Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Michael Chabon
Picador USA, 639 pages

Design: Henry Sene Yee
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon's works of fiction include The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, Wonder Boys, and Were-Wolves in Their Youth. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire, and Playboy and in a number of anthologies, among them Prize Stories 1999: The O. Henry Awards. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Ayelet Waldman, also a novelist, and their children.

Michael Chabon Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Maddox


"He is an escape artist in a costume. Who fights crime. He doesn't just fight it. He frees the world of it. He frees people. He comes in the darkest hour. He watches from the shadows. Guided only by the light from his Golden Key. He is... The Escapist."
So begins the adventures of a masked super-hero, one destined to battle evil in the fictitious world of Empire City. He will travel the globe, inspire millions and create a vast empire of merchandising. He is the main character of a comic book.

But The Escapist is only back-story for the true heroes of Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Right from the beginning it's clear that this book is something special. The magnificent paperback cover design by Henry Sene Yee resembling a well-worn, over-read pulp novel of the 40s helps to transport the reader back to a different era, a time when heroes were born.

The book starts as an historical account of the comic book partnership and collaboration between cousins Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, creators of The Escapist. As the story opens, young Josef Kavalier, with the help of his magical mentor Bernard Kornblum, is escaping Nazi-occupied Europe while trying to conceal an ancient golem from inquisitive Gestapo. Upon reaching America, Josef meets Sammy Klayman who works as an ad-copy artist for a novelty toy company. When Sammy discovers Josef's fabulous artistic ability, the two hit upon the idea of capitalizing on the new fad of super-hero comic books.

What follows is a twenty-year history of the two as Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay (their pen names) slowly building their empire. Along the way, they get swindled out of royalties by their publisher, face the horrors of Nazi atrocities from the American front and even save Salvador Dali from suffocating in a diving suit in the middle of a party.

Chabon's writing style simply drips off the page with over-embellished, pulpy descriptions of scenes and character emotions. There is an overall nostalgic feel which captures World War II New York exquisitely. Blending reality and fiction by incorporating both Kavalier and Clay into the historic comic scene of the time, Chabon has the two interact with such legends as Will Eisner, Stan Lee and even the late Gil Kane. Our heroes find themselves at the mercy of the self-righteous Senate Judiciary Committee of the 50s, standing trial with William Gaines' EC Comics. And, within the story itself, the origin of the Escapist, as well as the enchanting Luna Moth, take on a life of their own further blurring the lines of reality.

A story about comic books wouldn't be complete without time devoted to the artwork itself and the reader is given a peek into the pen and ink world. Joe's painted rendition of The Escapist duking it out with Hitler are so beautifully described that it makes one wish The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay included a few pages of the comic itself.

The Escapist becomes a metaphor for both the main characters. Josef, trying to escape the guilt he feels from leaving his family behind, finds adventure outside himself. Struggling to bring his family to America, Josef finds himself at odds with a comic-obsessed white supremacist, falling in love with Rosa Saks, the daughter of eccentric millionaire Longman Harkoo and finally ends up in the snowy plains of Alaska during the war. Meanwhile, Sammy faces a much different internal battle within the legal system of character copyrights as well as having to face his own, darker secrets.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a triumph in many regards and, as the Washington Post Book World says it's "Absolutely gosh-wow, super-colossal!" Do yourself a favor, read this book and take a trip back in time to a long-gone world of newsprint pulp fantasy.

Copyright © 2001 David Maddox

David Maddox
Science fiction enthusiast David Maddox has been many things, including Star Trek characters and the Riddler in a Batman stunt show. He holds a degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University, and has written several articles for various SF sites as well as the Star Wars Insider. He spends his time working on screenplays and stories as well as acting in any venue he can. Residing in Los Angeles, he continues to be part of this wacky business called show.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide