cover image Escapo


Paul Pope. Horse Press, $9.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-1-882402-14-4

A new graphic novel by a talented and original young American comics artist, this is an archetypal story about love, fear and the looming inevitability of death. The central character is a Houdini-like circus escape artist who enters and gets out of an ominous array of huge, deadly, beautifully imagined devices. Pope (The One Trick Rip-off) includes two variations on the story of the escape artist. In one, Escapo finds himself face to face with death in the form of a cackling, grimly persistent skeleton. In the other, the protagonist, overcome by his love for a beautiful woman utterly uninterested in him, considers submitting to his deadly props and being done with it all. Pope's combination of spare, allusively poignant prose; a hair-raising, dramatically gestural black-and-white drawing style (influenced by Pope's love of cartoonists Milton Caniff and Hugo Pratt, and of Japanese manga); and a thoroughly tongue-in-cheek view of Escapo's brand of inadvertent heroism allows him to unpretentiously juggle his grand themes. Pope has created an unusual kind of comic book hero here, a very reluctant fellow forced to confront both the futility of love and the possibility of his own melodramatic death. The book also includes an essay on Pope, another (short) fiction and an index to his other works. (Dec.)