Still Flying The Flagg
♦Tripwire’s Contributing Writer OLLY MACNAMEE takes a look at the first issue of Howard Chaykin’s latest Image series, The Divided States Of Hysteria, out now…
The Divided States Of Hysteria#1
Written and illustrated by Howard Chaykin
With Howard Chaykin’s new Image title going back to the printers, I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about and luckily picked up one of the few remaining copies my local comic book store had. Having grown up with Chaykin, first on Star Wars, then later on American Flagg!, I knew what to expect going into this, and I was not disappointed. If you are in any ways even remotely aware of Chaykin’s back catalogue, and his themes of dystopian America and dystopian heroes, then no-one should have been surprised by the bombardment of beautiful pages and a foul-mouthed, wise-ass politically savvy script, from a true master of the art form, introducing us to a rogues’ gallery full of ne’er do wells, desperados and the disenfranchised from society. This ain’t no A Team that, one assumes, will be formed from these diverse people and their diverse tastes. Anything from serial killing to sodomy, it would seem. All the while set against a backdrop of a broken America reeling from a failed coup that saw the lose of the President and well as most of his cabinet; placing this US of A on ultra-high alert and a whole country thrown into….wait for it… a state of hysteria. Wishful thinking on the current state of politics in the Land of The Free, maybe, by the creator of this politically hued comic? It certainly fits in with Chaykin’s unashamedly, and enjoyable, bombastic, witty and intelligent storytelling and the flawed characters that populate this comic. And, if you’re listen Marvel, it certainly proves that there is a place for political discourse in the funny pages.
For me, Chaykin has always been a much-needed politicised voice within the comic book world. And, arguably, given his well-earned status, if anyone is going to spit in the eye of modern thought upon whether or not comics should carry political messages, it’s Chaykin. Hopefully, others will follow suit. There’s room for all sorts in comics. The form should not dictate the content and, as I discover more and more, some of the best comics out there have no spandex in whatsoever.
Chaykin creates an America that we should all be all too familiar with. The recent elections that saw Trump rebrand America as America PLC are divided. No doubt. Hysteria? On the rise. Again, surely there’s no doubt in that. Hell, it’s a disease we in Britain can relate to as we seem to sit in a political stalemate of greatly different manifestos and promises. An America filtered through the eyes of Frank Villa, an archetypal Chaykin ‘protagonist’ who, we very soon realise, is more than happy to serve his country as well as his wife and mistress too.
A warts and all parable, then, in the offing and one I recommend to you all. And, one I sincerely think you should recommend to any friend looking for a good read.
Keep fighting the power, Howard!