Shop Around The Megalopolis...
story and art: Howard Chaykin
hoping that Howard Chaykin never gets over his obsession with
those things that make fiction worth reading: sex and violence.
He does them so well. And despite wrapping them up in spandex
and leather (wait a minute…) in Mighty Love, it looks
like he may even be getting mature about them.
themes hide behind a new façade for Chaykin. Dipping a toe
into the pool of romantic comedy, the writer/artist still
delivers two-fisted action and somewhat tasteful nudity. But
there's nuance to it; his protagonists, Skylark and The Iron
Angel, really are falling in love, but do not reach a state
beyond casual dating by the end of the book. (If we can stretch
the meaning of "casual dating" to include fighting crime together.)
Chaykin provides is an old one, borrowed from the Hungarian
play Parfumerie. It's a good plot to borrow, as the
play has been turned into three different films -- The
Shop Around The Corner, Meet Me In St. Louis and most
recently, You've Got Mail. For you see, though these
two costumed heroes definitely have an attraction and could
easily have a life together, they unknowingly hate each other
in their civilian identities.
hands, this could be a tired "buddy cop" situation. One's
a slick defense attorney that specializes in freeing high-powered
slimeballs. One's a cop in a corrupt administration, trying
to maintain her dignity and sense of justice. By night, they
become costumed vigilantes, in a sense undoing the damage
of their day jobs. Both are considered urban legends, and
neither believes in the other's existence until a fateful
collision over an armored car. In the movies, they call that
a "meet cute."
lays out their rivalry while establishing the rhythm of their
city. Over a montage of seemingly unrelated scenes, he places
their profiles face-to-face. Varying degrees of animosity
are palpable in each panel, a sharp contrast to their later
though, is the artist's clear grasp of his characters' inner
conflicts. Officer Delaney Pope clearly loathes her own inability
to achieve justice, seeing attorney Lincoln Reinhardt as an
easy target for her rage. As for Reinhardt, we do get to see
a sympathetic side to him out of costume, as Chaykin has thrown
in a bit of noir for his hero to literally fall for
a femme fatale.
there is plot, a complex heist spiced up by Chaykin's usual
dash of sexy cynicism and a hint of social satire. (After
his contribution last month to Dark Horse's The Amazing
Adventures of The Escapist, it's hard to remember a single
Chaykin story that didn't involve prostitution as a key element.)
his attitude seems a little tired, but mostly because so many
creators have aped it. Chaykin broke so much new ground with
his series American Flagg, that everything he has done
since still loiters a bit in that book's shadow. If Mighty
Love is an idea he intends to develop further (and it
is somewhat open-ended), it could be the book that regains
him his deserved reputation as an innovator. Others have tried
mixing superheroes with romance, but it too often comes off
as soap opera or, worse, situation comedy. Here, even though
they're in spandex, Pope and Reinhardt feel real.
love story isn't over; in fact, it's barely begun. And so
far, there isn't a false note to it.
the book may seem a bit expensive. (Amazon has it, below,
at $17.47.) But Chaykin's art is just as vibrant as it ever
was, and really comes alive on the higher-grade paper. If
you're a Chaykin fan, this must be a no-brainer.