(Michael Chabon Presents) The Escapists, by Brian K Vaughan
Posted November 24, 2010on:
Speaking of Brian K Vaughan. . .
A few years ago I read Michael Chabon’s award winning The Amazing Adventure of Kavalier and Clay, and I remember it being exactly that: amazing. If you’ve never read Chabon, do yourself a favor and pick this one up for some truly incredible reading. The novel follows the lives of cousins Sammy Clay and Joe Kavalier as they create a comic superhero that would take the 1940’s comics world by storm.
A few years after the novel’s critical acclaim, Chabon began working with Brian K Vaughan and Darkhorse to develop a modernized comic book version of the adventures of The Escapists.
Original printed as issues (which I managed to find #’s 3, 4, and 5 of), and now available as a completed graphic novel, Vaughan’s The Escapists is part sequel, part companion, and all homage to Chabon’s original novel.
The six chapter story follows geeky high school graduate Max Roth, and his jock friend Denny Jones. Max’s father, who we never meet, owned the largest collection of The Escapist memorabilia in the country, and upon his death, the collection passed to Max. When Max’s mother passes away, he uses his inheritance to purchase the publishing rights to The Escapist character and universe, and he Denny, along with the cute artist Case Weaver start working on their own comic book version.
After a badly planned media stunt goes strangely right, copies of their comic begin to fly off shelves. Even so, writing comics for a living barely pays the bills. Max can barely afford his minimal cost of living, and oftentimes Denny has to go back to work at his father’s construction company. Bringing The Escapist back to life is more labor of love than day job.
When a big media company comes knocking, offering Max six figures for the rights to the Escapist, will he sell out? How much is his father’s collecting legacy worth? Max initially says no, but as is the way of the world what the mega corporation wants, the mega corporation usually gets. There’s a reason the bad guy in a classic style comic book is often the owner of a huge corporation.
The artwork and story jumps back and forth between Max, Denny and Case, and their comic book of The Escapist and his 1940’s escapades. Readers will notice the style of the artwork change drastically throughout the graphic novel, as at least four different artists and colorists worked on the project. I’m not sure which artist is responsible for the pages starring The Escapist and Luna Moth, but those are some of the most beautiful pages in this book. The dangerous mood is set with monochromatic schemes, and the facial expressions are just perfectly spot-on. I could, and did, read those pages over and over again.
If you read Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, do not expect to be equally blown away by The Escapists. I’m not dissing the graphic novel, they are just two completely different animals, two different mediums, and were created with two very different goals in mind. Chabon’s original work covers decades of time, and is heavily character driven. Sure, it’s about two cousins who work hard to break into comics and make it big, but it’s not really about the comics at all. If you’ve read it, you know what I mean. There is a reason it was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. On the other hand, The Escapists is a snapshop look into the lives of a few young artists. It is quick and plot driven. The entire thing takes place over maybe a few months, it’s not designed or destined to be a sprawling storyline. Brian K Vaughan’s The Escapists succeeds at what it is designed to do: pay homage to Michael Chabon’s creation, and bring a newer, younger generation into the fold of classic comics love.