Monday, May 17, 2010

Y: The Last Man Vol. 4 - Safeword

Y: The Last Man Vol. 4 - Safeword
By Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

My first time through Y: The Last Man, I was disappointed in this story arc. It seemed a needless distraction. A brief stall in the forward momentum the story had built over the course of the three previous volumes.

In re-reading it, my opinion hasn't changed much, expect that this time around I have a much greater appreciation for this volume's strong character development, and one aspect of this so-called "distraction" actually leads to a pretty significant character moment in the final installment of the series.

Volume 4 actually collects two short story arcs. The first deals with the world's last man, Yorick Brown, being captured by an S&M crazed woman, tortured to sexual frustration, insulted, and degraded. Only it's not what it seems. The second has our protagonists dealing with a small militia blocking supplies from reaching the west coast, with tragic results for all involved.

Neither does much to advance the core narrative. That might be a slight frustration, since we're eager to discover the causes of the plague that killed all men and to see if it can be reversed. However, both end up being vital to our understanding of who these people are, especially Yorick himself, whose devotion to a woman he hasn't seen in years (and who might not even been alive) seems selfish and short-sighted given the state of the world. The first story gets us inside his head, the second is a turning point for how he handles the insanity he faces in a world where every living male but him has died. These insights are pretty valuable in a grand scheme kind of way, even if they do interrupt the momentum of the overall story.

And they do.

Safeword is a lesser installment in a fantastic series. One that arguably can be skipped (though I wouldn't recommend it) despite what it delivers for the characters. Yet one that is still better than 90 percent of the comics out there.

And that's good.

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