Dynamite‘s Flash Gordon books, Zeitgeist and it’s prequel miniseries Merciless: The Rise of Ming, are no strangers to politics and scheming. However, this issue takes a particularly strong turn into Game of Thrones territory: Flash and his friends discover that defeating Ming was only the beginning of their troubles as they struggle to navigate the treacherous waters of the imperial court. Here’s the official description of Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist #9 from Dynamite Entertainment:
Ming has been defeated! Long live Flash Gordon! Following the daring assault on Mingo City, peace reigns across the kingdoms of Mongo… or does it? The dethroned Emperor’s reach is long, old enmities still smolder between rival Kings, and Flash Gordon, Dale Arden, and Dr. Hans Zarkov discover just how alien a world Mongo really is.
As Ming’s former subjects prepare to coronate Flash, Eric Trautmann and Alex Ross bring back a number of characters who have been missing from the story for a while (At least, it feels like a while. When a book doesn’t keep a strict monthly schedule it can be easy to lose track), namely the imprisoned Klytus, former head of the secret police, and his wife Ziva, who was sent to Earth by her husband to sabotage Ming’s forces .
It’s not unknown for Dynamite to use recaps for some of its books and it would have been nice to get one here. A lot is covered by captions and exposition, but I still struggled to keep up. It doesn’t help that most of the plotting fails to bear fruit by the end of the issue, so we don’t yet have an effect from which we can reverse engineer a cause. That said, the still to come payoff makes for a nice cliffhanger without being too on the nose.
Artist Ron Adrian, who previously handled the Merciless: The Rise of Ming prequel, comes on board this issue, and, with Alex Ross’ art direction, is an almost seamless fit for the book. Like Daniel Indro, Adrian’s faces are hyper-realistic, but all the characters – even the good guys – are pretty menacing and their features have an unfortunate stiffness. In fact, there’s very little sense of motion throughout the entire book. He also seems reluctant to take his inking all the way. In some cases this works really well, as there are some fantastic gradients. But in others, there’s a marked lack of contrast that results in entire pages looking flat. These problems are a real shame, as the first 90% of the art seems to have been handled brilliantly, with an immense amount of time and effort put in, and a few choices made during the finishing touches serve to undermine the final result.
Because of issues with pacing and scheduling, I’m beginning to believe Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist will function better in a collected format. As I mentioned, Ron Adrian’s art style fits perfectly with the rest of the series so far (the continuing presence of Slamet Mujiono on colors definitely helps with that.) Until then, keep your old issues close to hand for easy reference.