Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Super-Powered Comics: Amazing Adventures of the Escapist volume 1

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist offers a strange historical look at the character introduced in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. An all star cast of creators fill this volume with interesting stories, some better than others.

Chabon himself retells the Escapist’s origins in an able but rather bland story with art by Eric Wight. It is one of the weaker stories in the book actually, but it does channel a golden age sensibility rather well.

Howard Chaykin comes in next with an okay story about a McCarthy-style politician that has his oddball fetish exposed by the Escapist. Able art, but nothing spectacular in the story department.

Kyle Baker draws a goofy little ditty about the Escapist being sequestered in the jury of a clearly innocent man being framed by the forces of his arch enemies, the Iron Chain. He finds a way to clear the man’s name, but not before a kick in the face about his own actions.

Steve Lieber draws another silver age-inspired story where the Escapist has to go undercover in the local prison to expose a plot. He ends up teamed with his cellmate against much of the rest of the prison’s population, only to find out the shocking identity of his cellmate when all is said and done.

Mike Baron & Val Mayerik provide a very week story of an aging Escapist sent out to save an endangered nuclear submarine. Rather weak work by otherwise qualified creators.

Divine Wind gives us the supposed manga version of the character from the early eighties. Writer Kevin McCarthy (who provides about half the stories in this volume) gives us an interesting alternate take on the character based around a kamikaze who could not die. Strong, interesting story that does a lot to lift up a few of the earlier stories in the volume.

The Escapegoat is a silly little short featuring an anthromorphocized version of the character. Cute, but nothing all that mind-blowing.

Bill Siekiewicz draws the first story of Luna Moth in the latter half of the volume. The script is below average, and the art is far more muddled than usual from Bill. Not a very well done work at all, and actually very disappointing because of it.

Jim Starlin writes and illustrates a story in his (semi-)usual cosmic vein, where Luna Moth fulfills the dream of a little girl who wants to see her dead mother one last time. Mostly silent, it remains one of the more powerful works in the collection.

Dan Brereton draws the beautiful but otherwise weak final Luna Moth story of the volume. Not much really happens script wise. It seems like a real shame to me, as Luna Moth seems to be an interesting character that is rather mis-utilized in this volume. Hopefully she will get some better tales next volume.

The story closes with a tale by Chabon-friend and novelist Glen David Gold with art by Gene Colan. He writes the supposed last chapter of a late seventies serial from the Escapist’s title that is easily the best story in the volume. I don’t want to give much away about the story, but I will compare it favorably to both Will Eisner’s Spirit and Frank Miller’s first run at Daredevil.

All in all the first volume of The Escapist is a mixed bag at best. Gold & Colan’s Lady and the Tiger and Divine Wind are both high quality work, but I am not sure if it outways the mediocrity of the rest of the volume. And with a steep $18 cover price, I can give this volume only a Mild Recommendation. But if you enjoyed Kavalier & Clay I suspect you will enjoy this one.

1 comment:

Matthew K. said...

great review. like you, i didn't find the main character very compelling. having the ability to escape any trap or bonds is cool, but it doesn't translate into an exciting story. the coolest thing about "the escapist" is his name and how it relates to comics, as in "escapism" and "escapist literature". also, i could've lived without the cliched "mccarthy was evil" story. i'll refrain from going on about the politics of most comic writers.