Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg

So, four years after the initial announcement, the first collection of Howard Chaykin’s “American Flagg”: is out.

The first of Chaykin’s work I ever read may have been the original Star Wars adaptation he did for Marvel. 30 years later it’s hard to be sure, but I can actually remember, for instance, issues in the later series credited to Carmine Infantino.

After that, the next thing I would have seen, strictly speaking, was “Heavy Metal”:, for which he did some design work, but I’m not sure that counts.

No, the next thing I remember is the collection of his _The Shadow_ mini-series, which was beautiful and twisted. I bought that, _The Watchmen_ and the last two issues of _The Dark Knight Returns_ pretty much right off the plane when we moved back from Germany.

In the end, his work on _American Flagg_ wasn’t available to me because we were in Germany when it originally came out, and there were no specialty retailers, just the tiny book store on-base, and by the time I had heard of it, it was over, and I was out of comics anyway. When I got back in my third year in college, it just wasn’t available.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying, “When I saw the collection, I picked it up.”

Maybe it would fare better if I had some nostalgia for it in play, but I have to say that it has not aged well. The layouts are a much less polished than I’m used to with his work–I’m used to his visual storytelling being superlative, but this is really hit or miss. The pacing of the story is absurdly compressed–there’s so much crammed into each page it feels like too much exposition. And, finally, the comedy in the names and situations feels a little too broad.

In the end, it’s not that I think it’s _bad_, it’s just that, like all too many pioneering works, the people who came later did it better. And one of those was Chaykin himself.

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Michael Alan Dorman

Yogi, brigand, programmer, thief, musician, Republican, cook. I leave it to you figure out which ones are accurate.