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Pulp Hope and Crutches for a Crippled Crab

Paul Pope and Dean Haspiel knock it outta the park for Z2 Comics

By Wayne Alan Brenner, 4:32PM, Wed. Aug. 20

OPEN IMAGE GALLERY

He's not getting off scot free.
He's not getting off scot free.
He's not getting off scot free.

Every day you live is another day closer to your death.

Best, we suggest, to spend those days wisely – like, by taking a good long drink from this dark and colorful vessel of a graphic album called Escapo – written and drawn by that relentless rock star of sequential art, Paul Pope. Here's a new book from Z2 Comics, a book comprising three main Escapo stories – featuring the outward derring-do and internal struggles of that circus-galvanizing escape artist and emotionally vulnerable soul known as Vic behind the scenes – and a short prologue, and more bonus material than you'd find in, say, a new Criterion Collection release. Here's a showcase of Pope's initial Escapo tale from back in the day (now gorgeously colored by Shay Plummer) and two subsequent death-defying adventures in the center ring, and all of it awash in hues that can only hope to match the impact of the artist's expressively brushed and penned ink. Z2 presents these uncanny carny narratives in a hardcover volume so well-produced you'd think it was a Drawn & Quarterly publication.

It's appropriate that one of the bonus pin-ups near Escapo's terminus is drawn by Dean Haspiel – because Z2 has also just published another hardcover: Haspiel's Fear, My Dear. Totally different animal, this; totally different flagon of brain brew. Where Pope's Escapo is all romantic pulp adventure, hewing to life's enriched pageant with a few eerie shades of magic realism, Fear, My Dear is a brightly paneled bipartite mind-trip in which the artist's two favorite super-powered protagonists, the lovers Billy Dogma and Jane Legit, wage a "war of woo" for and against each other and tangle with a cosmic deity that's wreaking havoc on the very superstructure of terra incognito itself. Well, that's some of what's going on, at least, as rendered in swaths of black and white and red and yellow, delineated by Haspiel's bold Kirbeyesque lines, and bedazzled with dialogue and description like Lord Buckley guest-starring on a lost episode of Deadwood. "Pulp that emasculating gorgon before she blitzkriegs our power flower!" urges sweet Jane, before kayoing her zombie double in Billy's stead near story's start.

And to you, reader, we heartily recommend: Grab yourself this pair of Z2 glories like the life of your mind depends upon it.

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