April 16, 2011

Dark Horse Reviews: Flash Gordon Archives Vol. 2 HC

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Written by: Drew
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Flash Gordon Archives Vol. 2 HC
Publisher: Dark Horse
Written By: Archie Goodwin, Larry Ivie, Bill Pearson, Alex Raymond, and Al Williamson
Art By: Dan Barry, Frank Bolle, Reed Crandall, Ric Estrada, Gil Kane, Mac Raboy, Al Williamson, Wallace Wood, and Alex Raymond
Introduction By: Batton Lash

For any lover of the comic art form, there is something magical about old American comics. You never know what you’re going to get. Buried in their pages you can discover little treasures of art and writing, filled with unexpected adventures, wacky giant monsters, beautiful women you wish were flesh and blood, and heroes that were practically real; and if only you could accidentally be transported to the planet Mongo, you could be them, too. I am writing fondly of the journey taken throughout the reprints in Dark Horse’s Flash Gordon Archives Vol. 2 HC , which I was wildly fond of. This second volume of Dark Horse’s reprints of Flash Gordon comics (click here for vol. 1) contains all 11 issues of King Comics’ (King Features Syndicates short lived comic line) run of Flash Gordon, plus the Flash Gordon backup stories from King Comics’ The Phantom.

The art and writing may have varied from issue to issue as both constantly changed, but each of the issues is amazingly enjoyable. Issue #1 we get two tales, the first with Gordon and the gang returning to Mongo, and the second with Gordon and Zarkov testing a drill machine and finding a lost kingdom at the center of the Earth. Both are done to prime perfection by Al Williamson, the second story being an incredibly interesting Earth-bound adventure for long time fans of Flash Gordon. Issue #2 we get a tale where Gordon and friends once again journey from Earth to Mongo to face a villain who turns out to be from their past, and a second tale where Gordon faces off against some pirates of Mongo, both with art by Frank Bolle and writing by Archie Goodwin. Issue #3 is a double set of stories with art by Ric Estrada and writing by Bill Pearson, with a tale of enchanted lizard men and their weird goddess, and a second tale where Gordon goes back once again to overthrow Ming with a little help from a shape shifting minotaur. The art on issue #3 is the simplest in the book, but its bright use of pop colors and of course intriguing writing on the first tale, more than makes up for any weakness it may have.

In issue #4, Al Williamson returns to delight us once again with a classic Gordon epic in two tales, and it’s here we really see Williamson’s amazing work at capturing the universe of Flash Gordon. Where Raymond’s run on the original newspaper strips was close to fine art, I feel like Williamson’s was as close to a fine art touch you could get for a comic book at this time, with beautiful detail in landscapes, and the flare he gives the characters. The writing is by Archie Goodwin here once more, and certainly the pairing of the two, as we know from multiple occasions, is a classic match always made in heaven. Williamson would continue on through issue #5, giving us adventures, fist flying, and flying monsters abounding.

Starting with issue #6 we have another change of arms with Reed Crandall on art and Bill Pearson on writing, providing us with fantastic full-color fishmen and fighting, plus a unique adventure in which we get to see Dale do a little solo work for a bit before joining up with Flash to save the day. Issue #7 brings us a take by Mac Raboy, who would take over the newspaper strip from Alex Raymond, providing us with a more classic Flash Gordon layout. Issue #8 jumps back to Bill Pearson and Reed Crandall, to finish off the epic tale they started in #6. Issues #9 and 10, interestingly enough, bring us reprints of the “Tournament of Mongo” story arc by Alex Raymond, directly from the newspaper strip. Although this is a reprint from the newspaper, the colors and details of the strip, as well as the page layout, have been cut and reedited for the comic book page; so although we get a wonderful Raymond adventure and we get a hint of the brilliance of his artwork, we still don’t get the whole authentic thing. For that you’d have to buy a reprint of the strip itself, however, this is a faithful reproduction of what was printed and edited by King at the time, and it is more of an interesting museum piece for long time Gordon fans. Finally, we wrap up with issue #11 with one last run with Crandall and Pearson on the job, giving us two adventure filled tales, filled with midget men and some really great psychological action.

Dark Horse, as with volume one, has supplied a fantastic full-color, glossy-paged collection of Flash Gordon comics. Any Flash Gordon fan or collector should add this to their collection. It’s top quality for the right price that all ages can enjoy. Highly recommended. Still not sure? Check out this art:

For more from Dark Horse, click here.

Drew McCabe

Review copy provided by Dark Horse.


One Comment

  1. Billy

    Not a big Flash fan, but this book does look really cool.

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