1 Along with Alan Moore's Watchmen and Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Howard Chaykin's dystopian satire American Flagg! helped comic books ''grow up'' in the '80s. Unlike those other touchstones, this groundbreaking series has never been collected in the graphic-novel format until this handsome hardback, with an intro by Michael Chabon.
2 Chaykin's vision of a politically polarized, media-saturated future was prophetic right down to America's current fixation with reality TV. His saga follows Reuben Flagg, an oversexed, self-righteous actor-turned-cop who polices The Plex, a heavily fortified (and heavily retailed) citadel that shelters citizens from gangs, militants, and terrorists.
3 Every page is a piece of art: dense with detail, bursting with color, unified in design. Chaykin made innovative use of sound effects the ''whupwhupwhup'' of helicopter blades and ''papapapa'' of machine guns were dynamic elements, not graphic afterthoughts.
4 Flagg's female characters are complex and strong. They also traipse around in lingerie and tight leather offensive to some, but intrinsic to Chaykin's outrageous sense of humor.
5 Reuben's sidekick, Raul, is a talking cat hooked on pornography. 'Nuff said.