Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fanholes Side Story #9 Gordon's Alive!

Flash Gordon has been around since the 30s, having began with the comic strip. Later, there was a radio show, film serials, a TV series, cartoon series, movie, another cartoon series and another TV series. Like the Phantom, I’ve been a fan of Flash Gordon since I was a kid. I grew up with Defenders of the Earth, the 80s feature film and reruns of the movie serial and TV show. Unlike the Phantom, however, I kind of lost track of Flash after awhile.

The latest incarnation of Flash Gordon is from Ardden Entertainment. The first issue opens with a cliffhanger. Literally. This version of Flash is more akin to Indiana Jones. Like Jones, Gordon is a Professor at a university and enjoys diversions like mountain climbing. Gordon being a professor is quite a change from the norms of being an athlete though. In the comic strip Flash was a polo star and in the 80s movie he was a football pro.

Another change is to the character of Dale. Here she is with the CIA, which isn’t as drastic a change when you think about it, as Dale has been everything from a travel agent to a TV news reporter. It does, however, put a modern spin on the character, as she can take care of herself. There are two elements of the original story still in place. Once Flash and Dale meet up they board a plane, which immediately crashes. We also have Dr. Zarkov who is still a crazed scientist in this update, however he finds himself manipulated by terrorists to construct a WMD. Instead, he creates a spaceship and after a pitched battle with the terrorists Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov blast off.

The gang are shot down by Ming’s forces and scattered. Dale is taken to Ming, who paints himself as the hero of a civil war and puts on a display of elegance and power in an attempt to deceive and seduce Dale. Flash encounters the Rangers and is soon drawn into a battle to the death with the Prince of the Lion Men. Meanwhile, Zarkov encounters Vultan of the Hawkmen. Quite a lot happens after issue #3. Flash forges an alliance with the Lion Men and they attempt an alliance with the Hawkmen, who attack them on sight. Meanwhile, Dale senses Ming is not being completely honest and tries to escape his city. Flash does manage to forge an alliance with the Hawkmen finally, and also becomes involved in a love triangle between Princess Aura and Prince Barin.

Issue six is the final showdown as Gordon’s forces attack Ming’s city. Flash is the only person who can forge an alliance between the different forces who were oppressed by Ming. He's also, seemingly, the only one who can keep the fragile alliance together. It was a key element of the live action movie and the comics as well, so its nice to see this aspect of the mythos has survived. In the end Ming is defeated, though escapes with Princess Aura. On the final page we learn that the series will continue in the Invasion of the Red Sword.

If there is one complaint I have, it's that there seems to be a lot of reused art throughout this series. We seem to be subjected to the same image of Flash, who has a somewhat dumbfound expression on his face, over and over. Artist often reuse art, or even swipe from others, but this just seems lazy. It pops up several times in each issue, sometimes its even used multiple times on the very same page. Also, some of the manipulation comes off very flat. We’ll have a manipulated image in the background and another image superimposed, with maybe a splatter of blood thrown in that has the whole thing looking like a mess. These problems are mostly confined to the first three issues. As the series progresses, the art improves, there is less art being reused and the comic feels more defined and fleshed out.

Other than that, I have to say I’ve enjoyed this re-imagining of Flash Gordon. It does a fine job of not only updating classic characters that have been around since the 30s, but it also pays homage to what has come before. If you are a fan of Flash Gordon I would recommend you check it out.

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