In 2000, Michael Chabon won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It is a story about two cousins in the 1940s to 1950s who create a popular supherhero character, The Escapist. The characters and events of the novel are fictional, but they are based on the true people and events in the early history of comic books. Now, Chabon has teamed up with some of the best writers and artists in today’s comics to create The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist.
At first, it may seem that such a project is nothing more than an attempt to further cash in on the success of his novel (a movie adaptation is already in the works), but Chabon manages to make it work as a fitting companion piece. He sets up the volume not as a collection of short works by talented contemporary artists and writers, but as an anthology, as if The Escapist has truly existed as a fictional character for sixty years. In the introduction, Chabon recalls the first time he read an Escapist comic in 1968, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is repeatedly referenced as a historical work about the lives of the creators. A brief history of Escapist comics provides a context for the “reprinted” stories collected in the book. In this way, The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist reads like an artifact from the fictional world of Chabon’s novel, filled with jokes and references to both the novel and the real-world comics industry.
It is fortunate that Chabon frames the book this way, because the individual stories, though quite good, would not stand up on their own otherwise. They employ a variety of superhero storytelling conventions and stock plot elements that both poke fun at and pay homage to the genre. They also provide diverse variations on the characters, from Kyle Baker’s muscle-bound clown, to Kevin McCarty’s cartoony “Escapegoat,” to Bill Sinkiewicz’s collage-style rendering of Luna Moth. While none of the stories are particularly innovative, they are interesting when placed within the context of Michael Chabon’s fictional world of Kavalier and Clay. If you have not read the novel before, I highly recommend reading it first. Afterward, give The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist a look.