Book of the Month

Book of the Month – Return of the Dapper Men

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

129
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.7
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 7.3%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Writer: Jim McCann
Artist: Janet K. Lee
Letterer: Dave Lanphear

Size: 128 pages
Price: 24.95

“This is going to be a movie”

I can’t remember exactly when I thought that while reading Return of the Dapper Men, but I saw it all right there.  That always bodes well for a new original graphic novel, and someday, people will know about Dapper Men, because they’ll be voiced by Alan Cumming or Martin Freeman, and that will be good for the creators and Archaia, the publisher.  But before any of that, it’s important to know that as of right now, this is a graphic novel.  Further, it is a very good graphic novel.  Further still, it’s a very good graphic novel, unlike any other.

When I asked Jim McCann to tell us about this book back while it was still being made, the explanation was very long.  It was not a simple 3-word high concept pitch, and the explanation was involved and detailed.  That’s because Jim had constructed a world, and a few simple words would not do, especially when not accompanied by the images, which say so much, but by appearing so simple.  The long explanation is because the world of Anorev is so intricate and different than what we know, and it was created so carefully, and with such intricacy that, despite not being in any way like our world, it is a complete world; not realistic, but entirely realized.

So what is Return of the Dapper Men?  On the world of Anorev, things have slowed down and stopped.  Nothing really gets done or changes, and everyone’s basically forgotten what it was like before.  Robots live above ground, and the kids live below it, and never shall they cross paths.  Except for Ayden, the boy, and Zoe, the robot girl, who are friends.  This is unusual.  But they are special, yet they don’t quite know why.  There are no adults anywhere, and the clock is stuck at 3:14, and has been for as long as anyone can remember.  Then, a “tock” rings out, and the clock moves.  Robots and children look to the skies, and see a shower of 314 men raining from the sky, floating via umbrellas.  They’re dressed identically, in pin-striped, double-breasted jackets, and green bowler hats, with fancy shoes. They are, in fact, Dapper Men, and they have returned, which is a good thing, since otherwise, the title would be a complete lie.  Once descended, the Dapper Men take off, moving with purpose, setting the world to rights.  Yet one sticks around, and notices that Zoe and Ayden are very special indeed.  This Dapper Man eggs them on towards their goals and destinies, acting at once helpful, vague, charming, and almost altogether opaque in his motives and purpose, like the best of fairy tales.  He helps them challenge the idea of what is, and what should be, and since he never tells them anything outright, they’re left to figure things out on their own, with little more than a nudge.  The reader is left to try and figure things out as well, and while the story isn’t a mystery, perse, it seems like it’s a bit of a puzzle, in the best way.

Not a single bit of this would work without the exact right art, and for that, McCann turned to Janet K. Lee, a good friend, and artist, but not a sequential artist.  I must point out that there are preview pages, and digital versions of the images in this book around the internet.  Some are on this very article.  They look very nice, yes, but they don’t hold a candle to the actual printed page.  This is one of those examples where the paper makes a difference.  There’s a tactile sense to the very odd world Lee created. I’ve seen some of the original art, and this not your typical comic book art by any means.  First of all, there’s no bristol board involved.  There’s wood.  The wood is painted and sometimes layered with printed book pages, to create this wonderfully odd background.  The figures, sets, and buildings are drawn on a different paper, hand-painted, and pasted on the boards.  This technique creates pages that have a tactile feel unlike anything else you’ll see in comics.  It’s completely otherworldly, and works perfectly.  Since sequential art is a skill one learns through experience, you can see Lee getting more comfortable with the storytelling as the pages progress.  More dynamic layouts give way to more effective standard grids, as the artist became comfortable with the medium.  Throughout, the designs are all spot on, from the very unusual robots, to the clockwork underground of the kids, to the Dapper Men themselves.  This world is nothing you’ve seen before.  If you’re looking for anything you’d see in a mainstream comic book, this is the wrong place.  Jim Lee doesn’t live here, but what does live here is exactly the kind of art that makes this story sing.

