by Jeff Parker (Writer), Marc Laming (Artist), Jordan Boyd (Colorist)
The Story: The protagonists finally band together as the secret of the Kings Watch stands revealed.
The Review: Patience is a virtue that I can be lacking sometimes. In a world where everyone wants everything straight away, these kind of thoughts tend to parasite things we enjoy among a multitude of others. While I am a fan of Jeff Parker, I was getting a bit tired of this mini-series, with how disconnected some of the events could seem and how its three protagonists did not seem to do much beside explain one or two points in each issues. It wasn’t tedious or boring, yet I had seen Jeff Parker write much better comics than this.
Well, it seems my impatience has been unjustly rewarded as the third issue of this series is where not only everything connects, but it also give plenty of rather entertaining and awesome moments for either fans of the characters and those that wish to know a little bit more about them.
One of the rather great elements of this issue is the sensation of spectacle, as there are some introductions and display of major players and what they can do, all done in impressive and satisfactory ways here. Mandrake the magician, the legacy of the Phantom, the secret of the Kings Watch, Ming the merciless and other such concepts are presented in ways that are rather big and expansive. It’s a bit reminiscent of modern super hero comics in a way, as reveals here are treated as results of huge buildup, which is what this story does in a lot of pages. In terms of action and development, it is a ton of fun.
The story in itself isn’t bad either, albeit it’s told in a rather slow pace. While there are many moments of unmitigated glory for the protagonists, there are quite a few moments here where a touch of heavy exposition takes hold of the issue. It’s nothing that handicap the issue in any hugely meaningful ways, but it does amount to a good lot of high and much lower moments that create an unbalance in the book. Still, the attempts of Mandrake, Flash Gordon and the Phantom to stop Cobra from accomplishing his goals are nonetheless rather exciting to read despite the disparity between quieter and more explosive moments. It’s very small, though, so this is more a nitpick rather than a legitimate negative point.
There is plenty of action, of course, but Parker does not forget some of the other elements that can attract and delight readers, pushing for humor and levity along the way. It does not destroy the progression, yet Mandrake using a cell phone instead of a spell after a small suggestion or the kind of plans the Phantom has when facing Cobra does make for small chuckle-worthy moments nonetheless. It certainly isn’t the main focus of the book, but it is always appreciated when it is inserted flawlessly in the narrative.
Still, the book would fail even with all its rather neat concepts and their execution with a talentless artist. Thankfully for this book, Marc Laming is anything but this, as he is able to bring the energy and scope this issue needs brilliantly. While some of his details and lines are a bit rough, it does close to no damage to the sheer power of some scenes, like Mandrake’s introduction or the more cosmic exploration of the last few pages. Laming is able to push this effect thanks to both his dynamic panelling, which allows for the action and panel-to-panel flow to be efficient, but it is also due to his high diversity in backgrounds. Volcanoes, jungle, the cosmos, planet Mongo, a spaceship, a hangar are among the sceneries and background to be found here, which are all well-rendered thanks to a few minor, yet effective touches. An area where the roughness of Laming’s style comes as an hindrance, though, is with the emotions of the characters. Most of the facial expressions are a bit stilted and lifeless, with a few minor touches here and there to provide basic guidelines, but they aren’t quite full of life or well-done in most scenes, which is perhaps one of the sole negative aspects of Laming’s work here.
The color work of Jordan Boyd, though, is rather good. While it may not be the most impressive or explosive type of work, Boyd shows a good sense of contrast and a certain amount of diversity with the scenes. Some pages, like those in Africa, aren’t particularly impressive in the least, yet those in space and those few opening the issue are rather great, which bright colors that are put against more drab-looking colors, showing the extraordinary in comparison to the ordinary. It’s not great as a whole, but it is surely highly competent nonetheless.
The Conclusion: Upping the antes with plenty of action and some nice revelations, this issue of Kings Watch manage to be a lot of fun while it looks good thanks to Marc Laming and Jordan Boyd. A rather neat game changer altogether.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière