Y: The Last Man is the most exciting comic book adaptation on the horizon

FX is ending Noah Hawley's Marvel mutant psychodrama Legion, but has greenlit the beloved, long-in-development DC Vertigo book for a 2020 air date


Yeah, yeah – Marvel released new trailers for Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame during the Super Bowl on Sunday. Feel free to pick them apart for Easter eggs and spoilers. As always, I’m trying to see the movie knowing as little as possible about what’s in it. It’s more fun that way.

Besides, there’s other superhero news to talk about. At the 2019 Television Critics Association press tour this week, cable network FX announced a couple of big deals.

First, the bad news: the third season of the trippy Marvel-adjacent psychodrama Legion, which premieres in June, will be its last. Apparently creator and showrunner Noah Hawley has always planned it this way, which makes sense. The show, which has always been more about mood than narrative drive, seemed to run out of story halfway through season two, bogging down in the mythology surrounding Dan Stevens’s David Haller, the world’s most powerful mutant.

The show’s third season looks ready to unpack some of that mythology by finally introducing David’s parents: Mr. Robot’s Stephanie Corneliussen will play his mother, Gabrielle, and Counterpart’s Harry Lloyd will play his father, Charles Xavier – who’s kind of a big deal in the Marvel universe.

I’m not sure how many of you have been watching Legion, but it’s basically the Hannibal of comic-book adaptations – a stylish, almost baroque reinterpretation of pop-culture material centred on an impossibly charismatic but ultimately unknowable leading man. (Mads Mikkelsen was funnier overall, but Stevens has his moments.) And just like Bryan Fuller’s impressionistic, fleshy nightmare, Legion is equally deft at delivering wallops of horror, either physical or existential, when we least expect it.

It’s the least Marvel treatment of a Marvel property, which is really saying something after the last couple of decades, and I’m glad that Hawley gets to wrap it up on his terms. (You can catch the first two seasons on DVD, on digital or on demand. FX also airs the occasional complete-season marathon every now and then.)

Oh, and I teased some good news, didn’t I? Here we go: FX also announced a series order for Y: The Last Man, and it’s premiering in 2020.

Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s brilliant DC Vertigo series ran for 60 issues from 2002 to 2008, telling the story of amateur magician Yorick Brown and his Capuchin monkey Ampersand, the only males on earth to survive a sudden, cataclysmic die-off of anything with a Y chromosome. Yorick is quickly placed in the care of geneticist Alison Mann, who believes his immunity holds the key to understanding the event. An elite government operative, Agent 355, is assigned to protect them from harm. And all Yorick wants to do is find his girlfriend Beth, who was working in Australia when the world ended.

Y has been in development as a movie or TV project almost from its debut, most notably when D.J. Caruso and David S. Goyer optioned it as Caruso’s follow-up to 2007’s Disturbia. It bounced around for years – the co-creators of Jericho worked on it for a while – before the rights returned to Vaughn and Guerra. Shia LaBeouf was floated as a possible Yorick Chuck-era Zachary Levi campaigned for the role, too. But nothing ever happened, and the rights reverted to Vaughan and Guerra, who eventually partnered with FX on a TV project.

Screenwriter and producer Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049, American Gods) was attached as showrunner in 2016, and shot a pilot last year with the Irish actor Barry Keoghan as Yorick, and a supporting cast that includes Imogen Poots, Lashana Lynch, Amber Tamblyn, Juliana Canfield and Diane Lane. They’ll all be returning for the series.

Keoghan is maybe the last person I’d cast as Yorick Brown, which makes the choice very intriguing you may remember him as the kid on Mark Rylance’s boat in Dunkirk, or as Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman’s tormentor in The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, and he managed a very convincing American-college-kid vibe in American Animals last year. Can he carry a whole show on his own, particularly one as weird and potentially complex as Y: The Last Man?

I guess we’ll find out.

And before you start posting comments: no, Y is not technically a superhero book. There are no capes, and no powers. (Although I seem to remember a samurai.) But it’s a great example of serialized graphic storytelling, and a hell of a good read, and I’m very interested in finding out how Green and his co-showrunner Aïda Mashaka Croal – most recently a writer and producer on Jessica Jones and Luke Cage – update Vaughan and Guerra’s story for a present-day audience. A lot’s changed since they closed the book in 2008, after all.

Superhero Nonsense is NOW’s weekly column delving into all things superheroic. Check out previous columns here.

@normwilner

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