Friday Favorite: Agent 355

There are plenty of reasons to be evangelical about Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man — a haunting storyline in which almost every male on Earth drops dead, pages of nail-biting drama, sharp humor … and a monkey. It’s like a groundbreaking HBO show in print, with great illustrations (Pia Guerra). But of all the reasons I love this story, it’s the character of secret Agent 355 who tops the list. (Spoilers are ahead.)Comics have come a long way in the diversity department, but even now, Agent 355 represents something uncommon in the genre: a smart, formidable black female character who is much more than a sidekick, and whose ethnicity informs who she is without defining her. Plus, she can knock you the %$@* out without breaking a sweat. If the world is coming to an end, this is a woman you want on your side.

A member of the Culper Ring, a covert operations group, Agent 355 winds up as the guardian of slacker Yorick Brown — presumably the world’s only living man. She’s a bit of a mystery throughout, and we never even learn her real name. But as time passes, we see a complex and even vulnerable young woman — at least, when she doesn’t have to kill folks, something she takes no joy in doing. Early on, Yorick is surprised to see Agent 355 doing mundane things like … knitting. When her backstory finally emerges, it packs one hell of a punch.

It’s no small thing that Vaughan avoids the traps of ignoring race completely or beating readers over the head with it. It’s certainly present in the dynamic among Yorick, Agent 355 and geneticist Dr. Allison Mann, an Asian woman who changed her last name (as in Mann’s Chinese Theatre) to piss off her scientist parents. For example, when Yorick asks 355 why she insists on maneuvering at night while they’re in Boston, she points out that (duh) they happen to be in the Southie neighborhood, and she’s not white.

Yorick: “You seriously think that’s still an issue?”

Agent 355: “Why, because this is the twenty-first century … or because all of the men are dead? Either way, my answer is yes.

A whole lot of crazy stuff goes down in Y: The Last Man, but its heart and soul is the bond between Agent 355 and Yorick. As we’ve stated previously, this book contains one of the most romantic (and ultimately heart-wrenching) moments in comics, ever. And thanks to Vaughn and Guerra’s excellent teamwork, Yorick isn’t the only one who fell hard for this beautiful, badass and thoroughly awesome secret agent.

11 thoughts on “Friday Favorite: Agent 355

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Friday Favorite: Agent 355 « Girls Gone Geek -- Topsy.com

  2. Y is one my favorite series, and I definitely hear that Agent 355 is one of the most kick-ass women in comics, definitely a favorite of mine. I always liked the fact that she really had Yorick figured out, and he almost never understood her. Something most women can connect with! Great choice!

    Rosalind
    Girls Are Geeks

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  3. Yay, another Y fan! It’s such an excellent series. I get all teary just thinking about it, and it makes me happy to know that other people enjoyed it as much as I did.

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  4. Always liked me some 355! This is one of the best written and drawn series from start to finish ( hated to see it end, but glad they did not try to drag it out), and 355 is one of my fav characters from all of comics! And when you say it’s like a groundbreaking HBO show in print, hopefully someone will see this and say, “Hey…it would make an awesome HBO series…LET’s do it!!!”

    Oh, and thank you E…I now HAVE to read all my trades this weekend because you got me to thinkin’ about this awesome series!!!

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  5. Y would have to be one of the best written series!
    Stripped bare . . the whole thing was really about Yorick’s relationship with 355.

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  6. I found your website through this post, and I love it. Y has to be one of the most hilarious, kick-ass comics ever. If I had an imaginary friend, it would definitely be agent three-fifty!

    Thanks for the review; I look forward to becoming a regular reader of your blog!

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  7. Hi, b.kiddo! You can geek out on Agent 355 with us anytime. I agree with you on Y, which occupies a place of honor in my collection. Thank you for your readership, and welcome!

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