follows the conclusion of the last book, and sees Yorick sneaking out to find redemption in a local church. Here he meets a blonde lady named Beth who reminds him of his Fiancée Beth. Yorick confides in her the circumstances behind his killing a girl in the last story, and then Beth confides in Yorick her own little secret. Beth was a flight attendant the day all the men died, and the mistake she made when her pilot and copilot both died cost a lot of women their lives too. I found this to be a really touching story, as I am always fascinated by the stories other people have to tell regarding the day of the genderside. This one particularly so because; as short as the story was, the emotional conversation between these two made their sexual encounter afterwards feel like a natural progression of the story. Of all the women Yorick has met, it kind of makes sense that this one would be the first one he would actually be intimate with. It also makes a very logical sense for him to respond this way after he realizes that he will not be able to confess his sins to God due to the absence of a male priest. Yet still; after their encounter is disturbed, Vaughan manages to make Yorick's solution to the next problem incredibly funny without diluting the drama he has just developed.
That is followed by a single issue that explains Yorick's sister Hero. It starts in their childhood, moves up to their adulthood, shows how she ended up joining the Amazons, before explaining everything that has happened after her escape from prison. It was a fascinating look at a very complex character who wants to find redemption for mistakes she made during a complex time for the world. However it also adds to her character with some disturbing new developments that will affect her when she does meet Yorick again.
Finally you have the main story; Ring Of Truth, which reintroduces the three Burqa clad assassins from the last book. The girls are members of something called The Setauket Ring, which is a splinter cell of the Culper Ring Agent 355 is a part of. They are after something called The Amulet of Helene; which 355 stole from Jordania on the day of the genderside, as the legends behind it show that its removal may have caused the plague. In a fight with 355 they manage to steal Yorick's engagement ring; which the issue reveals he purchased from a magic shop, and minutes later Yorick starts Vomiting blood and collapses. On the off chance that this ring really is what protected Yorick, 355 must take the fight to The Setauket Ring while Dr. Mann tends to the sick Yorick. However they are both blissfully unaware that Hero is hot on their tails, and; even worse, the Ninja chick from book three is watching them from outside.
Now it would be very easy to presume at this point that you could not possibly have a cohesive book with all that going on. However if you have been following the series from the beginning then this wont be a problem for you. Vaughan's writing is strong enough to tie all these events to the rest of the story in a very cohesive way. More to the point, it manages to build on the previous books to create a richly developed world for the rest of Yorick's adventure. Yorick's encounter with Beth number two managed to be moving even though you were looking at talking heads the entire time. You likewise feel a lot of 355's panic when he subsequently collapses, and you will feel drawn to Yorick's two companions for the way they put their frustrations aside to come through for him.
The beauty of this series though is the way that Vaughan manages to throw in so much humor without detracting from his serious story. I have previously mentioned a moment in the first story, but even in the dramatic final story you will find a lot to laugh at. When Dr. Mann theorizes on the reason for Yorick and Ampersands survival it is hilarious, and yet strangely plausible at the same time. Yet it is Yorick's reaction to this news that made me laugh the most because it builds on his established personality so well, and helps to establish his desperation for some meaning to everything that has happened.
This book is such a great package for all these reasons. It helps to develop the world of Y: The Last Man into something even more plausible than you had before so that the drama hits you hard. Yet the lighter moments help the book to flow at a smoother pace, and the stunning artwork helps to tie all this together. As the story gets more and more dramatic the character designs seem to be getting more and more realistic, but they retain enough of their cartoony charm for the books lighter pace. Plus there were some really cool action scenes in this particular book, and they had a real sense of motion thanks to the way the art was presented.
As ever though you should beware that the book does feature some strong language, and there is a little mild nudity at the start of this one.