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The date is Friday, October 24, 2031. Plexus Ranger Chief Hilton Krieger has been murdered. Gathered in his apartment around the crime scene are his deputy, Reuben Flagg, his estranged daughter, Mandy, Chicago Mayor C. K. Blitz, Raul the talking cat, and Flagg's current companion, C. G. Marakova. Evidence points to Blitz's daughter, Medea, and her boyfriend, Cyril Farid-Khan, as suspects, so Flagg prepares to track them down. Mandy insists on joining him, and soon, the two of them are geared up and about to leave the Plex Mall.

As they leave, Mandy explains there was no love lost between her father and her, but she is determined to locate what she refers to as "a keepsake" Krieger always wore, something that had belonged to her mother. After they cross paths with gem merchant John Scheiskopf, who offers Mandy his condolences, they are on their way in an armored car. En route, Mandy makes a phone call to someone named Bill who can provide information on the whereabouts of Medea and Cyril. After hanging up, Mandy tells Flagg to pull over into a nearby blocked underpass. He parks the vehicle there, and they have sex in the back.

Three hours later, they are back on the road, their destination a strip club named "The Chatterbox" in Chicago's safe zone. The club is run by a group of senior citizens called the Witnesses; they specialize in the gathering and sale of information, often traded for copies of pre-collapse videos. There, Flagg meets Bill Windsor-Jones, who helps Mandy get the information they came for, and Harris Angrilli, leader of the Witnesses. Having had no leads in the farm attack the previous week, Flagg asks Harris if he's heard of A.S.L.C., the letters that were tattooed on the face of one of the assailants. Taken aback, Harris provides the answer at no charge: they are the American Survivalist Labor Committee, a pro-nuclear, anti-Semitic, anti-Brit, anti-Italian offshoot of the former Democratic Party. Shortly after the 1996 collapse, its two million members went underground and hadn't been heard from since. Flagg asks him to gather more information.

As he and Mandy leave, he asks about Bill. She replies that she has seen proof that Bill is the rightful king of England.

In an otherwise unused building in town, Medea and Cyril heatedly discuss the events of the previous night while preparing Molotov cocktails. They had visited Krieger in his apartment to shake him down, as he had gotten Medea pregnant. But Krieger was defiant and a scuffle broke out. When he had grabbed Medea by the hair, Cyril knocked him out. They had then rushed away from the Mall, their flight witnessed by Flagg and C. G.

Flagg and Mandy find the two, who hop onto Cyril's motorcycle in hopes of escape. Flagg gives chase, avoiding the tossed Molotovs, and Mandy shoots out their rear wheel as they drive across an overpass. Cyril turns to fight on foot, while Medea lies on the pavement moaning. Mandy rushes to her to look for keys she believes Medea stole from Krieger, but sees that Medea is more badly hurt than she thought.

Flagg hits Cyril with his buzz-knucks hard enough to knock him over the railing, but Flagg leaps to catch him, preventing Cyril from falling to his death. Flagg cuffs Cyril, then gathers up Medea and they head for the PlexMall hospital. Flagg learns that Medea is carrying Krieger's baby, and asks if that's why they shot the Ranger Chief, But Cyril is shocked to hear Krieger is dead.

Hours later, after Medea has been treated, the surgeon tells Flagg and Mandy that Medea lost the child but is otherwise doing well. Mandy, to the doctor's annoyance, asks if any "foreign objects" were found on Medea. Flagg demands to know what she's looking for, but she is evasive and storms away. Flagg is found by Raul, who tells him that one of the items Mandy is after is hidden in his collar. Flagg reaches for the cat's collar and extracts a key. Then, Raul leads Flagg to the lock the key fits.

Using Flagg's Hicycle, they fly to a deserted part of town, setting down in a rubble-strewn alley. Raul shows Flagg the door lock, explaining the bobby traps along the way, and soon, they enter Krieger's hidden pirate video station, "Q-USA". Raul points out a videotape that serves as Krieger's last will and testament. Flagg plays the tape, and Krieger appears on screen, going into his personal background before getting to his will.

He and C. K. had met in the militia, deserted, and formed the Genetic Warlords gogang. After multiple arrests, the Plex had offered them positions in their new law-enforcement branch, the Plexus Rangers. Soon thereafter, Krieger met Peg, a flight dispatcher at the Mall. They married and had Mandy. C. K. began his career in public office. Sometime later, the trio started up the pirate station as a little entertainment for friends, but it grew to serve a wider audience. Krieger managed the station, Peg oversaw the tech and C. K. fronted an illegal basketball team, the Skokie Skullcrushers.

Then, a political crisis in Caracas led to a three-year conflict into which Kreiger had been drafted. When he returned, he had learned the C. K. and Peg had a child, Medea, and he threw her out. For the next two decades, Kreiger kept the station a going concern, broadcasting illegal sports, pre-collapse entertainment and porn, while keeping a low-profile, avoiding news and truthful reporting which would have caught the attention of his superiors in the Plex.

Krieger then gets to his final wishes: the heir to the station is to work with C. K., continuing to broadcast, avoiding honest news, but must never let C. K. or Mandy take control, even if it means total destruction of the station. Most importantly, the heir is to beware of the Plex, which Krieger believed is conspiring to drain the financial coffers of the United States and to control and reduce the population through Mananacillin, its popular anti-STD contraceptive.

Suddenly, a bullet shatters a screen. John Scheiskopf enters, holding Flagg at gunpoint, and identifying himself as a Plex Internal Affairs investigator. He tells Flagg he was alerted to irregularities in Chicago when the "Bob Violence" program was pre-empted by Flagg. His investigations had led him to Krieger's apartment where he espied the row between the Chief and Medea and Cyril. Once the couple had rushed out, Scheiskopf entered the flat, while Krieger sat unconscious. He searched and found all the records of the pirate station, and when Krieger came to, he demanded the keys. When Krieger instead offered him a bribe, Scheiskopf had shot him dead.

As Scheiskopf trains his weapon on Flagg, Raul surprises him from behind, giving Flagg an opportunity to lunge at Scheiskopf, disarming him. They exchange fisticuffs until Scheiskopf floors Flagg. As he moves in for the kill, Flagg hurls a chair at him, and then leaps onto him, pounding Scheiskopf into unconsciousness.

Later, Flagg and Raul return to the Ranger station to find Mandy rifling through drawers, looking for the keys. When Flagg displays them, she demands he turn them over, but Flagg refuses, claiming the pirate station as his own. As they prepare to face the impending weekly gogang onslaught, he fills Mandy in on his confrontation with Scheiskopf concluding with his account of sedating the gunman with Somnambutol, then leaving him lying on Warpath One, right in the path of the gogang. Mandy smiles, telling him she admires his vicious streak.

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Judge Flagg! 0

'Hard Times', the first story arc of American Flagg! comes to an end as Rueben and Mandy discover the truth about 'Hammerhead' Krieger's murder. Bob Violence is back on the air, the Gogangs still threaten O'Hare Plexport, and now the Plex has it's eye on things... but Rueben has renewed hope when he sees Krieger's video will.  All-in-all, American Flagg! is an interesting, if dated, read. Howard Chaykin's style is not for everyone - the 'hero' is more of an anti-hero, not terribly heroic, but de...

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