The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, vol. 1

The Escapist 1Summary: Master of Elusion, foe of tyranny, and champion of liberation — The Escapist! Operating from a secret headquarters under the boards of the majestic Empire Theater, the Escapist and his crack team of charismatic associates roam the globe, performing amazing feats of magic to aid all those who languish in oppression’s chains. The history of his creators, Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, was recently chronicled in Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. The best of the Escapist’s adventures are now collected into one volume for all to enjoy!

This thrilling volume of Michael Chabon Presents…The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist collects the first two issues of the comic book and features an original story penned by Michael Chabon, the comics debut of novelist Glen David Gold, a new story written and drawn by Howard Chaykin, the painted artwork of Bill Sienkiewicz, and a wraparound cover by Chris Ware!

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The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, vol. 1, by various writers and artists 5.0

Did I originally pick up ‘…The Escapist’ because of Chris Ware, who made the book’s wicked cover (the back cover, in particular, is absolutely brilliant)? I have no idea at this point: it’s been so long since i first got it. I just kept re-requesting it from the library but never got around to it.

I’ve had this book in my hands countless times over the last couple of years and always dismissed it. Recently, though, I stumbled upon a listing for the origin of the character, Michael Chabon’s novel ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’, and was intrigued by its premise.

‘…Kavalier and Clay’ is a historical fiction piece about the creators of a superhero character called The Escapist. It’s based in the mid-20th century, and it takes some of its influences from live of various comic books creators, such as (obviously) Shuster and Siegel. This novel was a best seller and was nominated for a string of literary awards.

Discovering a connection between this and ‘ The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist ‘, I decided to request the graphic novel yet again.

Turns out that ‘…the Escapist’ is a collection of comic strip featuring The Escapist and his allies, all based on or inspired by stories that Chabon referenced in his book. They have been written by various people and their styles vary wildly from straight-laced Golden Age-style strips to modern hipster cartoons.

The collection also features a handful of texts, some purporting to brief readers on the publishing history of the comic series, others on the history of some of the characters, and it even has an intro by Chabon himself, who makes tongue-in-cheek acknowledgements to Dark Horse Comics and its staff for digging up these old comics and reprinting them.

It’s all a very amusing concept; I love that a new body of work is being created with a back history that predate it by decades. This flirtation with history amuses me, even if its usage in other circumstances would disturb me to no end. However, I don’t feel that this particular effort truly makes the most of its golden opportunity.

For starters, I find the stories relentlessly dull. It’s quite possible that I needed to read the original novel, or have a better understanding of comic book history so that I may pick up on any references or nods being made, to get a clearer perspective on this material, but I didn’t see the point of most of it and didn’t find it inspired or entertaining.

There were a few strips that I found fresh, most notably the final piece which is claimed to be a long-lost story arc closer. I enjoyed the two-dimensional period thinking that went into the writing: not sophisticated or cynical, but clever enough to make one take notice. For the most part, though, I found myself lumbering through.

Having said this, it is not a poor book by any stretch of the imagination. I suspect that it’s geared towards fans of classic comic and of Chabon’s original novel. I imagine that these people would likely get the most out of the work. But anyone looking for more modern excitement is likely to find this collection to be a poor source of escapist fiction.

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