Does this old-school hero get the proper treatment, or is this collection a waste of your time and money? Read on to find out.
The official description from Titan Books:
Beginning the complete library of the greatest science fiction hero of all time.
Volume One will spotlight the work of Alex Raymond, legendary for some of the finest storytelling of the 20th century. Raymond illustrated the Sunday strips until 1944; with his clear and much-imitated style forming the original aesthetic of the most popular and easily recognised science fiction hero for decades to come.
Introducing Flash Gordon, Dale Arden, Dr. Hans Zarkov, and Ming the Merciless, this volume will catapult readers to the deadly planet Mongo.
These are the strips that influenced George Lucas to create Star Wars, and which illustrator Al Williamson said were “the reason I became an artist.”
The inception and creation of Flash Gordon is on full-display in this mammoth and lush release. From start to finish, this book covers a plethora of years that honestly were chock-full of dynamic stories that easily touch upon the rich history of the epic hero. Perhaps even more important than the content and tales therein, is the shear attention to detail applied to the restoration process and the hard-work put into the two necessary Forwards that give the character and its creator an honest but proper historical context.
Going through a brief but engrossing journey, The Flash Gordon Legacy, shows where the property has gone in its expansive life cycle. The forward by Alex Ross perfectly illustrates the importance of this comic series, while attacking it from the eyes of a fan who to this day carries a great deal of reverence for the title and the illustrative style that erupts from the talented hand behind it. He makes a strong enough case that you’ll more than likely feel just a little bit of his fanboy glee as you achieve a slightly better understanding of this storied protagonist.
The second Forward, Birth of a Legend, does a fairly good job covering the man behind the myth. Doug Murray takes fans on a brief but thoroughly biographical journey while mustering up the gumption to offer some interesting tidbits about his lifestyle and inspirations behind this work. The changing landscape of the world, the impact of the war engulfing it and how social as well as economic factors shaped the skill embodied by this creative talent.
Perhaps second to the stellar Forwards by Alex Ross and Doug Murray is the most important aspect to take note of in this collection: the immaculate restoration by Peter Maresca. From the first story to the final one, this Hard Cover carries each panel and page in a way that stylistically connects the parts of the narrative journey while employing some minor reformatting. The cosmetic changes stem from several of the stories being originally formated in a portrait layout oppose to the landscape style employed by the majority of the weekly releases contained in this volume. The end result is both steady and aesthetically pleasing.
Alex Raymond‘s writing is defined not just by the time period, but by his shear willingness to allow some zany yet creative situations that ultimately yield some rather compelling jaunts chock-full of solid character driven arcs. You could argue that there is an overabundance of unnecessary narration, but truth be told you have to factor in the era and these minor gripes quickly dissipate. Yes, we have a protagonist who happens to be a polo player from Yale who then gets stranded on the planet Mongo, but beyond that we have a classical narrative that plays on some very core human emotions. Jealously, love, greed, anger, revenge are all factors in this epic saga filled with ruthless dictators, Lion Men and desperate characters yearning to accomplish whatever their ends may be.
Beyond the narrative and the script, Alex Raymond, beautifully renders the creatures and inhabbitants of the planet Mongo with a unique sense of detail that would honestly put many of today’s artists to shame. Thick and thin lines with expert curves creates a visceral visual dance that perfectly illustrates this dynamic adventure. I have to admit some of my favorite moments and panels were the ones where the background details fell by the way-side and the talented artist shifted focus to the formation of his characters and the extravagant situations therein.
Flash Gordon: On the Planet Mongo Sundays 1934-1937 is a wonderfully realized release that is a near perfect representation of not only its time but the character itself. If you’re a fan of the hero or one that’s dedicated to the current Science Fiction and Fantasy genre, then I’m sure there will be plenty for you to love in this sterling collection. Highly recommended.