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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Flash Gordon #1 [1995] (Random Comics Theatre)

Random Comics Theatre

Flash Gordon #1 [1995]

In the mid-1990s, Marvel briefly got the license to several of the long-running King Features adventure strips, and published a few mini-series under the "Marvel Select" banner. I never saw the MANDRAKE one by Mike Barr and Rob Ortaleza (and apparently wasn't alone in that since only 2 of the 3 issues seem to have come out), but the 4-issue PRINCE VALIANT series by Charles Vess, John Ridgway and Elaine Lee was gorgeous.

As was this 2-issue FLASH GORDON series written by Mark Schultz, of XENOZOIC TALES fame, and drawn by Al Williamson, of many many things fame. Each issue is 36-pages, with cardstock cover and slick interiors, no ads, a really good package for the $2.95 cover price.

The story is pretty much what you'd expect and want from a Flash Gordon adventure. Sometime after the briefly recapped defeat of Ming the Merciless, Flash, Dale and Zarkov are still on Mongo, attempting to bring peace among the many long-hostile nations of the planet. They organize an Olympics, but Flash gets kidnapped by the beautiful and scantily clad Azura, Queen of the Blue Magic Kingdom. While attempting to escape Flash causes them to crash and be taken prisoner by an undersea race of Squidmen, they later run into a stampede of magnopeds (orange two-trunked elephant-like beasts) and Flash finds out there's a mystery tied to his past on Earth, and escapes again only to wind up in the volcanic kingdom of the Fire People.

So a typical day for Flash, with all sorts of weird creatures and never-ending adventures in the endless variety of lands one finds on Mongo. Schultz has the story-beats down pat. The real star of the show, of course, is Al Williamson. Obviously a big fan of Alex Raymond's original strip, and having drawn Flash Gordon several times before (including an original comic book series back in the 1960s and a movie adaptation around 1980). This book is cover-to-cover of some nice later-day Williamson doing what he does best. In fact, unless I'm missing something this may be the last major project that he did full art for. He remained a prolific inker for quite some time after this, but I think the only full art I've seen him do after this was a short story in DARK HORSE PRESENTS. He also assisted on the penciling of a Flash Gordon sunday page with Jim Keefe around 1998.

Anyway, very fun little series well worth picking up if you blinked and missed it the first time around.

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