There’s so much talk going around about all ages comics and the need to expand the audience, and who comics are made for.  Jim McCann, Janet K. Lee, and Archaia are taking up that challenge, having created a book that can be read to kids.  Not only that, but Return of the Dapper Men will grow with kids.  There are themes that adults can easily find and relate to in the story, but  with every passing year kids read this book, it will offer something more, and the story will grow deeper, and hold a different kind of significance.  McCann’s gone so far as to load the story with easter eggs and hidden references for the eagle eyed.  The construction is so much more intricate than it first appears.  Take the name “Anorev” for example, which is but one small thing going on here.  At the heart of it all is a fairy tale, both classic and modern, brought to life by two exceptionally engaged creators, every page dripping with their energy, effort, and affection for the story.  But that’s what it is: a fairy tale. It’s not like any other comics you’re probably used to.  That’s a check in the “plus” column for me, but if you’re expecting typical comics, you might want to move along.  But everyone else should prepare for an enormous treat.

I’ll be honest, and tell you a little story about this book.  As I said, we’ve had Jim McCann on the show, talking about this book long before I could hold it in my hands.  One listen to those conversations will show you how deeply he feels about this story, and when I finally got the chance to read it, it took me a while to start, because I was terrified that it might not live up to the expectations that Jim had for it.  About 25 pages in, I let out a sigh of relief, because it was clear, without even finishing it yet, that they’d done it, and created something new, something good.  I didn’t put it down until I’d finished every page.
 

Josh Flanagan
I appreciate a good block of wood from time to time.


Order Return of the Dapper Men from Amazon.

 

Comments

  1. YEAH! Love this Book. I’m actually interviewing Mr. McCann for a radio show I’m doing this monday. This is a book that should be held high and shown to everyone!

  2. My pre-order can’t arrive fast enough.

  3. i’ve got a two year old niece that i should really buy at least one present for before she turns 21. this could be it 

  4. On the wishlist.

  5. Arriving end of the month!

  6. Just finished this, Josh is right about absolutely everything. It’s fantastic.

  7. You guys should do a podcast on Archaia.

  8. When is this coming out actually, next week? Whenever it does, it’s in my DCBS order, and I’m super excited for it. It honestly can’t get here soon enough

  9. Wow, thanks so much you guys!  Seriously!!!

     

    I see that it’s on this week’s Diamond shipping list.  Also, Amazon should have it this week and all book stores by next week.

    The reaction for this has been amazing.  NY Times just put it on their Holiday Gift Guide as well!  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/26/books/26graphicbooks.html?_r=1

    Thank you everyone for supporting our little book that could!

  10. I can’t wait for this book . Been looking forward to this book.

  11. Did anyone else get an e-mail from Amazon saying this won’t be shipping till December?

  12. Yes, that’s the case with all the Amazon orders.  Archaia is working to see if it can get resolved soon. It should be in comic shops and book stores regardless.

  13. Yep, what Josh said- Amazon’s messed up right now.  Should be fixed by Weds

  14. @josh- I just finished this minutes ago.  I picked it up at NYCC and think I put it off for the same reasons you did.  and yes, it is that good.  are you guys planning on doing a "Book of the Year" show again?  because I’m putting money on this one.

  15. I loved this book too! The hidden subtleties were at times obvious but to its credit still left me wanting to know more about this tale. This is my first time reading material by Jim McCann, so this was definitely a treat and a refresher to the fairy tales I’ve bee exposed to during my childhood. I love Janet’s artwork too (definitely one of a kind) because there are some stories that are tailor made for particular talent. With that being said, McCann and Lee’s efforts in this work embodies one word…..masterpiece.

     Looking forward for Volume 2!!!! 

  16. Done. Won-over. Pulled.

  17. Had a chance to flip through this. Really amazing and innovative work. It’ll be on my amazon wish list for sure. 

  18. Been looking at the books that have made botm over the past year. You guys are gonna have a hard time picking Book of the Year! 🙂