In a world where 99.999% of the population is female, the comics are still about a man.
I have a hard time writing about Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man. The last time I did it (scroll down, I put the article in the chum section), it was this same character and I published the post the day the final issue came out. I’ve never been the same. That last issue was so perfectly final that I’ve never felt the need to come back to the series. I have closure and very little left to say.
The one exception is Agent 355. When it comes to comics about women there is no one else who comes close to what she means to me. It’s not just that she’s a Knitter (and is shown knitting realistically in the beautiful Pia Gurerra art) and yet, it’s also entirely that she’s a Knitter.
There’s one line that sums up my feelings about Agent 355 and it’s one she says while giving Yorik the scarf she’s knitted throughout the series, “I f%&%ed up a lot and had to start over a bunch of times.” 355 is a highly trained and skilled agent; she kicks all kinds of ass. Heck, she even stabs a pirate with her knitting needles, but she still makes mistakes, she lets her emotions get in the way, and she doesn’t realize what she wants out of life until it is tragically, painfully too late.
Through it all, Agent 355 knits that scarf. She makes progress slowly, over the five years covered by the main plot of Y: The Last Man. The scarf is supposed “to keep [her] hands busy,” but, for 355 it’s more than that. The scarf is a connection to a family she lost long before the men were wiped out. Her grandmother taught her to knit and her father made clothes for a living. They were all makers, they all created things. If you ask me, that’s the central message of Y: creativity is the most important thing.
When the fighting is over and 355 has delivered her charge to his destination (and long-lost girlfriend), she makes a choice. 355 chooses creation over destruction. She trades her gun to a tailor for a beautiful dress.
For the world of Y: The Last Man to survive (spoiler alert: it does), the people needed to embrace the choice 355 makes. They need to create new human beings, they need to find new ways of governing, they need to choose to create a new world, rather than destroy the old one.
Of all the wildly creative people in Y, it’s 355 who speaks to me. It’s not the wacky escape artist or the brilliant biologist, it’s neither the rebel nor the mother, it’s the Knitter. The one who puts one stitch in front of the other, who f%&%s up and starts over, who perseveres through everything to create something new.
Thanks to the Women Write About Comics blog carnival for giving me the excuse to blather on about one of my favorite characters for 500 words. You should go check out the other entries!