My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Eisner Awards honor comics’ best and brightest, given as part of the annual San Diego Comic-Con. The Best Graphic Album category of the Eisners is the comics industry’s highest honor. This year, for the first time, there were two winners: Jim McCann and Janet Lee’s Return of the Dapper Men (published by Archaia) and Dan Clowes’s Wilson (published by Drawn & Quarterly).
Return of the Dapper Men is ostensibly a children’s book, but as with all classic children’s literature its appeal knows no age boundaries. Adults will enjoy the subtext, literary allusions, and amazing artwork, while children will enjoy a colorful, quirky story filled with wonderful characters. Neither adults nor children will understand the complete package, but all will have a fun ride. No less than fashion guru Tim Gunn provides the introduction, so you know this is a book that will appeal to a mainstream audience.
In Anorev (Verona spelled backwards, the first of many literate references) time has stopped and all that remain are children under eleven years old. A boy named Ayden and his mute, female robot friend Zoe wander and wonder about the above-ground world, while the rest of the children play forever underground among the machine gears which work without rest. Then, the dapper men with their umbrellas and bowler hats literally descend upon Anorev, and life begins to change. One particular dapper man, speaking in riddles, helps guide Ayden and Zoe to their destinies.
Be prepared to become lost in a world that doesn’t always make sense, but be reassured that the journey will ultimately be successful. With nods to Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, and other classic fables, this is a completely original tale of exploration, diversity, and philosophy.
McCann’s story and Lee’s artwork work perfectly together to tell this story of hope and imagination. The illustrations are stunning and perfectly enhance the book. These are pieces that should hang on gallery walls, yet with their bold lines and bright coloring will appeal to children. There is a fascinating essay at the end of the book that shows how Lee created the pages by combining inking, painting, and decoupage.
Return of the Dapper Men is a modern fairy tale that adults and children will want to read over and over.