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the walking dead. [graphic content.]

Have you read The Walking Dead yet? If not, you are in for a big treat my friend. It’s a fantastic comic series written by Robert Kirkman about life after the zombie apocalypse. The main character is a police officer named Rick Grimes who gets shot in the line of duty, goes into a coma, and wakes up after the proverbial shit has hit the fan (a la 28 Days Later). It is the perfect way to introduce the series, because it’s about life after the zombie apocalypse, so using the coma technique is a clean way of allowing us to adjust to the post zombie world along with our hero.

The comic book/graphic novel medium is perfect for exploring this subject matter, because the story goes on and on, and thus it can take us so much deeper into the questions and metaphors inherent in the zombie genre.

There are tons of reasons why zombie stuff is great, but one of the more important reasons is that it is rife with metaphor at the heart of American culture. It wasn’t an accident that Romero set the sequel to Night of the Living Dead at a shopping mall.

At the moment, our culture is in the midst of this bizarre war where a huge portion of the population refuses to let go of American mythology from the 50’s. We have these ideas of what it means to be American, of what “real America” looks like, and while that ideal never existed, it is even more dangerous now because it should have died a long time ago, it’s alive and kicking even though it shouldn’t be, it is undead now. Actually, Bill Willingham used this as a tiny portion of his Fables storyline, and it was utterly brilliant, but Fables must be left for another post.

Zombies represent something terrifying because they are us. They are our fear of death, our fear of our appetites, our fear of the nagging thought in the back of our minds that we are our own worst enemy, that we will bring about our own destruction.

Yet, what are we left with on the other side of that? We play with the zombie genre, and lets say we make it to the other side of the cataclysm, doing our best to survive long term in a world overrun with a horde of the undead. Then what? Well, that’s what The Walking Dead offers a potential answer to. It’s a band of survivors trying to make life work, trying to keep their children safe, trying to fall in love and find a reason to wake up each day. If everything that we think makes up our world is taken from us, where do we go from there?

Kirkman’s writing is fantastic; tense, well paced, and constantly engaging. I almost always buy what characters are doing, how they are treating each other, etc. That’s rare.

Also, it just may be the best panel work I’ve seen. The art is all black and white, and the way Kirkman and Tony Moore, followed by Charlie Adlard, lay out the panels is perfect. It’s sparse, often with very little going on within each page, creating a great relationship between the story and the art. Also, they avoid the common pitfall of accidently giving away a big moment by placing a full panel event on the right page. What I mean is that so often I accidently learn something I don’t want to know when I turn the page, because as your turn a page you see page 35 on your right before you look back to 34 on your left. If there is this huge, full color death scene (or whatever) before my eyes as I turn the page, I can’t help but see it, so even though I haven’t read the stuff on the left, I know what happens on the next page. In The Walking Dead I am consistently impressed that they build up the big moment, and then make you turn the page to see what happened. It seems like it would be a simple, obvious thing to make work, but it is rare in my experience. They take the medium seriously, and realize what the reading experience will be like.

I really love this series. In the coming world, post Z-Day, the undead won’t be our only enemies. Other humans in the world, people in our own group of survivors, even our own sanity and grip on reality becomes tenuous and dangerous. Kirkman engages the potential for story in this realm with great attention to detail, honesty, impressive character psychologies, and gifted artistic help. You should read these! (And watch the show on AMC when it finally arrives in October).

The end

y: the last man. [graphic content.]

As a brief intro, this is first post in the ‘graphic content’ series. We’ll also post these with the book posts which still don’t have a title, as well as in the nerd candy category. ‘Graphic Content’ posts will all be about graphic novels/comic books.

In case you haven’t figured this out by now, I’m a huge nerd, and, like many other nerds, I love graphic novels and comic books. Feel free to judge me accordingly if you like, I’m used to it.

Anyway, on to the post.


The Y chromosome has self-destructed. Every male mammal on the planet has dropped dead in horrible fashion, killed by what appears to be a mysterious virus. Every male embryo is dead, sperm banks are filled with lifeless sperm, there seems to be no present or future for men. Yet, every female on the planet who has survived the crashing planes and such has been left untouched. In some sort of macabre gender-rapture, mankind has become extinct. Extinct, that is, except for the last man on earth, Yorick Brown, and his male Capuchin monkey, Ampersand.

That is where the story begins in Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra. What follows in the graphic novels are the adventures of a lone man and his monkey in a world full of women. No, it’s not porn. It’s a post-apocalyptic rumination on what the world might look like in the wake of the death of men.

Yorick travels across the country and around the globe in search of his girlfriend Beth, some answers as to why all the men died while he and Ampersand survived, and hopefully a cure. His travel companions, aside from Ampersand of course, are Agent 355 of the Culper Ring, assigned to keep Yorick safe, and Dr. Allison Mann, a genius who specializes in genetics and hopes to find a way to save humanity.

I can’t go into much detail beyond that without ruining the story for those who decide to read it for themselves.

For the most part, the characters are flawed and likable individuals wrestling with the aforementioned catastrophe. Vaughn does a great job offering one imaginative possibility of what would happen if all the men died in a world which still slants heavily toward patriarchy. Again, I don’t want to go into much detail.

The story Vaughn and Guerra tell is engaging, and it continues to gain momentum throughout the ten volumes. The tenth and final volume is strong, unexpected and fitting, it also pissed me right the fuck off. Vaughn sticks with a semblance of realism, which sucks when you want the characters you have grown to love to have a happy ending. Instead, the ending is a mixed bag, like life. There are moments in the final volume that genuinely moved me, even though I did kind of want to punch Vaughn in his big fat face.

So, you have been warned, if you decide to read these and you want a nice, clean, Hollywood ending, stop reading after Vol. 9 and make up your own ending.

If you don’t read graphic novels often (or ever), try to get through the first four volumes before you make up your mind about the series. It can take time to adjust to the style of graphic novels in general, and this particular story takes some time to get up to full speed.

Y is a good introduction for those who want to dip their toes in the comic book medium outside of capes and tights. This is a fun post-apocalyptic story, and the fact that it is told with more than just words, but also with artwork, shouldn’t count against it.

As with any sci-fi/post-apocalypse lit, we get to play with several questions, so you might especially like Y: The Last Man if you feel you would enjoy story/conversation/dialogue around such questions as:

What if there was only one man alive, and that man were both an an amateur escape artist and a smart-ass, pop-culture quoting fanboy?

How would women organize the world without men?

What would hope look like after the apocalypse?

Also, Vaughn does a great job playing with the sexism and gender roles in our current culture through the story of what would happen if the world as we know it became purely past tense. Most obviously he does this with his primary characters.

Yorick is a sweet, sensitive, laid-back, non-violent type; Dr. Mann is an insensitive, fairly closed-off, outwardly angry person; and 355 is a strong, dangerous, well-trained killing machine, and also the story’s anchor of courage and goodness. None of the three fit the typical gender slots characters normally get slotted into.

I can’t really tell you anything else, otherwise I would spoil things for you, something I intend never to do. Suffice it to say, Y: The Last Man is worth a look. Check it out.

The end