Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #27: The Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann & Janet Lee


I adored this book. Seriously, straight up adored. First, it’s visually stunning. It’s a graphic novel that’s done by decoupage by the skilled hand of Janet Lee. Second, Jim McCann’s writing style is crystal clear, yet packs a mysterious punch…like you got to peek in on a conversation with Willy Wonka.

The story centers on Ayden, a human boy, and his close relationship with the robot Zoe. Zoe doesn’t talk in any way that the reader can directly see, but Ayden hears her and responds to her in such a way that lets us all know what she’s saying. Plus, she’s very expressive. They live in a world that is without time. It lost the tick long ago, and without the tick, there can be no tock. And without the tock and the tick, there’s no time. And for some reason, this resulted in a world of 11 year olds and sentient machines that act like adults. The kids were supposed to live above in house, the machines below in gearland, or something. But when the tick and the tock were lost, things kind of got turned upside down and the kids went to live and create below the surface and the machines moved above. And so it went, day after day.

But see, there’s this clockwork angel that’s falling apart. And she communicates with Zoe. But someone else in town wants to make the clockwork angel his own, because (I think) he’s in love with her. And he wants to use Zoe in implied nefarious ways to get to his clockwork angel, who’s just out of his reach. She’s like a steampunk Statue of Liberty, just far enough away that no one can reach her. The little subplot of the evil guy was annoying and distracting to me, but luckily it couldn’t detract from how awesome and enigmatic the dapper men were in their pin-striped suits and bowler hats. They came to help make things grow again. To restore the tick and tock, and dawn and dusk, and to help usher in a new era of clocks that work.

Seriously, this is an enchanting book if you like Willy Wonka and Alice in Wonderland, then it’s very likely you’ll like this one. Also, it has a foreword by Tim Gunn, because awesome.

This is my favorite quote from the book, which gives a good idea of the tone:

Ayden: So that’s it then?
Dapper Man 41: Far from it!
Ayden: Then why did you stop talking?
DM 41: My mouth is tired. And words are tedious sometimes.
Ayden: But I still have so many questions.
DM 41: I know! Isn’t that wonderful?