Here’s the thing about the term “Bargain Bin.” On one hand, it makes you think that what you get out of it is a leftover, all the good stuff is gone. But here, we use the term as “look what I found! Everyone else missed this! Buried treasure!”

That was exactly my response when I found AMERICAN CENTURY: SCARS AND STRIPES on the 50% off shelf at the local Barnes and Noble this afternoon. Like so many of these lost treasures, I had read this series when it first came out in 2001. It was filled with lots of swearing, loads of action, and tons of sex. But I was all about the capes back then, so I didn’t stick with the book, and it was cancelled with issue 27.

Created by Howard Chaykin, AMERICAN CENTURY tells the tale of World War II vet Harry Block, who after returning home from the war, finds his suburban life… lacking. His wife is cheating on him, his friends are bigots, and now he’s being called back to active duty to serve in the conflict in Korea.

So Harry says screw it. And leaves. Being a very skilled war pilot, Harry now works for the airlines. Hijacking a plane, he gets shot down by the US Air Force, lets himself be declared dead, and next resurfaces under the name Harry Kraft in Guatemala. Wanting nothing more than to enjoy books, beer, and the local beauty Carla, things are finally going Harry’s way. With his feet up on the table, and his favorite book in his hand, Harry says to himself, “Who’s the schmuck now?”

This is a happy man.

As Harry gets acclimated to his new home, he gets tangled deeper and deeper into the local politics. Revolution is in the air. Guatemala is feeling pressure from the CIA, the Russians, and corrupt local officials. Everything comes to a head in the fourth and final part of this collection. With plenty of bullets and double crosses, Harry learns that you can never really outrun America’s worldwide influence.

AMERICAN CENTURY was co-written by frequent Chaykin collaborator David Tischman, with art by the very capable Marc Laming. For a taste of mid-century world politics distilled through the Chaykin lens, track down this book.


Dan Malmon