Upon my return from HeroesCon 2012 this past weekend, I discovered a package on my doorstep. After months of delays and anticipation. the package contained my copy of 'The Art of Howard Chaykin' hardcover from Dynamite Publishing. As a huge fan of Chaykin's work, I pre-ordered the book shortly after our conversation with Howard last year. I couldn't wait to see what was inside.
That said, I suppose I will get the 'bad' out of the way first. The foreword by Brian Michael Bendis was weak. Outside of their common Jewish background and the fact that they worked on issues of 'Avengers' together in the recent past, nothing Bendis wrote remotely served as a compelling preface to the retrospective of a lengthy career such as Chaykin's. Inside the book, the layout and design seem haphazard. The prose, arranged in three vertical columns, was unattractive and occassionally hard to follow; much unlike the crisp examples of Chaykin's sequential work featured therein. Perhaps most disappointing were certain sections of anecdotes by peers and former assistants. Some are simply ineffectual (Khoi Pham?!). Others were simply generic lip service. And a couple were very lacking given their relationship with Chaykin (Walt Simonson).
Now for the 'good': THE ART! There is plenty of work featured here that I have never seen before. Scores of Chaykin's commercial art and book covers from the late 1970s and early 1980s are presented with nice crisp scans and vibrant color. Chaykin's sequentials and miscellaneous inked work are presented in sharp b&w scans. The urbane and sexy sophistication of his American Flagg!, Time2, and Shadow art pop off the page. As a Chaykin fan(atic), I've seen countless repeats of many images in various articles and magazines over the years. So it was a nice surprise to see loads of new images that really demonstrate Chaykin's accomplished dexterity between mediums in his career. In contrast to the anecdotes I previously mentioned, the sections written by Dean Haspiel and Ken Bruzenak were excellent and well worth the read.
Lastly, the last third of the book contains an excellent gallery with full page selections of Chaykin's more recent work within the last decade. Add to that a comprehensive, alphabetical checklist of comics, book covers, albums plus more and you have a decent ending to the volume.
While this collection was not without some wholly unnecessary elements, I do think it is a fantastic book worth the purchase. Moreover, I'm satisified to finally see a retrospective of one of my all-time favorite creators on my bookshelf.