Saturday, July 2, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: Return of the Dapper Men

Media Type: Graphic Novel
Title: Return of the Dapper Men
Author: Jim McCann
Illustrator: Janet Lee
Publisher: Archaia
Pages: Hardcover; 144
Release Date: Oct 27, 2010
Source: NetGalley

Enter a world in between time, where children have played so long it's almost become work, machines have worked so long they have begun to play, and all the clocks have stopped at the same time. This is how this land has remained, until 314 dapper-looking gentlemen rain down from the sky and set off in different directions to start the world anew. Now Ayden, the only boy to still ask questions; Zoe, the robot girl all other machines hold dear; and the Dapper Man known only as "41" must discover what happened that made time stop, understand what their true places are in this world, and learn what "tomorrow" really means. The sun is setting for the first time in memory, and once that happens, everything changes!

The Return of the Dapper Men is a visually stunning fairy tale that combines steampunk with fantasy and science fiction with Renaissance style, brought to life from the minds of award-winning playwright and comic book writer Jim McCann (New Avengers: The Reunion) and critically acclaimed visual artist Janet Lee. Together they have created a world where J.M. Barrie, Lewis Carrol, and Maurice Sendak meet Jim Henson and Tim Burton. All sharply dressed in a pin-stripe suit and a dapper bowler hat.

I've been in a graphic novel loving mood lately, and so I decided to try out something new. Generally what I read is dark, gritty and realistic. So why not take a step back and read something a little more light and fun? When I saw the cover of Return of the Dapper Men I instantly knew it was something I would want to read. From the gorgeously illustrated characters, right down to the steampunk looking gears, I knew this would be something I would fall in love with.

As always, let's start with the illustrations. Wow. That is pretty much as accurate as I can describe them. They are stunning. Multiple colors pop off of every page, and the attention to minute details makes it so that you can't bear to look away from a single page, for fear you might miss something important. I'll honestly admit that I reread this three times. Once to pour over the stunning illustrations, once to read the story, and again to fully appreciate both together. It was definitely worth it. Janet Lee has created a world that evokes thoughts fairy tales long lost. I don't like to compare books, but the illustrations greatly reminded me of the original Alice in Wonderland illustrations. Gorgeous, completely perfect on every page for the story that they were telling. Although the story is amazing, it is the illustrations that really bring it to life.

As for the story, Return of The Dapper Men is fantasy and magic blended together and penned upon a page. In the world of Anorev (Verona spelled backwards for you anagram buffs out there), time has literally stopped. Somehow all that is left are children and robots. Each has no idea of their past, or their future, and they separate themselves into separate parts of the world. Zoe and Ayden are the only two characters who understand that the divide doesn't make sense. They aren't sure yet just why, but they know something big is about to happen.

Zoe and Ayden are such wonderfully captivating characters. One a robot girl, the other a human boy, they find things in one another that are complementary and just perfect. As I followed along on their journey to find out why the Dapper Men had returned (bowler hats and all), I fell in love with the simple understanding they had. The city of Anorev couldn't have been named any more aptly, let's put it that way. The chemistry and mystery between Zoe and Ayden bleeds off the page, and it bled straight into my heart. Even if I had wanted to put the book down for a moment, I wouldn't have been able to. I was too enamored with their entangled lives.

Shades of fairy tales, morality tales, and so much more fill Return of the Dapper Men, and mesh into a beautiful and lyrical read. I quite truthfully was taken all the way back to my days of reading Grimm's Fairy Tales. Although the story may not always be happy, may not always be fair, it's as close to reality in the world of fantasy as you can get. Buried under here are thoughts, ideas, wishes and dreams that we all have hiding inside us. It's amazing graphic novels like this that remind us to bring them to the surface.

Memories make for tricky things when all you have is Now. Today had been so long in Anorev that no one knew there could be a Tomorrow.
 If Yesterday could be forgotten, did it truly ever exist at all?

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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