Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Ballad of Yorick Brown

I just caught up on about two years worth of Y: the Last Mans. The last time I checked in with Yorick, he, Agent 355 and Dr. Mann were just beginning their international voyage to recover Yorick's stolen monkey (in issue #31). I read the eighteen issues since that cliffhanger in surprisingly little time, a testament to writer Brian K. Vaughan's quick pace and generally sparse scripting. The stories in this run ranged from excellent to average, with the four part "Kimono Dragons" storyline being the weakest and the three part "Paper Dolls" the strongest.

The familiar rotation of artists Pia Guerra and Goran Sudzuka's styles are so similar, it is often difficult to distinguish who drew the issue without checking the credits. This may also be to the credit of inker Jose Marzan Jr who brings a much needed consistency to the artwork. That consistency benefits this type of comic in particular, with its continually evolving quest storyline. Both artists are capable storytellers, with clean, varied compositions, a good sense of panel to panel progression and good backgrounds and scenery (no doubt the result of considerable research, given the many international settings Vaughan's scripts call for). The art's greatest strength, however, is that, as a whole, it tells the story without ever becoming a distraction. Like Grant Morrison's Animal Man, this is a book that will be remembered for its story rather than its art, and both artists understand this, composing their art in a style that is aesthetically pleasing, without being too flashy or calling attention to itself.

Vaughan's dialogue, and particularly the neverending sarcasm of the lead character, is also generally well done. Vaughan has a gift for capturing speaking voices, adding just enough of that "writer's touch," the clever banter and back and forth between the characters which make their interactions humorous, despite the massive holocaust they are essentially trying to overcome. But the real key to this book's continued success is Vaughan's ability to setup and maintain an interesting premise with which to compel the characters, and the readers forward. That the male half the world's population has mysteriously died is as unique and fresh a hook today, fifty issues into the series, as it was when the book began nearly five years ago, and that there is a dinstinct end to that story (the series concludes with issue #60) rather than run on forever, eventually trading creative teams and devolving into recycled plotlines and pathetic guest stars, only further elevates this book into the prototypical modern comic. Like Gaiman's Sandman, this master plan with its overriding traditional story arc, is the kind of series that leaves faithful readers satisfied in the end. I like everything about Y: The Last Man, and even when certain individual issues feel weaker than others, or certain lines of dialogue ring false, what lingers in the memory is the very satisfying and entertaining story as a whole, and the entertaining journey which all of us took with Yorick half way around the world.

No comments: