Y: The Last Man has been called a road trip story, but one danger of a road trip in serial fiction is the audience beginning to feel like they're just not getting anywhere.
Such is the problem with Paper Dolls, volume seven of Brian K. Vaughn's tale of Yorick Brown, the last man on Earth after a mysterious plague wipes out everything with a Y-chromosome except Yorick and his male monkey Ampersand. Though some notable events do take place — including the Y series' first instance of male frontal nudity - I couldn't help but feel like this trade was for the most part treading water.
In the main story of the trade, "Paper Dolls," an unexpected stopover in Australia on the way to Toyko to rescue Ampersand from kidnappers affords Yorick an eight-hour window to search for his missing fiance Beth, last seen in Australia. Yorick — his gender hidden to protect his safety — is quickly discovered by a tabloid journalist who takes a picture of Yorick and tries to return with it to the States.
Much of these three issues involve Yorick and his protector, Agent 355, chasing the reporter through generic-looking Australia, and when they catch her, ultimately Yorick resolves to let her go, thinking no one will believe what they read in a tabloid. There's some discussion of tabloids and rumor mills here, as well as a conversation as to whether women continue to read trashy magazines when there aren't any men around (the question itself is slightly ridiculous), but for the most part the issue of journalists in this new apocalyptic world goes unexamined. I felt there was great potential here for an exchange of ideas that Vaughn replaced with a couple of action sequences instead.
What was surprising, however, was the full page image of the photograph that the tabloid reporter takes, of Yorick completely naked and shown as such on the page. Arguably, it may be even more surprising that it's taken forty issues for male nudity to be shown in a story that focuses primarily on the last man alive on Earth. There's irony, to be sure, that a book that has as one of its themes an examination of women in society and how they're treated and portrayed, has shown breasts "on camera" for most of its run, but never a penis.