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May 10, 2004

{     The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist No. 2     }    

Continuing thematically from issue 1 the most recent issue of _The Escapist_ expands the fictional history of one of the great lost heroes of comic-dom through several more iterations of supposed creative teams. In this issue we are finally given a glimpse of the "classic" Luna Moth (and what a glimpse it is!), treated to the finale of one of the greatest Escapist stories never penned, shown a tale of Tom Mayflower's retirement, and introduced to the "manga Escapist" who fights demons in the Land of the Rising Sun. A wholly solid volume, _The Escapist_ 2 improves upon the introductory issue and in doing so make the first volume even more satisfying by placing the stories contained therein within a well-defined continuum. The first story in this hefty issue titled "The Mechanist!" features Luna Moth in all the salacious glory described in _Kavalier and Clay_. Dressed in a costume befitting a burlesque dancer Luna Moth battles a maniacal inventor with all the bombastic aplomb of a true Golden Age superheroine. Kevin McCarthy, writer of this story, demonstrates thrice in this issue his appreciation and understanding of the tone and dialog of comic books as they cross decades and oceans. He also penned another Luna Moth story "Old Flame" in which Luna Moth struggles against a fiery djinni lothario while looking even sexier thanks to Dan Brererton's excellent artistry. In my previous review I believe I mentioned that I never understood the allure of the Luna Moth character in the novel. Thanks to these two excellent stories I've finally come to understand why she would have been a breakout success. "Divine Wind," also written by Kevin McCarthy, introduces The Escapist across the Pacific. Drawn authentically in black and white with limited backgrounds by Tony Leonard Tamai, "Divine Wind" looks exactly like manga (see previous review for gripe on the lack of authenticity in the art department). Initially skeptical about any reinterpretations of the character I was prepared to give this installment a firm shrug and move on. However, the Japanese Escapist proved much more interesting than I had expected. This Escapist was a kamikaze pilot for the Japanese army who found it quite difficult to give his life for the glory of the Emperor. Eight times he attempted a suicide mission only to escape unharmed. Due to the sins of his father his ancestors are entrapped within the demons of the "Iron Chan" and he will never be able to join them until all of these demons are destroyed by the power of his "Golden Chi." Reading this encapsulated version of his entire career I found myself wishing I could read the entire run of this Japanese Master of Elusion, if only such a thing existed outside of the imagination of his creators. This issue brings us one of the "modern" stories of The Escapist described as a revival of the hero in the 90's by entirely new creative teams urging more realistic depictions of both magic and fighting evil. "300 Fathoms Down" presents this more realistic Tom Mayflower assisting the US Army in saving a downed sub in the middle of the Cold War. As well-written and indicative as it is of the modern movement toward more realistic and human superheroes I just don't find that I have much to say about this story. Moving on. . . The greatest story in this collection comes from the author of the novel _Carter Beats the Devil_ Glen David Gold. Based wholly on his previous work this is a perfect pairing, as _Carter Beats the Devil_ was centered around a magician throughout several decades of American history. Introduced as the end of a story arc from 1976 that was never published due to deadlines or internal suppression (depending on whom you believe), "The Lady or The Tiger" excellently captures the feeling of one of the grand and lengthy collections of the late 1970s and early 1980s that comic fans still drool over. Without having an foreknowledge of the epic story that preceded it the final installment excellently captures the feeling of an exhausted hero who has battled ceaselessly and is starting to question his place in the world. The second volume _The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist_ expands and improves upon the first admirably. I recommend that you read both of them. . . or just wait for the trade in September (if you can).

     » Buy this issue now from TFAW

Comments

FYI- Michael Chabon apparently wrote the script for Spider Man 2. I hate to sound like a complete dork, but I think that's really cool, and any concerns I had about the quality of the film are rapidly diminishing.

Posted by: Adam at May 10, 2004 7:37 PM

While reading Kavalier and Clay I wondered if Chabon were truly a comic book nerd or merely an accomplished researcher. Either one would really have impressed me, but I was rooting for true comic book nerd. I found my answer in one of his early short stories collected in A Model World in which he describes a woman's jogging outfit as looking like it was made of admantium and able to reflect cosmic rays. Keep in mind this was a fairly normal story about ex-lovers meeting at a coffee bar. That takes some true nerd cojones, my friends.

Posted by: benjamin at May 11, 2004 12:59 AM

I still can't believe that we walked into that strip club in Pittsburgh and the girl who was working the counter was reading Chabon.
Plus, she had those cute glasses and was so well-spoken.
You totally should have proposed.
-Anyway, I still haven't read Wonder Boys, and since I've seen the movie I'm worried that reading it will be miserable because I know all the relevant plot twists. Any thoughts?
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was pretty good- it has this Catcher in the Rye meets Less Than Zero feel. Plus, if you've spent any time in the 'Burgh it's neat to know exactly what the fuck he's talking about.

Posted by: Adam at May 11, 2004 2:23 AM
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