Review: Y: The Last Man Vol. 9: Motherland trade paperback (Vertigo/DC Comics)

The penultimate volume of Y: The Last Man brings some answers, but those answers are so far-fetched and improbable as to not really be answers at all. In this way, Y: The Last Man Vol. 9: Motherland does and does not read like the second-to-last volume of the series.

Y is one of those series — mind you, I've been reading it on and off for over 15 years now — that I've had built up in my mind as one of the Vertigo greats, spoken in the same breath as Sandman, Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, and Fables, but now that I'm getting to the end, my esteem is fading. Well-written, sure, topical, sure, and well-drawn, definitely, and Y is certainly better than the dregs sometimes found on the comic book stands. But the "kidnapped and have to break out" pattern of the stories has long since gotten repetitive, and the slow exploration of this world and the little hints as to the origins of the "gendercide" plague, enticing at the beginning, don't offer the same high nine volumes in. Also none of the romantic relationships feel earned to me.

[Review contains spoilers]

Getting right to the heart of it, Motherland reveals that Dr. Allison Mann's father, Dr. Matsumori, also did not die in the plague, and believes, rightly or wrongly, that he caused the plague. He sent the monkey Ampersand to Allison (before it was waylaid to Yorick), intending that a chemical compound within the monkey would kill her cloned baby so that Matsumori could produce clones first. His success coincided with the gendercide, leading Matsumori to believe that all the men died by way of "moprhic resonance" or a kind of collective consciousness, once cloning was perfected and nature recognized men as no longer necessary. The chemical compound within Ampersand had the opposite effect of sparing Yorick instead of killing any clones.

It's Matsumori's theory of morphic resonance that Allison immediately dismisses, though to an extent that might be the least unbelievable thing here. As we get closer to Y's end and, presumably, the actual revelation of the origins of the plague, one must begin to consider what would be a satisfactory explanation. Supernatural suggestions like Yorick's ring or the Amulet of Helene have long been dismissed, and as much as it's been increasingly suggested that a person caused the plague, having a cackling mad scientist at the core of this now seems trite. The idea that the plague could be part of the natural order, spurred on by a cloning event or simple happenstance, seems perhaps the cleanest (and not so far-fetched anymore) explanation.

What's less comprehensible is the idea that Matsumori's clone-killing compound would mysteriously have the opposite effect and counteract a supposed psychic resonance (were the plague really a plague, that'd be one thing, but I'm unsure even in the realm of science-fiction how a physical chemical can beat a mental signal). That is, everything in Y is beginning to wrap up so cleanly (consider the diagram of Matsumori sending Ampersand to Allison, Ampersand getting waylaid to Yorick, but then Yorick Brown's senator mother sending Yorick to Allison anyway) that for this chemical meant to do one thing instead inexplicably doing something else seems too messy. Maybe, maybe we know how why the gendercide happened — though I hold out for still a little more — but I'm not convinced we yet know why Yorick was spared.

The rest of the "Motherhood" story is, y'know, fine. There's an impressively brutal showdown between Agent 355 and Matsumori's assassin Toyota that would have been a show-stopper eight books back, but is now just one of the same as throughout this series. I hope I'm not being too dense, but I failed to find a real message about "motherhood" within these pages — yes, Matsumori has been a "mother" to Toyota and the clones he made of Allison, and within these pages both Allison and 355 lose their ability to have children, but 355 for one is so disinterested that it's hard to feel a great amount of emotion for them. I didn't come away from this story recognizing a value statement on "motherhood" per se. And neither have I ever felt there was enough space given to show what Allison and Rose or 355 and Yorick might necessarily value about one another to feel invested in any of their love triangles, either.

Writer Brian K. Vaughan ends with two one-off stories, becoming a pattern lately (the amount of these of late, coming so close to the end, feels more like an attempt to leave everything on the table [or fill pages] than a choreographed narrative effort). Both are also "fine"; better perhaps is the story of Waverly, the gravedigger from back in the very first volume, which unexpectedly does double-duty both to further explore this world and to forward the subplot of Senator Brown's murder and the aftermath. I was less enamored with the Fish & Bicycle acting troupe also in this series' beginning (Vaughan's use of acting troupes in Saga felt flat to me too) and so their return here didn't excite me much, nor Vaughan's continued meta-critique of this series himself.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Y: The Last Man Vol. 9: Motherland

Still, I've finished Y: The Last Man Vol. 9: Motherland, and tonight I'll be starting the next and final volume. Again, after over 15 years reading this series and a little over a decade since Y: The Last Man Vol. 10: Whys and Wherefores was published, I'm eager for the accomplishment of finishing and to finally be "in the know." If there's morphic resonance out there, maybe my completing Y will be the push the universe needs for Saga to start up again.

[Includes original covers]

Collected Editions
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Y: The Last Man Vol. 9: Motherland
Author Rating
3.5 (scale of 1 to 5)


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