Escapist #1

Written by Michael Chabon, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Starlin, and Howard Chaykin
Art by Eric Wight, Kyle Baker, Steve Lieber, Jim Starlin, Howard Chaykin, and Kevin McCarthy
80 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

I have a confession to make. I still haven’t read Michael Chabon’s The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for over a year and a half now, and I really do intend on reading it. I’ve read some of Chabon’s other books and enjoyed them, and I know that The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay won the Pulitzer Prize for literature… and yet somehow I still haven’t gotten around to it. What I’m leading up to here is that while I know that the Escapist is the comic character that Kavalier and Clay create in the novel, I’ve got no actual connection to the character. So the question becomes, if you haven’t read the book, will the comic still be interesting?

Chabon himself writes the opening story here, telling the Escapist’s origin and how he both gained the Golden Key that gives him his abilities as well as meeting his foes the Iron Chain. The ideas behind “The Passing of the Key” are certainly good, and I kept feeling like I should be sucked into the story, but that wasn’t the case. Chabon’s writing is curiously dry, unable to keep my interest going from one page to the next. It’s hard to say what’s wrong with “The Passing of the Key”‘s story, but there just doesn’t seem to be an emotional hook to help pull you in. Eric Wight’s art certainly looks nice, in a retro style that is a good match for the time period and mood that Chabon is trying to evoke.

This is a problem that continues to plague the book, with stories that just fail to bring the reader in. Kevin McCarthy’s stories about being on a jury where the Escapist had caught the crook, or going undercover into a prison should have been exciting, but there just isn’t a soul to the story that engages the reader. The real attraction is seeing Kyle Baker and Steve Lieber tackle the stories, both of them providing extremely attractive art for McCarthy’s scripts. Likewise, both Jim Starlin and Howard Chaykin write and draw stories that just don’t seem to connect. Starlin’s Luna Moth story is beautifully rendered but the plot of letting a daughter say goodbye to her dead mother just did nothing for me. Chaykin’s story has his trademark sexual hang-ups and teasing on display, but the Escapist almost seems to stumble into the action here, with an overall unsatisfying conclusion.

It’s a pity that for readers who haven’t read The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, at any rate, this fails to work. Maybe it connects to readers better if they’ve read the novel about the Escapist’s fictional creators, but in the end it’s disappointing. With the top-notch artists on board and all the little touches with essays about the fictional history of the character, this should’ve been so much more. However, I do promise that if nothing else, this comic has spurred me to finally get around to reading The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Between that and providing work for a lot of top-talent artists, we do get that happy ending after all.

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