Saturday, February 23, 2008

More books I've read in 2008

Back in 2000, Michael Chabon published a book called "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay." Ostensibly it was about two Jewish boys who create a comic-book superhero called The Escapist, but it's really about much much more -- art and magic, war, Jewish mysticism, love and prejudice, and the history of the American 20th century. The book won the Pulitzer prize for fiction and it deserved it.
Shortly thereafter, the Escapist appeared in a series of comic books published by Dark Horse. Some of the great comic creators worked on this anthology series -- Will Eisner's final Spirit story appeared in The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist #6. Now in Brian K. Vaughn's "The Escapists" a young man buys the rights to the character of The Escapist (who hasn't appeared in comics for several years) and puts out a new comic book with the help of a couple of friends. They don't have any money to promote the comic so they come up with a publicity stunt that doesn't turn out the way they had it planned. Although it does result in publicity for the book it has other unintended consequences as well. One thing that happens is the evil Omnigrip corporation wants to win back the rights to the character now that it's been proven he can be a success again. You kinda get the feeling early on that this book cannot end happily and it doesn't, but it does end hopefully. And maybe that's even better. In addition to the subjects of love, freedom and escapism, this book also dealt with the oddities of Cleveland architecture.

I also read the second collection of Jack of Fables. Jack AKA The Giant Killer, the Beanstalk Boy and so on is an irredeemable rogue, but you gotta love him. In this book he takes advantage of the Snow Queen and briefly becomes Jack Frost and he heads to Las Vegas where he has the misfortune to run into Lady Luck.

These books present something of a challenge as far as book organization goes. People throw the term "graphic novel" around a lot, but I don't consider five or six issues of an ongoing series bound together as a novel, so "Jack of Hearts" is classified as "comic books DC". "The Escapists" on the other hand will be shelved with graphic novels. Yeah, it's six issues of a comic book bound together, but it was not an ongoing series. Like a novel, it has a beginning, a middle and a definite end.

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