Even more striking than the willingness of “Y” to engage with issues regarding gender is its willingness to engage with issues regarding sex. Obviously the idea of sex has a massive place in this kind of work — the question of humanity’s ability or inability to reproduce in the absence of men hangs over the entire series, and at least two major plot points hinge on women having sex and getting pregnant. Where “Y” differs from most other adult-oriented comics, however, is that it tackles subjects like male sexual insecurity, something that simply doesn’t exist in most media. This comes up most directly in the “Safeword” arc, which was molded with particular care and creative control by Guerra.
“Safeword” is where “Y” becomes something special, as demonstrated by the fact that it was the first of the book’s stories to be nominated for an Eisner Award — Yorick’s encounter with Agent 711 is half torture, half sexual temptation, and all acid trip, a dream-like exploration of the protagonist’s psyche laced with bondage imagery that reveals Yorick’s deep issues with sex and the fact that he was sexually assaulted as a child. It’s a place most stories, especially in the male-dominated comic book medium, wouldn’t dare to go, and it makes both Yorick and “Y” itself stand out. “Y: The Last Man” might not be for everyone (and the show might not have the courage to faithfully adapt “Safeword”) but it’s definitely not your typical comic book.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).