Things just keep getting better as Dark Horse rockets into its third brilliant archive collection of Flash Gordon, with more wonderful classic comic reproductions jumping off the page to life, in pristine quality, and coming right at you! You’ll fall in love with this collection so much, you may very well try and find a legal way to marry it. The third volume collects Flash Gordon issues #12-#18, which were originally published by Charlton Comics, from 1969 to 1970. The best things hands down are the crazy colors and page layouts the small army of artists provided on these issues. Charlton also printed cereal boxes, so bright eye-popping colors were their thing- and there is no lack of them in this collection which Dark Horse has reproduced faithfully in their full glory. The page layouts have plenty of quick cuts and interesting experimentation with overlays, the likes of which were just as good as some of the stuff the powerhouse Marvel was churning out at the same time.
Issue #12, which features art by Reed Crandall and scripts by Bill Pearson, pits Flash and the gang against a new villain named Sheng the Savage. Although Sheng is no Ming, classic Gordon action spills across the pages, and ignoring some odd logic that helps the plot move across, it’s a joy to read. Issue #13’s first tale is also written by Pearson with art by Jeff Jones. Interestingly enough, this tale was meant to be in the King Comics run of Flash Gordon, but knowing the press was going under, Jones pumped out quick art to make a quick buck. Charlton would pick it up and actually use it (unexpected to Jones), however, with Charlton’s bright colors and Jones’s quickly produced, off beat art. As a result, we are given a Flash Gordon tale that fits at home with 1970s Heavy Metal stories more than it does the rest of the series, a true surprise of a gem to come across in these pages. The second tale in this issue is written by Joe Gill with art by Pat Boyette, and pits Flash against some crazy underground mud-monster civilization action, hitting the heart strings of classic sci-fi fans everywhere. Issue #14 is written by Bill Pearson with art by Boyette again, which gives us a super intriguing tale of multiple assassins, all who have stolen Flash Gordon’s face and are pretending to be him. Witchcraft, a few monsters, and action galore light up these pages.
Issues #15 and #16 have Boyette returning again for art with unknown writing credits. Issue #15 is my favorite of the bunch, and it’s here where Boyette becomes my favorite artist on the Flash Gordon comic books. His vulcan warriors, as they clash with these purple lizard guys? Awesome. The gold and silver robot? Incredible. We then move on to #16, where we get these demons from another dimension in a plot from Ming the Merciless; a giant demon that looks like it’s out of a Lovecraft tale, with ahead of its time page layouts: you can’t go wrong (and the colors once again are the icing on the cake). Issues #17 and #18 both continue with art by the amazing Boyette, with a script by Joe Gill and the rest, again, unknown. #17 gives us a tale that echoes The Green Slime, with plant monsters spawning out of control across the entire planet with the odds looking dire for Flash’s gang. Finally, in #18 we get an invasion of these crazy looking locust men with more cool layouts by Boyette, and a short tale of the giant monster kind, certain to delight many.
The third volume of the Flash Gordon Archives is certainly one that you’ll re-read. For many years Charlton’s comics, I feel, have been overlooked, but when you look at Boyette’s work, with those pop art colors, coupled with the solid sci-fi paperback-like writing, these issues are at home with the best of the best of their time. Perhaps finally in 2011, they can get the respect they have long deserved. This reviewer’s favorite volume to date, in 186 glossy pages of goodness, Dark Horse has helped Flash Gordon save the day again. Flash Gordon Archives vol. 3 is out on stands now.
If you’re wondering how cool Boyette’s art is, check below:
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A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.