- Posted by Johanna on January 22, 2009 at 3:19 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Howard Chaykin
- PUBLISHER: Image Comics/Dynamic Forces; $49.99 US
Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg!, a science fiction satire, was revolutionary for its time. Originally published in the early 80s, it tackled mature themes in the wake of the Reagan Revolution. In this future, corporations ruled a dystopic Earth from a colony on Mars, and society is sex-obsessed, over-medicated, and media-driven, with televised live violence reality shows filled with subliminals.
Reuben Flagg was the TV star who played Mark Thrust, Sexus Ranger, until he was replaced with a hologram. So he came back to Chicago to work as a real, law-enforcing Ranger. He’s the classic Chaykin hero, a smart, good-looking, tough Russian Jew trying to survive with his personal morality intact in circumstances beyond his control. All the better for dashing action-adventure in which he gets the best of every man and sleeps with every woman.
It’s Blade Runner on paper, although instead of a gloomy noir, we got candy-colored action. The Duoshade stippling provides a distinctive depth to the design-driven graphics. It’s gorgeously aggressive, with solid, blocky figures. The women are tough-as-nails broads with plenty of cleavage and a penchant for garter belts holding up thigh-high stockings.
The culture and its attitudes are conveyed through mentions of TV shows, news announcements, and advertisements. Like many cynical, futuristic takes, what then was revolutionary is now more expected and conventional. You’ve seen, for example, a mutant motorcycle gang before, and corrupt politicians and murder mysteries are timeless, but it’s really about the struggle to define the American Dream in the light of a world run by money and cynicism and everyone out for themselves. And racism unfortunately hasn’t become obsolete.
The first 14 issues are collected in this hardcover, and it’s a dense, long read, as Flagg tackles various challenges, including chaperoning an illegal basketball team through South America, accompanied by various dames, Raul the talking cat, and Luther the robot deputy. Like most science fiction, it’s as much a portrait of the time of its creation as the future. The book also includes additional character pinups and a new American Flagg! short story by Chaykin.
This article chronicles the long struggle to get this volume released, with problems ranging from detailed recoloring work to the book having two publishers. In this short interview, Chaykin reminisces. Here’s a comprehensive review.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)