Alright… So, I geeked out a little over the weekend and read all 60 issues of Y: The Last Man. You know, no biggie. In a comic that is entirely filled with women (excluding one man and his male monkey counterpart), tons of female characters worth review are to be expected. However, there’s one badass chica that really stands out amongst the others, and that’s Agent 355.
Agent 355 does not fancy it up with her dress code. You know, being part of that whole secret sect of the government thing sort of has its downsides in fashion. Nevertheless, 355 makes black look damn good. Sure, it’s her prevailing color and she doesn’t really change up the clothing that much, but at least it’s practical.
The atypical clothes that 355 sports is jeans or some other work/travelling pants with a white or off collar shirt (usually long sleeve) and a black, leather jacket over the top. You have to give her some leeway, though. I mean, she has to travel lightly since they travel all over the world to… oh, save it from dying out since there’s only one man left.
What I really like in the series is that it takes place over a 5 year period. According to the progression, it seems like 355 does not get her hair cut during that time. So, it’s really neat – and rare – for a comic to have a gradually changing look to one of the characters. Plus, most of the time, she just looks really badass.
Nevertheless, excluding that she doesn’t have room to pack and she’s a government agent, she doesn’t really dress all that amazingly. It’s practical (yet again, that comes up), but it doesn’t fully work. I personally enjoy the moments between action where she can let loose and be a little more informal in style.
355 definitely falls under the government hardass category. However, it’s those little moments that are injected with subtle tidbits of humor or raw emotion that come up here and there that really makes this character so goddamn likable. In the end, the reader realizes that despite all of the programmed attitude and badass killing, 355 may just be the most human character in the comic. When she tells Yorrick (the lead and last male) her name, it means something to us even if we can’t here it.
The hints at humor completely break up the character making her more than the stereotypical badass killer (usually reserved for white men, mind you).
Or moments where you realize that she isn’t just a killing machine. She does have regrets. She does have feelings. She is human. Sure, her mission is to protect Yorrick and restore the whole planet so it can keep living, and she never loses sight of it. But, that does not mean she cannot examine the means that she uses to achieve that goal; the terrible things she has to do to other humans for the sake of all of mankind.
Plus, she can just be really insightful. How do you reread and reexamine the political statement behind Lennon’s “Woman is the Nigger of the World” song in a (fictional) reality where the earth is populated (nearly) strictly by women.
Granted, I feel like there would not be as much of an examination or glimpse at 355’s character if it were not for Yorrick. He’s the one that makes all of the quips and seems to be the exhausting, troublemaking, child that needs to be babysat. However, through all of his faults, he still manages to get 355 to open up. So, his importance must be noted.
Overall, 355’s personality may not be fully apparent at first, but the little moments along the way make her out to be one of the most likable characters to be created.
When I said that Agent 355 was a badass, I meant, “Agent 355 is a motherfuckin badass.”
First off, she has no superpowers. So, that instantly scores big (in case you hadn’t noticed, I tend to favor the more “realistic” characters).
Second off, she belongs to a secret organization known as The Culper Ring that has been serving the President for years. Yes, this is like Chuck Norris’ The President’s Man but with women… and more badass… and no lame montages.
I suppose what’s really awesome about 355 is that she’s succinct. All of the action is brief because she only does what is necessary to remove the threat against her and her party.
Plus, her weapon of choice is a collapsible baton. That’s just fuckin’ sweet.
Being trained by the government sure has its advantages in the whole martial arts, gunslingin’, weaponry fields. And, it sure as hell shows.
Not only that, 355’s tactics are incredibly skilled. She’s smart and resourceful with her fighting. All of this nets her a perfect score.
Super Powers: 10/10
Brian K. Vaughan does something ingenious throughout the entire comic: he never reveals Agent 355’s real name. Sure, right near the end she whispers it to Yorrick, but the reader is never let in on it. In one of the issues that examines 355’s backstory, we do get to see a lot of who she was before the Culper Ring.
She lost both of her parents at a young age and ended up getting in some scraps in the foster business. Eventually, her attitude and naturally skill netted her the Culper Ring job. Since that point, she has lived her job.
The best thing about her secret identity is that it remains a secret.
Secret Identity: 9/10
One of those wonderful little character quirks that Vaughan throws in is that, throughout the 5 year period the comic primarily explores, the reader is given glimpses of Agent 355… knitting. You find out what it turns into at the end, and it is a beautifully rendered section. Nevertheless, SHE’S KNITTING AND AN ASSASSIN! That’s just awesome.
And yes, she does use her knitting needles at one point as a weapon, in case you were wondering.
Yet again, we get a high scorer who, quite frankly, deserves a lot of cred. On top of that, Vaughan and artist Pia Guerra deserve a lot of cred for crafting such a memorable character. Other writers in the mainstream (even if this was DC Imprint Vertigo) really should take a look at how many awesome female characters that are positively shown with a great amount of variance this comic has. It’s a standout in the world of comics.
I mean, if you had a comic where 99.9% of your available cast was female, how would you make them all have distinct voices?