I was the only woman in a car full of men.
I knew the men fairly well, I thought at the time, the road too. The 10-hour road trip to Taos, New Mexico that I agreed to join just a few hours before was my celebration for making my first poetry slam team. With me were two legends in the Dallas poetry scene and two rising stars who both encouraged me to slam. Now we were teammates and brothers, which meant we could share everything.
The conversations in that van were frank and crass, the kind men don’t have around women. I heard dating stories about ex-girlfriends from the 80s, S-curls, deloreans and ‘back-in-the-days’. I still remember how odd I felt, even as a masculine-of-center woman, as they talked. About three hours in, I’d had my fill of the flashbacks. My brother Rage Almighty must have seen the discomfort on my face. He dug into his beat-up backpack and said, “I’m about to emotionally destroy you.”
Rage unsheathed the first four volumes of Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man, each dog-eared and worn like he’d read them several times over. He happily told us the story of loner nomad Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. The three of us passed the tradebacks between each other in the back of that van, trading ‘holy fucks’ and trying not to spoil anything. The story stretched nine volumes (Rage owned all 10 and if you know him, you too see this as a miracle) but it didn’t feel like it, the story was so gripping.
When a plague mysteriously kills every male of every species on the planet, all that’s left are the women. The highest-ranking woman official in American government is the Director of Agriculture, and now she’s President. Women everywhere are mourning the loss of husbands, sons and friends, and plenty more looking to tap into their power free from the male ego. For the first time, the world is a dangerous landscape for a man. Yorick navigates the new world order wearing a gas mask to hide his face (makes him feel safe) and tries to find out what really happened. Through him, we learn what remains and *spoiler alert* it’s not great.
The graphic novel wasn’t overwrought with stories of overcoming toxic masculinity or misogyny, and is considered one of the critically acclaimed titles of all time. A television adaptation of Y: The Last Man is on the way, and I’m into it for two reasons: a mostly female cast, headed by Diane Lane, and its version of this story in the era of #MeToo and #Time’sUp. Series creator Brian K. Vaughan says the story will reflect the current political climate since he rewrote the television adaptation after the 2016 election. Melina Matsoukas, who also has director credits on HBO’s Insecure and Beyonce’s Formation, directed the pilot.
Yorick, with his quick wit, resourcefulness and background as an escape artist, reminded me a lot of Rage. Because he has to keep moving lest someone figure out his identity, Yorick only packs essentials on a journey that ultimately takes him back to his home. He finds friends along the forgotten pathways of America, and finds his sister running with a rebel faction of arrow-wielding warriors. He doesn’t try to take over or assert dominance in the many precarious situations he finds himself in; Yorick just wants to make places better before someone tries to exploit him for their own gain. My brother wanted the same things before he died in October.
When I reached the last page of Y: The Last Man, I was shocked I didn’t realize that was the end of the story. Surely there was more volumes, more story to read. I punched Rage in the shoulder cause, in that moment he deserved it.
“Why would you do that?!” I huffed. “You left me hanging.”