My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Escapists was lent to me as part of a mutual BKV exchange with my neighbor. (He borrowed my copy of Pride of Baghdad.) I haven’t yet read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay but know a little bit about it. The Escapists is tied into Chabon’s story as an extra bit of ephemera: the hero The Escapist is a Kavalier & Clay creation brought back to life by three aspiring comic writers/artists. There’s Max Roth, who found his father’s collection of Escapist memorabilia after he died when Max was a boy. Denny Jones is Roth’s unlikely friend: a former jock with a fascination for hand-lettering. Rounding out the trio is Case Weaver, an ambitious artist with a punk’s DIY attitude. Roth uses his inheritance to buy the character rights to the Escapist, to write his own stories for the classic character he loves. But when their book takes off, the three find themselves squaring off against a powerful corporation who wants their now-popular property back.
At one point, Roth says to his partners that he want their character to change the real world & this sentiment sums up much of the book’s artistic style. Parts where the Escapist’s comic art merges with the art of the main story effectively evokes and strengthens the parallels between the two. Whether the example is a point-by-point illustration of how a panel takes on depth and how it reveals a character’s inner realizations or how to use one’s cosplay powers for good, the pages will keep readers lingering. And while I know some people call it the Mistake By The Lake, this story kinda makes me want to visit Cleveland now.
I can’t say whether this is a must-read for fans of the Chabon novel, but if you’re someone who wants to get into graphic novels and likes the structure of a short story, Escapists may be a good starting book for you. The ending is a little facile, but Vaughn’s coming-of-age story strikes the right balance of idealism & maturity.