Back in 2002, Vertigo Comics began publishing the action-adventure series Y: The Last Man. Written by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, Y told the story of a world-wide cataclysmic event. In one instant, and for reasons unknown, every creature on Earth carrying the Y chromosome perished. Men, animals, and unborn babies. All gone. The only survivors were an unemployed escape-artist named Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. Over the course of sixty issues, Yorick traveled across the globe looking for answers and his lost fiancée with beautiful and deadly Agent 355 and geneticist Dr. Allison Mann.
Though the story rights have languished in Hollywood development, that has not swayed fans from giving birth to a live-action adaptation. Written and directed by Christian Cardona of Drake 1129 Productions, Y: The Last Man Rising stars Travis Quentin Young and Kent King as Yorick and Agent 355, as they survive “the day all the men died” and trek across country to prevent their own extinction.
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT
I first read Y three years ago and was instantly hooked. Thankfully, all ten trade volumes had been published by then, which allowed me to breeze right through them on a binge read. It’s one of the best comics I’ve read, and I would love to see a live-action TV show or miniseries in the same vein as The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.
Rising condenses the first volume of the comic into a twenty-minute adaptation of what made the story great. The terrifying plague scenes capture the global scale of the catastrophe. Young’s performance emphasizes Yorick’s ineptitude and downright carelessness as he carries mankind’s future on his shoulders. King’s performance seethes with Agent 355’s intensity in her kick-a-- fight scene. It’s all there, and it looks marvelous.
Cardona plays freely with the story’s details, which I’d like to nitpick because . . . well, just because. The only scene that is really plucked almost identically from the page is Yorick’s introduction in his straight-jacket with his new pet monkey. Elsewhere in the script, Cardona introduces the characters in different situations from the comic or cuts them out all-together. Yorick’s sister Hero and Agent 355 have entirely different scenarios at the beginning. Yorick’s fiancée Beth and Congresswoman mother are cut out, along with villainous Israeli commando Alter. Dr. Mann is only referenced briefly at the end.
As major as these changes are, Cardona uses them wisely. By cutting the fiancée, Yorick’s ultimate goal in this film version is to find his sister in LA. This pits Yorick on a collision course with the film’s ultimate villain, the Amazons. A roaming Mad Max-style gang of women supremacists, the Amazons seek to capture Yorick and ensure that no men subjugate women ever again. The first female who volunteers to track him down is . . . (Spoiler alert!)
Other details are spot on. Young and King side-by-side look identical to their comic counterparts. There’s Ampersand, the straightjacket, the gas mask disguise, and 355’s amazing fighting skills (sans the wand). I’ll admit the biggest discrepancy between the comic and the film is the Amazons‘ trade-mark physical characteristic, but it’s probably breast . . . I mean best . . . that the actresses did not have to lose one of two key body parts.
Cardona’s gift is transplanting the spirit of the story into an amazing production. The scene at the diner is representative of the comic’s key episodic moments:
Yorick lands himself in danger.
Agent 355 comes to the rescue.
They hit the road again.
It perfectly copies the serial structure that hooked all readers to the original comic. At the same time, it liberates the story beyond what we have already read and proves that an infinite number of stories in this world are possible. Seriously, this could be plopped right on a TV executive's lap and demanded to be put on the air as it is. They even created a great pre-credits intro: “I survived the worst day in human history. The day all the men died. Except for one. And, I’ve been assigned to protect him.” Boom! Cue the Emmy Awards, please.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT
Y: The Last Man Rising is posted on YouTube here.
Watch another half-hour fan adaptation of Y: The Last Man produced in 2011 by Noteworthy Productions at https://vimeo.com/22730317. Made for under $1,000.00, this version features a few scenes the other missed (Garbage truck!).