My friend John has given me many things over the course of our friendship – food, comfort, writing and editing advice and a SNL compilation DVD among them – and I hope to remain friends with him for a very long time. But I can tell our friendship has aleady peaked; and it has everything to do with his introducing me to Y: The Last Man. This series of graphic novels, written by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra is one of the reasons why I am that little bit cooler than I ought to be. Y:TLM stars Agent 355, a kickass bodyguard to the series’ hero, Yorick Brown. She is one of my all-time heroes.
First up, let’s face the elephant in the room. She’s Black, okay? Throughout the 10-part series, her various hairstyles are an homage to Black women everywhere: braids, cornrows, twists, locs, pigtails and I think I saw an afro, even. She kicks ass, but not in that neck-swervy, finger-clicking way that Black women characters often do. Oh no, she could pick you up, break your arm in 3 places and then sever your head from your body in four economical moves; that kind of ass-kicking.
There are a number of excellent women characters in the series. How could there not be – the novels’ premise is that all the men in the world have died. So why pick 355? She’s complex – it fell to her to guard the last surviving man on Earth – how did she end up in this positon? What’s her backstory? And what’s her real name? She’s written in a way that many male writers seem unable to compute. Sure she’s a bit of a fanboy fantasy figure, i.e. she knows kung fu, is tough, has large breasts, kisses a girl and likes it, but she’s also a textured human being with layers, a true voice and a ’soul’.
There are rumblings of a Hollywood movie doing the rounds and the wild casting theories have also begun in earnest – Alicia Keys, Zoe Saldana, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Rutina Wesley… They’re okay, I guess. I’m torn; there are some things which should really not be tampered with. But if needs must, then how about the excellent Sonja Sohn, familiar to most as Detective Kima Greggs in The Wire? You know it makes sense.