Review: Y - The Last Man Vol. 8: Kimono Dragons trade paperback (Vertigo/DC Comics)

April 29, 2020


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When I last reviewed Y: The Last Man (some 13 years ago!), I noted that the seventh volume, Paper Dolls, lacked sufficient revelations for a book so far down the line, instead offering a (still enjoyable but) basic Y misadventure of the kind we might've seen way back at the beginning. Y: The Last Man Vol. 8: Kimono Dragons is better on that count, continuing to outline the behind-the-scenes connective tissue between the characters, though it still feels like we're a trade or so away from really understanding what's going on (and two trades, of course, from the end).

If nothing else, the titular "Kimono Dragons" story is more epic in its finale than "Paper Dolls," so Kimono Dragons at least gets one's blood pumping. I'm impatient for answers, which means impatient for the conclusion, and I grant maybe that's missing the point; it does however feel like this tale could be a little shorter than it is.

(No offense intended for reviewing a comic about a pandemic in the midst of a pandemic. This site has always been about reviewing what I'm reading, and this is what I'm reading right now. These days, my interests have been skewing toward post-apocalyptic sci-fi, perhaps looking for context in my only previous experience with times such as these; with slowing trade releases even before the major lockdowns, I've also been trying to go back and complete some series I started but never finished, hence the recent Harley Quinn read-through. Hopefully some escapism only helps, not hurts.)

[Review contains spoilers]

Again, "Kimono Dragons" has an epic finale, with members of the "Y Team" split among three locations, all endangered, and for the most part all in groups of twos and threes. Creators Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra skip at near breakneck speed between the settings, with each page containing only four or five panels, such that the trouble ramps up really fast. I've been doing a full reread of Y: The Last Man, and not that there hasn't been suspense before and not that there haven't been standoffs with guns pointed in every which direction, but I've yet to see a sequence in this series so well choreographed and with so much building drama as this one.

What we mainly learn in the first story is that series regular Dr. Allison Mann's mother, Dr. Matsumori, arranged for last man Yorick to be teamed with Allison, mainly so Allison could study not Yorick but his pet (last male) monkey Ampersand. That's interesting, continuing to open the conspiracy behind seemingly random events, but also confusing. In Y: The Last Man Vol. 7: Paper Dolls, we saw a flashback where a "Dr. M" also wanted Ampersand sent to Allison, except that an airport mixup had him arrive to Yorick instead — and Kimono Dragons leads us to believe "Dr. M" is Dr. Ming (not Matsumori), a rival scientist who had an affair with Allison's father. According to Matsumori, Ming is a villain, perhaps even the architect of the plague that killed all the men, but the fact that she too tried to involve Allison suggests there's still more to be explained.

Having done a similar catch-up reread project to finish Saga late last year, I certainly now see similarities between the two series and how Y is a template for the more polished Saga (another on this catch-up list is Ex Machina ... I'm sensing a pattern). Among antagonists in Y, it seems the Israeli Lieutenant General Alter Tse'elon is shaping up to be one of the main ones, having doggedly stalked Yorick since the beginning and headed for another confrontation with him in the final two books. This seems not unlike Saga's The Will, ever on the trail of Alana and Marko, and indeed Alter's surety that war is the natural order is not that far away from The Will's life as an assassin.

Indeed, in their chases around the world (and galaxy), Y and Saga share a lot in their structures. Though with differences, both involve people pursued for issues regarding their sex and who they love or choose to mate with. If Y is a story of a single person's dilemmas — making a commitment to someone, forgoing all others, etc. — then Saga is the next chapter, a story about married people's dilemmas — growing together and apart, raising children, and so on.

For the sexual question in the premise of Y — would the last man on Earth basically have to mate with everyone for the rest of his life — Y is not really a sex comedy, whereas Saga is. I noted in an included script by Vaughan (I'm reading the Y: The Last Man Deluxe Edition Book Four), that, in a scene where Ampersand pees on someone, Vaughan tells the artist not to draw Ampersand's genitals because "we want to be gross, not obscene." I'm put in mind of a giant's giant testicles in Saga; I wonder if it's Vertigo vs. Image or just the passage of time, but it does seem that from Y to Saga, Vaughan appears to have grown braver in what he's willing to do.

Kimono Dragons ends with two spotlight chapters, one of Allison and one of Alter. Still (as with the profile of Agent 355 earlier) neither one tells much I don't think we already knew (or could assume). The revelation that Alter's sister was killed not by Palestinians but by an IDF bulldozer doesn't necessarily change the course of the story so much as just explains Alter's "the point of life is to fight" outlook. Similarly we don't learn much about Alison that "Kimono Dragons" didn't also tell us, though the fact that she's nearly bleeding out from her period will certainly be relevant presently.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Y - The Last Man Deluxe Edition Book Four

I started reading Y: The Last Man prior to 2005, so I've been at this for over 15 years. It will feel like a nice accomplishment to be done, and also I'll be able to stop avoiding spoilers and articles about the series after all this time. If a TV series is on the way, I'd like to be able to enjoy it. Y: The Last Man Vol. 8: Kimono Dragons strongly suggests that the source of Yorick and Ampersand's immunity to the plague comes from Ampersand — so strongly, in fact, that I begin to suspect it's actually Yorick instead. I'll be curious to see if that bears out.

[Includes original covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Y - The Last Man Vol. 8: Kimono Dragons
Author Rating
3.5 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Wow! I'd love to see you finish other old post series in the future ( fables comes to mind) but also this gives me hope in my too long abandoned readings!

    1. Thanks! Fables is a good suggestion, but that's like 22 volumes plus crossovers and spin-offs. That's around double both Y and Saga. Maybe someday ...


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