Amazing Adventures of the Escapist #1
writer: Michael Chabon and various
comic book fans should rejoice. The Pulitzer Prize-winning
Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay has finally
given into its pulpy roots and become a comic book. Ostensibly
guided by Chabon, who adapts his own work for The Escapist's
origin story, it looks to be more in the hands of creator
Kevin McCarthy. A wink's as good as a nod here, because McCarthy
clearly has a handle on Chabon's exhaustive mythos.
past decade or so, the comics industry has developed its own
offshoot of Philip Jose Farmer's Wold-Newton game, in which
all literary heroic fiction is treated as real, with most
of the protagonists related to each other somehow. For comics,
it's become the game of creating retroactive continuity for
fictional creators. Maybe it started with Big Bang Comics,
but certainly, Chabon's novel is the most high-profile example,
as Kavalier & Clay rubbed shoulders with Stan Lee, Simon &
Kirby and other giants of the Golden Age. We're guilty of
participating, too, with our involvement with Mark Hamill's
Commander Courage over at Once Upon A Dime.
is, it's self-referential to a fault, and though this first
issue excerpts huge chunks of text from the novel in the guise
of a reprinted Comics Journal article, the stories
themselves are largely presented without context. If you haven't
read the book (shame on you?), they may not seem that cool.
of the problem is the only half-hearted attempt at recreating
the different eras of Escapist comics. Artists like Eric Wight
and Steve Lieber have the right styles. Wight draws the origin
story in a manner that looks like an exceptionally good Golden
Age book, perhaps by a young Joe Kubert. You can believe this
is a reprint. And Lieber has a solid but not flashy look.
Assuming that his story comes from the late sixties or early
seventies, it could fit in an era when guys like Neal Adams
and Gray Morrow were bringing a more realistic style onto
work from Howard Chaykin and Kyle Baker is always welcome,
it's also too idiosyncratically theirs, blowing the illusion.
If there is an illusion about the Master of Elusion. Chaykin
delivers his usual mix of sex and violence, but where it fits
in the publishing history seems vague. While the text piece
does set up Baker's story somewhat, again the artist's style
is too modern to be believably reprinted from the fifties.
enough, the perfect match of era, context and style also ends
up being the most bland. Inserting a story of Luna Moth, another
character from Kavalier & Clay's stable, McCarthy provides
a brief introduction for a contribution from Jim Starlin.
It does make sense that Starlin might have toyed with
the character in the seventies. But since Luna Moth was built
up in the novel as an incredibly bizarre and sexy strip, his
take just seems like a feminized Captain Marvel while looking
like Black Orchid. Nor is the story that ground-breaking,
as she battles the same Death worshipped by Thanos. Shall
we consider it a dry run for his Marvel work?
still a noble try, and if the title wasn't working around
the conceit of this being a long-established and famous character,
it could be judged rather more favorably. The supporting cast
that Chabon gave The Escapist borrows from the best pulp traditions,
and the hero's life-long enemies, The Iron Chain, is a great
concept. But the writer also built it up as a work that turned
the comics industry on its ear, innovating the medium on par
with Will Eisner and Jack Kirby.
see any of that here. Though the text-piece mentions how often
the stories became about the people affected by The Escapist's
presence (not just the regular supporting cast), none of those
are "reproduced." But at least Dark Horse got unjustly booted
Marvel artist Herb Trimpe to do a piece. For that, I'm grateful.
for the book, though, I'm also a bit rueful. Annoyingly enough,
Dark Horse has attracted a plethora of talented people to
work on this book, and therefore they've got me hooked at
least through the second issue. Why? Because Glen David Gold,
author of the absolutely cool Carter
Beats the Devil, will contribute his first comic book
work, and I've got to be there. Dammit.