By: Eric Trautmann (writer), Alex Ross (plotting and art direction), Daniel Indro (illustrator), Slamet Mujiono (colors), Joseph Rybandt (editor), Alex Raymond (creator)
The Story: Ming the Merciless is looking for fun on a Friday night. Earth is handily in his cross-hairs. The Earth of 1934 reacts with confusion to the super-technology attacking them that manifests as natural disasters. Everyone except Dr. Hans Zarkov. And by coincidence, Flash Gordon, emissary of the President of the USA, and Dale Arden, cartographer, happen to be with him as he is blasting towards Mongo.
What Was Good: Right out of the gates, I have to declare that I grew up on Filmation’s Flash Gordon cartoons as a kid, so obviously I’m coming from a pulpy place of love for sword and planet adventures. Although this is early in the story, I could already see Trautmann assembling the pieces that make Flash Gordon fun. These are: (1) the terrifying Ming and his fragile empire, (2) Flash, the brave, classic hero, (3) Dale, the damsel-love interest, (4) Zarkov, the scientist ally, and (5) the servants of the emperor, but not necessarily loyally so. Ross and Trautmann also pulled in some elements that promise to give this story a theme or gravitas that the pulp original did not have. The addition of the Third Reich and Hitler say a lot about the kind story this is going to be and the foils and thematic contrasts that will be offered. All that being said, this issue was only the inciting incident. The real story begins in issue #2.
Artwise, I was delighted. Indro was a bit quirky, but I found myself liking the way he exaggerates certain elements (Zarkov, for example), cleaves close to traditional styles for heroics (Flash and Dale), while pursuing very modern takes on villainy (Ming and his entourage). All of it was well done and the detail in the 1930s tech was wonderful, right down to the fraying piece of tape labeling a switch in Zarkov’s laboratory.
What’s Not So Good: One of the perennial problems of everyone trying to redo Flash Gordon is establishing the relationship between Flash, Dale and Zarkov. How is it that an athletic hero and a damsel-in-distress happen to be on a rocket built by a slightly unstable genius that wants to go to Mongo? Once they are together and the adventure begins, this no longer matters, but Ross and Trautmann did not have the most elegant way of making them a trio. Flash and Dale are introduced as strangers falling out of a plane together. Zarkov’s rationalization of why he takes them along wears a little better, but I think that this basic construction problem in the mythos remains somewhat unsolved.
Conclusion: I good start to a series that has a lot of promise.
Follow DS on Twitter.