cover image The Escapists

The Escapists

Brian K. Vaughan, . . Dark Horse, $15.95 (175pp) ISBN 978-1-59582-361-8

Ambition outpaces execution in Vaughan and company’s graphic novel semisequel to Michael Chabon’s celebrated novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay . Most installments in the “Escapist” comics franchise to date have been perfunctory affairs; Vaughan raises the stakes by setting his story not in that character’s fictional world, but in a present-day setting in which nerdy Max Roth, son of the late king of Escapist collectibles, acquires the rights in order to publish a new comic book series with the aid of a love-interest illustrator and a burly letterer. The book’s plot—including an ill-fated publicity stunt and challenge from a charming corporate manipulator—is outlined with the same broad strokes as its characterizations, sometimes echoing the source text’s events, but achieving none of the novel’s texture. Rolston’s dominant cartoony visual style fails to credibly ground the book’s characters or setting, and alternates with darkly overwrought “Escapist” pages by Alexander. The book’s moral—that inspiration is best honored by total originality—is striking and seems to call for more inspired comics than this. (Dec.)