Jim McCann and Janet Lee’s “Return of the Dapper Men” graphic novel from a couple of years ago firmly placed both creators on the map of the comics industry. It’s no small surprise, then, that their new collaboration “Lost Vegas” has been something that many have looked forward to for quite a while. Now that “Lost Vegas” #1 is out, it’s clear that “Return of the Dapper Men” wasn’t a fluke, but I think they’re creators for whom the graphic novel format probably works a little better than a serial publication.
McCann introduces us to Roland, a gambler and cheater who has the proverbial “out of the frying pan, into the fire” experience when getting rescued five years ago has placed him into perpetual indentured service to Lost Vegas, a mammoth casino ship of the future. Much of this first issue gives readers a feel for the Lost Vegas, with its holographic disguises for all of its employees so that they appear identical to clients, or its jaw-dropping vistas of sculpture, multiple levels and grandiose chandeliers.
It’s once McCann is done giving a feel for the world of “Lost Vegas” that the plot finally kicks in, as Roland begins a plan that could possibly lead him to escaping eternal servitude aboard the ship. While I enjoyed “Lost Vegas” #1, it does lead to the sneaking feeling that “Lost Vegas” as a whole is going to work much better, pacing-wise, once it’s in a collected edition. Things are only just starting to move when this issue comes to a close, and it feels a little lopsided as a result. McCann’s work on “Return of the Dapper Men” used a similar relaxed, elegant introduction to its world, but because it was complete as a single unit right from the start, I think it worked perfectly. Financially, it probably makes much more sense for “Lost Vegas” to begin life as a periodical, and I don’t begrudge McCann and Lee that at all. “Lost Vegas” #1 is still fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that this is going to a project where the end result is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Lee’s art in “Lost Vegas” is great, in part because I don’t think her art is quite like anyone else’s out there. The way she draws character faces, especially Roland’s, is entrancing. Every little lock of hair on his head when Bisa punches him on the second page is worthy of examination, even as gamblers, hangers-on, cards and furniture all scatter in the background. With most artists that pack a lot of detail onto a page, they run the risk of your eye not knowing where to go. That’s not true with “Lost Vegas” #1, where Lee uses her page structure to always draw the reader’s gaze where she wants it. On page 2, for example, she’s placed Roland’s moving body right under the one panel that’s overlaid on the splash. Because the panel is in the upper left-hand corner, you’re going to see it first as soon as you turn the page. From there, your eye is guided down to Roland’s head as it pushes out at you. And from there, the smooth lines continue your look down the rest of his body, then to Bisa’s body behind him, and finally to all of the background details. It’s a tight control and I love that.
Lee’s also good with spectacle. The big two-page splash reveal of what the customers of the Lost Vegas see is beautiful, with soft and gentle colors accentuating her lines so that you can drink in the majestic sights that she and McCann dreamed up. There’s even a nice balance between the huge amount of space that the Lost Vegas is supposed to have, and the crowds that are inside. Lee manages to show that there are a ton of people within its confines, yet still make the Lost Vegas seem even bigger because of how comfortably it manages to hold them.
With an art deco air and a fun main character, McCann and Lee have turned out a solid first issue. As I said before, I think it’s going to read even better in a collected format, but that also won’t keep me from reading the next issue too. There’s already enough here to make me want to find out what happens next, after all. I’ll just make sure with each new installment to read everything released to date. I have a feeling that what happens in “Lost Vegas” won’t stay in “Lost Vegas” for long, after all.