Friday, November 17, 2006

Favorite Panel Friday goes for two

The Escapists #5 is ... well, it's a toughie. To be honest, I've been putting off bringing up this mini-series, even though it's been on the FPF short-list almost every week it's come out. But it can no longer be denied, so feast your eyes on the first-ever two-panel FPF Panelpalooza! Grab your ass with both hands, kids - this is history!

Urm. Yeah, so two wildly different art styles are used to tell two very different - but parallel - stories in this six-parter. One of those stories takes place as a superhero comic, the other as the story of the people creating that comic. Both of them, strangely enough, feature people in costume.

It's all very meta. It's also, at heart, a love letter. Michael Chabon's Pulitzer-winning novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" has managed to spin off a series of comic anthologies by various contributors, but The Escapists is the one that lays out the comic-love in all it's geeky glory.

Brian K. Vaughn (man, that dude really IS everywhere!) nicely balances glimpses of the latest story of The Escapist with the mostly mundane story of the three friends producing that story, which is where Vaughn's pitter-pat beats loudest. The superhero story is fun, but it's the everyday lives playing out in Cleveland that you end up caring about most. What the hell was Max thinking? Was that the last straw for Case? Is Denny going to be OK? Are they going to be able to get the next issue out?!?

In a neat twist - who knows if it was on purpose or not - the more sketchily realistic art by Jason Shawn Alexander is used to tell the superhero story while Steve Rolston's rounded-edge, cartoony style depicts the story playing out in the real world. In the comic. I'm not trying to be confusing. Honest.

But look at Alexander's depiction of The Saboteur - man, he just oozes evil! And look at the detail in Case's room; that one panel by Rolston tells you a ton about the character with simple attention to background. Both artists' work sets just the right tone for their respective stories, and dovetail into each seamlessly until they reflect and amplify each other in a way that adds depth to both. It's a pretty slick trick, and one that could easily fall apart if you weren't careful.

But, with one issue left to go, it seems pretty clear that Vaughn, Rolston and Alexander are keeping a protective arm around The Escapists. When you love something, after all, it's only natural.

The Escapists #5: Brian K. Vaughn, writer; Steve Rolston, artist; Jason Shawn Alexander, artist

1 comment:

Lisa said...

The last issue's out! I'm excited and sad at the same time. =(