Trades You Should Own: The Escapists

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If you haven’t heard of The Escapist, that’s okay, he isn’t a real superhero. Or is he? In the fictional novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the two protagonists create a comic hero during the Golden Age of comics as a way to escape from their past, but in the process, author Michael Chabon created a character that would transcend the novel form and actually make it to the comic pages.

Dark Horse Comics and Chabon teamed up for a real The Escapist series in 2004, with the premise that Kavalier and Clay were real people, and Dark Horse was simply reprinting stories from back in the day.

Jump forward to 2006 where Brian K. Vaughan took the idea and expanded it further with The Escapists, a six part mini-series that wraps up the adventures. Those six issues were collected at the end of 2007 into a hardcover trade you should own.

On his father’s death, teenager Maxwell Roth discovers his father had the largest collection of Escapist memorabilia in the world. Spending weeks and years going through the collection Maxwell develops a new relationship with his father, and becomes obsessed with the character of the Escapist.

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When his mother passes away, Maxwell takes all the inheritance money and purchases the rights to the Escapist, and working with his long time friend Denny Jones and artist/love interest Case Weaver attempt to relaunch a brand new Escapist title, and in the process escape from their boring mundane jobs.

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The Escapists is not your typical hero tale, but rather a peek at the motivations and desires of those who truly love a character and what lengths they’ll go through to make their dreams happen. In an attempt to stir up publicity for their new comic, Denny dresses up as the Escapist and accidentally thwarts a real robbery. While the news of the stunt does help, it also puts the rights of the character into play when the previous copyright holders come calling with an offer to purchase the character back.

Several artists worked on the series as the story intertwines the events of the three central characters with the old Escapists tales from the 50s, and the first issues Maxwell and crew are preparing for release. The switch in artist for this type of transition is nothing new, but in the Escapists, it flows so smoothly you probably will never notice.

Writing by Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, ExMachina, and TV’s Lost, to name a few) is top notch, although it does tend to lean a bit toward over-the-edge-fan-boy-love.

It took about two hours to read through the entire collection, and be warned that it may take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride if you are a true fan-boy (or fan-girl) and dream of launching your own career as an independent comic publisher. Even though the book reads like a love letter to fandom, it works really well in this title and doesn’t seem overly saccharine.

The bound collection will sit nicely on your bookshelf, but for some reason Dark Horse decided to change the size of the volume so it is actually smaller than a typical comic book. If you look around, you’ll be able to find the Escapists for less than $20, and it is well worth it. I give The Escapists 5 out of 5 Stars.

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