Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Escapists

    There's far more to my love for Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay then the simple fact that I love comic books. Chabon is a master at crafting complex characters and equally adept at action, atmosphere, and dialogue. The worlds he creates are sweeping in scope and yet meticulously detailed. Kavalier & Clay could have been insurance salesmen and I'd have been taken with them.
    But Chabon didn't make them insurance salesmen, he made them the creators of a comic book hero, The Escapist. And so, as a lover of comic books, I couldn't help wishing that The Escapist was real (an actual comic book, I mean) and that I could go and buy a copy. I was then delighted to discovered that Chabon had imagined a meeting between his creation, Sam Clay, and the all-too-real comic book writer Brian K. Vaughan.
    Vaughan is best known for his Y: The Last Man series, but he has done much other memorable work as well, including Runaways and Ex Machina. But somehow I had missed his spinoff of Chabon. What Chabon sets up is the preface to the graphic novel The Escapists, the story of a man, Maxwell Roth, who inhabits the same world in which Kavalier & Clay created The Escapist and then grew up loving the comic as did his father, who died when Max was young. Years later, Max's mother has also died and left him an inheritance of $150,000. With it, Max purchases the rights to The Escapist and, with the help of his friends Case and Denny, decide to bring him into the 21st century.
    So, Chabon (who exists) creates Clay (who does not) who helps create The Escapist (who also does not). Chabon then imagines that Clay (who still does not exist) gives his blessing to Vaughan (who most certainly does) to create a comic book about The Escapist (which he does). The comic book that he creates is about a comic book artist, Max (who does not exist), that takes The Escapist (who exists more for Max than he has for any of us readers) and recreates him with a comic book update (which is featured in the comic book that Vaughan has created, The Escapists, which allows all of us to read The Escapist comic book as well). These thing is very meta.
    It is also wildly entertaining and funny and sad and engaging. Chabon and Vaughan are well matched, and the team of artists that Vaughan assembles play to both his and each other's strengths. The result is nothing short of spectacular, placing it easily among my favorite work by Vaughan. 
    So, whether you love Michael Chabon, loved Kavalier & Clay, love Brian K. Vaughan, or just love a great comic book adventure, you should be sure to pick up The Escapists. You will not be disappointed.

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