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Return of the Dapper Men Hardcover – November 30, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Classic surreal fiction like Alice in Wonderland is difficult to copy because it effortlessly combines the imagination of a child with the mature artistry of an adult writer. This imaginative fantasy strives to achieve the same effect and is, for the most part, a success, thanks in no small part to Lee's magnificent illustrations. It is a tale of a world without time or progress, inhabited only by children who never grow up and robots. Together, a human boy named Ayden and a robot girl named Zoe work to fix the broken world and teach their close-minded peers the importance of change. Their helper in this task is a whimsical, dapper man, a sort of "Cat in the Hat" mercurial hero. It is a fun ensemble though the dialogue occasionally overdoes the exposition. While the theme, as it is presented, is an abstract one for younger readers, it works in an impressionistic way; the lush artwork is easy to get lost in, and the fantastical setting and atmosphere create a unique background for a timeless parable about time. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* This beguiling graphic novel joins the likes of Shaun Tan�s The Arrival (2007) and John Harris Dunning and Nikhil Singh�s Salem Brownstone (2010) as a book that is so immediately distinctive that it promises a unique reading experience�and more than delivers. In the dreamy land of Anorev, children, all under age 11, live underground among intricate gear-work mechanisms, while elegant robots live in abandoned houses aboveground: �Neither children nor machines knew which was work nor what was play, and neither seemed to be any fun or any use.� All are perpetually stuck in the same day, and time has, essentially, ceased to mean anything�until 314 Dapper Men rain from the sky and set in motion the impetus for change. The sometimes slippery-to-grasp story plays around with classic Peter Pan themes, obliquely delivering the message that childhood is not something to hold in limbo; it can only find meaning and value in moving forward, in growing and changing and looking to tomorrow as much as revering today. But where this book truly stands out is how well the story works in concert with Lee�s stunning artwork, which employs an art nouveau sheen. Arresting layouts give the book an ethereal, timeless quality and turn each page into a frameworthy work of art. A true dazzler that speaks on multiple levels for both child and adult readers and one that gets richer with each read. Grades 4-8. --Ian Chipman
Top customer reviews
This is definitely a book for kids of all ages. Whether it's comics you love. Or art. Or getting lost in a world that makes no sense. I happen to love all of these things, which caused a real dilemma. I'd read a panel but ooh now I have to exam the art closely and maybe re-read the panel after really looking at the art so closely. Yeah, it's that kind of a book. There are enough recaps of the story itself available, that I'll spare you that in my review.
I will say that it's also beautifully bound (hardcover is all that is available as I write this), reminiscent of an older style of book, and for a price I often see much lesser paperbacks sell for.
Definitely a must have if you love this medium or if you need that one comic to prove to someone that yes, there's even one for THEM, like my mom....
There are many literary classics that feature an imaginative world where things don't go according to reality. Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan all come to mind. What if the tone of those works was combined into one book AND it was a graphic novel? Return of the Dapper Men from Archaia seeks to fill that void through it's unique story and equally unique art style. The story is by Jim McCann and features art by Janet Lee (letters by Dave Lanphear and cover by Janet Lee and Todd Klein). What is Return of the Dapper Men you ask?
The world of Anorev is a world where time stands still...there's no tick or tock. The inhabitants -children and robots- of the world really just meander about with no real goal in sight. The dichotomy of inhabitants aren't in an equal opportunity world though: the robots live above ground while the children live underground. Enter Ayden and Zoe, seeking to turn that scenario upside down. Ayden is a human boy who chooses to live among the robots and is best friends with Zoe, a female robot. Their destiny together is something of a mystery until 314 dapper men fall from the sky. And then things get weird.
The entire graphic novel is something of an enigma. It seems to be a children's story encased by adult morals that we should all strive to live by. McCann's script reads very well and is simple enough to be digested by a child. I don't want to sell McCann's work short here...it's phenomenal. My point is that I could easily see Return of the Dapper Men being a graphic novel that you would read to your kids as a bedtime story. Lee's art is simply astounding here though. She's never illustrated a comic before (I believe) and her style is exceptionally exquisite and unique. It really adds a sense of elegance to the entire graphic novel. The end of the book also has some stunning pin-ups and a "how to" process by Lee herself, detailing her approach to the art.
The aspect of Return of the Dapper Men that sticks with you after reading it is that it successfully encapsulates what it means to be a kid. It reminds you of all the allegories you grew up reading. They were fantastic reads but subtly taught you valuable lessons about life. Archaia has a great book on their hands in Return of the Dapper Men and I really can't recommend it enough, whether you're a young child with a robot friend or an adult who needs a reminder that even the innocence of childhood is fraught with grown-up decisions. Honestly, if you read Return of the Dapper Men and can't find anything to like about it I hope you read it again, if for nothing else to learn what you may have been missing in the first place.
Actually, come to think of it, they have something else in common: both have a lesson about destiny and the things you can, and cannot, control in life.
While Dapper Men's art looks a bit odd at first glance, as you begin to read the story, the doughy look of the people works better in context than at a glance. Over all, the artwork, which seems to be a mix of paint and pen and ink is as lovely as the story and characters are interesting and engaging.
After I read the book, I bought one for a teenage niece of mine. Even a stubborn teenager enjoyed the story and the beauty of the art.
Plus, it's a beautiful cloth HC piece of work with a ribbon bookmark -- something you don't see much of these days.
The illustrator has done some really amazing work, and navigates the graphic novel's challenge of moving from 2D to 3D perspectives in an interesting way I don't think I've seen anywhere before. Some of the pages are just breathtaking; the craftsmanship is extraordinary. The story is overflowing with style, and the characters are ripe with personality, but you also get the feeling that this could be a story about you. The book does a beautiful job of celebrating difference, how true friendship isn't a matter of seeking yourself in others, but of seeking a beautiful harmony that comes when your friend is very different.