I haven't read a comic book in close to 35 years. I picked Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adentures of the Escapist on a whim because I had read and enjoyed Chabon's novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Chabon's novel detailed the story of two young men (Kavalier, a refugee who fled from Nazi-occupied Prague after an amazing escape and Klay, his New York cousin)who have a long stormy career after creating a sensational comic book hero - The Escapist. The Escapist, as his name suggests, has the extradorinary Houdini-like ability to escape even the toughest bonds and fights the forces of evil, specifically the Iron League whose ultimate goal is to enslave the world.
The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist is the comic book spin off of the novel. Chabon, together with a team of well known graphic artists (including Kyle Baker, Gene Colan, and Jae Lee) and writers (including Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil)has created a series of comics that trace the history of The Escapist. The comics begin with the 'premiere' episode in the late 1930s and move chronologically through the late 1970s. As with real comics, some stories are better than others. I particularly enjoyed the opening story, The Passing of the Key, which serves as the premiere epdisode that explains the origin of the Escapist. Prison Break, and Divine Wind (a Japanese version of the Escapist authorized by Kavalier & Clay) were also particularly good. Although I liked Are You Now or Have You Ever Been (Chabon's comic book look at the McCarthy era) I am not at all certain that any comic published in the 1950s would advance the views contained in it but I enjoyed it nevertheless.
Each section is introduced by brief overviews written by Chabon and his collaborators. The overviews put the comics in their proper 'historic' context. They are amusing and well written.
I very much liked the Amazing Adventures of the Escapist. As noted, I have not read a comic in quite some time so I claim no particular expertise in this idiom. The era of the modern comic has passed me by. Perhaps now I might look into it further. However, this lay reader enjoyed both the story lines and the art work. Reading these stories took me back to my younger days reading Batman, Superman, Sgt. Fury (and yes - even Mad Magazine). In short, this is a fun read. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Chabon and the creators played this work out with a straight face even if one can see that they all clearly had fun working on this project. The cover art on the back page which harks back to comic book advertisements of days gone by is a case in point.
I think the fact that I had read Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay enhanced my enjoyment of this work and I would suggest this may be so for any reader for whom reading comics may be more an exercise in nostalgia than a current avocation. However, the book does stand up on its own, particularly because each story is advanced by explanatory overviews.
Again, this book was a lot of fun. I entered it with some trepidation at the thought that I was reading a comic - but as I got into it those feelings were replaced by the enjoyment of sitting down for some excellent 'escapist' reading.