I can’t help it, it’s like an obsession. I’m a Howard Chaykin loyalist. Ever since he created American Flagg! in the early 80s, I’ve followed Chaykin’s work wherever he’s gone. I’ve gloried at Blackhawk, chuckled at Mighty Love, reveled in Challengers of the Unknown, and really cared about the characters in American Century. So of course I couldn’t resist this comic.
The thing about Chaykin is that he does different comics from anyone else, about different people. Chaykin’s characters are individuals, people with unique drives and desires, who often make mistakes and who often are completely self-absorbed. They’re much more like real people in that respect, rather than one-dimensional archetypes. In that way Chaykin’s characters are a lot like you and me.
Chaykin is the perfect candidate for an issue of Solo, DC’s anthology comic which spotlights the work of a different creator in each issue. In this issue, he delivers six short tales of varying quality.
The best, “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” is the story of black jazz musician Firestone Cooley, who has the misfortune of finding himself in Paris at the exact moment the Nazis take possession of the city. What follows is a quick and fun tale with a wonderful ending. Next is an EC-style twist-in-the-tale horror story, “Upgrades.” It’s clever and a bit silly but has a classic Chaykin ending to it. As does “Tall in the Saddle,” the only story to feature an old DC character. The obscure western character Pow Wow Smith is featured, and it’s a typical Chaykin yarn of rogues who win in the end.
The latter three stories are less successful. “Breaking & Entering” tells the story of two industrial spies who happen to be married to each other. It’s a cute tale, but awfully similar to Chaykin’s recent Mighty Love book. “Bad Blood” is a meditation on Nazis and Jews in modern America. It has some shock power, but the story’s really too short to be effective. Lastly, “Horrors” is a reflective piece where Chaykin talks directly to his readers. It’s a charming and typically self-effacing autobiography, but it doesn’t provide real depth and has an ending that comes way too suddenly.
On balance, though, this is a terrific collection, well worth checking out. It definitely made this old-school Chaykin fan very happy.