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At this point, the story of the long road to adaptation for Y: The Last Man is almost as famous as the story of the comic itself. A live-action version of the acclaimed Vertigo Comics series from Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra was in development for more than a decade, emerging first as a feature film back when the comic was still publishing new issues, then transitioning to a series when it became clear that the world of Y was too big for a movie to contain.
From there, the project went through multiple showrunners and iterations before finally emerging as an FX on Hulu original series under the guidance of showrunner Eliza Clark.
The story of a world in which every mammal on Earth with a Y chromosome dies suddenly with the exception of a man named Yorick (Ben Schnetzer) and his pet monkey Ampersand, Y: The Last Man brings together an ensemble cast, an updated story for 2021, and an ambitious post-apocalyptic landscape in an effort to both faithfully adapt the comic and bring something new to a genre scene already dominated by end-of-the-world tales like The Walking Dead.
With just days to go until the series premieres at last, critics have finally weighed in on Clark and company's epic new vision. So, was Y: The Last Man worth that very long wait?
The answer, in large part, seems to be yes, as critics praised the efforts to update the story for the current moment and the efforts to mine the world of Y for a story even grander than that of its source material.
Here's what critics had to say about Y: The Last Man:
"As changes made for screen adaptations go, this judgment call made by Y: The Last Man showrunner Eliza Clark and her team is an excellent one, streamlining the story arc covered by the first several issues, and digging into a rich supporting cast with a focus that the comic’s propulsive plotting did not allow for," Joshua Rivera of Polygon wrote.
"While many changes have been made to the original story, a lot of it is still very much in line with the comics," Liz Shannon Miller of Collider wrote. "Will that hold it back, eventually? Or will the show be able to stand apart from its source material eventually, finding its own path? It's not a question that can be answered at this point, though let us remember that the basic fact of this show's existence is, in some ways, a miracle. And not only has Y the Last Man has managed to survive so much to make it to a premiere date — but the pieces are in place for it to thrive."
"Y: The Last Man — debuting next Monday, Sept. 13 on the streamer — does have eerie parallels to today’s headlines that cut a little close to the bone. But it’s also a smart twist on the post-apocalyptic genre, spiked with intense action, intriguing philosophical quandaries and slivers of dark humor," Dave Nemetz of TVLine said. "The project has been in development hell for half a decade and suffered through several false starts, but the long gestation period seems to have been worth it: This is good."
Of course, not every critic was convinced right away. Though many praised the show's efforts to update and expand on the story as laid out in the original comics series, there were others who found the tone a bit off. Vaughan and Guerra's original series is dark, but full of levity. The show might be lacking in that department, and it might cost it in the long run.
"Y: The Last Man was one of the best comics ever. Now it's a boring TV show. The first sentence makes the second one sound suspicious, like I'm a complaining fanboy. Let me explain. At best, the new FX on Hulu drama (debuting Sept. 13) takes the Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra source material in intriguing new directions. Too often, though, it's a dutiful adaptation, turning the comic's eccentricity into a familiar genre wallow," Darren Franich of EW said.
"On the one hand, Y: The Last Man is an apocalyptic drama, so of course desperation and grief would reign supreme," Variety's Caroline Framke wrote. "On the other, it’s a human drama, and as such, could use more shades of the human experience to make it resonate even more strongly."
"Y: The Last Man was a comic for grown-ups, but with youthful exuberance. From the graphic depiction of the plague to a flexibility with nudity that presumably comes from the “on Hulu” part of “FX on Hulu,” the TV series is perhaps adult to a fault," Daniel Fienberg of THR wrote. "It’s impressive enough, though, that Y finally made it to the screen at all. So I’m willing to give the series more time to loosen up a bit, or maybe the real world time to become less of a dystopia."
See for yourself what you think of the show when Y: The Last Man premieres Sept. 13 on FX on Hulu.