by Jeff Parker (Writer), Marc Laming (Artist), Jordan Boyd (Colorist)
The Story: It seems the end of the world is close at hand, as people investigates it, some reacts to it while heroes are on the move.
The Review: There always comes a time for any readers when they decide to follow an artist or a writer. Most people go and buy most of the series involving their favourite characters, but most of us do have a tendency to try out some of the names in the industry. It might be because of a title they wrote, or their personal view on certain subjects and theme, but whichever the reason, it makes us want to see more from that particular author.
It’s no secret that I have a fondness for Jeff Parker’s work, who made me a fan of the Red Hulk and made me love the dysfunctional yet always likeable cast from Thunderbolts. He also had a knack for inventive stories and using golden age heroes, which has been a staple for the numerous Agents of Atlas volumes written by him. With such a pedigree, it seems that him handling a bunch of pulp heroes and teaming them up together should be right up his alley, but is it so?
In a way, it’s a mixed issue, as it does bring up some of the themes rather nicely, yet fails in some other areas. One of the aspects which he does nicely, however, is bring in the general tone that is fitting of each of the character, with Flash Gordon being the reckless adventurer he always is, Mandrake being a bit unsure, yet full of mystery and the Phantom being the brave action he always had been. Even with the minimal knowledge that some may possess of these characters, Parker does not fail to bring their personalities to the forefront.
Their settings are also quite aptly presented as well, with some of the supporting characters being brought with not much panache, but at least in a competent way that makes it so the readers aren’t completely lost as they read on. Most of the supporting casts are unknown, but do their role fairly well in bringing the tale up to speed and informing the readers about what’s going on.
Some of them are not enough developed, however, as they seem to only have the role to bring exposition instead of being actual characters, which is a shame as each of the starring characters have a rich mythology behind them. In some areas, Jeff Parker seems to forget the fact that these characters aren’t necessarily known deeply by many people. It’s a case of missed opportunity in some case.
This lack of explanation for some of the characters also gives way to another problem, which is the development. As we do not know who some of them are, the readers are treated to a lot of scenes that move forward, yet never seem to connect in ways that feel organic. The hints of what might be going on are there, yet they really are just teases for what might happen later in this mini-series further down the line. Some journalists are doing research, a group of people are in the jungle, Flash is flying in a spaceship, yet why are these scenes shown all together in succession? It makes for a confusing read at its worst, but a rather annoying one at best in terms of development.
What fares better is Marc Laming with his artistic duties, who bring in some of the weirder and campier elements in a modern setting rather well, considering. The spaceship that Flash is flying looks ancient in terms of designs, yet does not seem to clash too much with the setting brought by Laming. The same would go with the Phantom, who probably has one of the silliest costumes in history. While his purple uniform is incredibly campy, Laming goes straight with it as he presents him as some kind of force, enhancing the best aspects of the character in motion. The Phantom is ugly, yet you truly do believe he is a heroic figure as he fights the big dinosaur with his handguns, a sequence that is very well-told in terms of pacing and motion. The action is kinetic and it looks pretty good.
The colorization, however, is a bit more subtle than in the usual capes book as there is a heavy used of subdued tones in combination with lighting that produce a duller and less diverse result that do emulate the past quite well, which is fitting considering the characters. It is by no mean an extravaganza of rainbows like other books, nor does it feature some particularly complex coloring techniques, yet it is competent nonetheless.
The Conclusion: While it may not be the most new-reader friendly and some explanations could have been truly helpful to let some readers appreciate some of the characters completely, Jeff Parker still seems to get who the main characters are as he plays with this modern pulp world with some good art by Marc Laming and some competent colorization by Jordan Boyd.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière