Comics in their essence are a serialized art form. We might discuss arcs and runs, trading waiting and so on, yet , most comics are still centered on the experience of reading individual chapters parceled out over a (typically) monthly basis. With this in mind, I offer my third annual list of the year’s most memorable single issues.
I start with my choices for the two very best:
Sandman Overture #6 by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III: Dream’s cosmic journey across a universe (or two) came to a stunning conclusion in this issue. The issue contained several callbacks to Gaiman’s classic work, yet not none of them felt like self-serving fan service. Instead they enriched even further the fascinating personalities of the Dream Lord and his siblings. At the same time, Gaiman offered a story where the stakes were huge. Williams more than ably met the challenge of Gaiman’s script handing in page after page of stunning art. His detailed, imaginative work defied any traditional sense of page layouts, spilling the action in all directions. Rarely have words and pictures blended so well to create a truly emotional experience on an epic scale. For more, read Cosmo’s staff review. Continue reading This Year’s Finest 2015: The Best Single Issues→
Dean hulks up for…Secret Wars: Battleworld #2
Unexpectedly this first anthology issue was very good. I am really enjoying most of the Secret Wars tie ins and so far Battleworld is one of the best. Join issue #2 for what is guaranteed to be a good time. If nothing else buy it for this amazing James Stokoe variant!
Dean takes a class in…Gotham Academy #4
You will know by my pull list history I do not pull many DC books. I will jump on a book for a while and end up dropping it after a handful of issues. However, Gotham Academy has been a refreshing surprise. Becky Coolan brings her fantastic writing skills to this teen drama. You won’t find anything like this at DC, which is strange to say about a book that leads with “Gotham”
Dean wants you to take notice of…Avengers Undercover #2
One of my favorite series last year was Avengers Arena. I got attached to these characters, most of which I didn’t know prior to the series. Avengers Undercover is the after math of Avengers Arena. If you missed out last year don’t miss out this year. Add Avengers Undercover to your pull list and thank me later.
Continue reading Indubitable Issues→
King Flash Gordon #1 by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker & Lee Ferguson
This week Dynamite ended one Flash Gordon series, while launching a new one. Following the events ofFlash Gordon #8. Flash, Dale & Zarkov have returned to space in order to further aid the rebellion against Emperor Ming. Zarkov has hatched a plan to secure one of the crystals which Ming uses to broadcast his messages across his empire. Dale and Zarkov believe that if they can get their hands on one of these gems, they could create their own private network for the resistance. Luckily they have an ally in the supervisor of the moon where these minerals are mined. All quite simple, which of course, means that none of it goes simply according to plan.
Acker & Blacker, who previously contributed some charming tales to last year’s Annual, do a pretty good job on their first full issue. They have a good handle on the voices of the characters, including their to-and-fro with each other. The writers also provide an entertaining mix of humor and adventure, which is true to Flash’s pulp roots.
There is one element, though, which I am unsure about. In the beginning, Acker and Blacker tease the possibility of a drunken hook-up between Flash and Dale. One of the aspects of the Parker run which I enjoyed was the lack of romantic tension between Flash and Dale. I found it refreshing that the two opposite sex leads did not have to be romantically linked. Now, I am aware that Flash and Dale have a long history together as each other’s true love, so tradition is on the side of Acker and Blacker. Perhaps this is part of Dynamite’s long game plan for gradually bringing the two together, which is an approach I would prefer to having them suddenly falling for each other. Still, something about it did not feel quite right to me, as if it was done more for laughs than character development. Time will tell, and I shall keep an open mind.
This mini-series is intended to tie-in with four others being launched by Dynamite under the King banner (Phantom, Prince Valiant, Jungle Jim and Mandrake). This issue does not provide any hint as how that will happen. Instead it stands on its own; longtime Flash Gordon readers do not need to worry about picking up anything else to understand what is happening here. Of course, that might change as the series unfolds.
Overall, I enjoyed this issue. It might not reach the same heights as Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner’s run, but it is entertaining. I plan on returning for the next installment.
For almost a year and a half now, Jeff Parker has been scripting the adventures of Flash Gordon, first as a member of King’s Watch, then in an eight issue solo title which wraps up this week. Throughout Flash has been a reckless daredevil, always ready to leap head first, when cooler temperaments might have paused for a moment. At times this has nearly gotten him and his companions killed, though it is hard to fault the guy. His rashness comes from his heart, his dedication to helping others in need. He is not going to stand-by simply for the sake of preserving his cover and let Ming’s minions torture someone. Better to do the right thing and let the details sort themselves out later. Continue reading Review of Flash Gordon #8→
Issue 3 ended with a non-proverbial bang as the gladiator arena Flash Gordon had found himself in literally exploded. As the smoke clears at the opening of #4, Flash and his friends discover that Prince Barin of Arboria, vassal to Ming the Merciless, has secretly been on their side. In the confusion of the arena’s destruction, Barin is able to liberate his people, along with assisting his new friends.
Parker pulls various threads together as he wraps up his first arc for this new series. He continues to mix rip-roaring action scenes with great characters moments. As I have previously confessed, this series is my first exposure to franchise, yet, all three of the primary characters came alive almost instantly. There was hardly any learning curve as far as grasping their personalities. This has really been a title new readers can dive right into. Finally, this month, Parker adds a pair of affecting, wistful moments, which underline how much a hero Flash truly is.
Complimenting Parker’s fun scripts has been Shaner’s outstanding illustrations. His art continues to shine here, capturing the spirit of adventure which fills these tales. Similar to Parker, he possesses a sensibility which is a natural fit for the Flash’s pulp roots. At the same time, Shaner has an opportunity to experiment with something a little different this week. When Dale tells Barin the story of how she, Flash and Zarkov came to this planet, Shaner shifts styles. He relates her narrative through a pair of two page spreads which are more abstract and geometric than his typical layouts. Especially impressive is the second spread, which relates how Flash personally became entangled with Ming’s imperial ambitions. The page space is broken up by circles radiating out of a central point. This design makes the material feel fresh, as opposed to a simple rehash of exposition. They are also simply lovely pages.
This week’s issue was a worthy conclusion to the initial arc for one of the best debut series of the year. I look forward to seeing what Parker and Shaner have in store for readers, when Flash’s journey resumes in #5.
This title was never a must buy for me. Before #1, I had never read or watched any Flash Gordon. Basically, the creative team caught my eye. I had liked some of Jeff Parker’s work in the past, and his laid back adventure style struck me as well suited for a book with science-fiction pulp roots. I may not have ever read any actual comics Shaner had illustrated, but I had seen a lot of impressive art by him on the internet. Since it was a light week, when it came out, I decided to give #1 a shot. How much did I like it? Enough that even though I had a very heavy week this Wednesday, I still made sure to grab a copy of #2. Having now read it, I can say that I shall definitely be buying #3 as well.
This month’s issue picks up soon after the ending of the first. Dale has convinced local Prince Barin that she and her companions are historians sent by Ming to study the area. Seated at a lavish banquet the trio of companions (Flash, Dale & Dr Zarkov) each deal with the situation in their own way. Dale is trying to think of how they might best perpetuate their ruse, while Zarkov drinks a bit too much. Zarkov’s review of the local cuisine (“a bit gamey, but I suppose it’s good for being from a giant bug”) may be the best laugh-line of the week. Flash for his part, continues to be Flash. Impulsive, adventurous, and, naturally, reckless. He accepts a string of princely challenges without thinking through what the consequences might be. Meanwhile, agents of Ming are on their trail, and, no matter how well they bluff, it is only a matter of time until a member of the trio slips up.
Parker handles all of this with an easy touch which fits the book perfectly. What also matches the book so well is Shaner’s art. His illustrations combine light-heartedness with a strong sense of imagination. A two page spread depicting a wooden ship carried through the air by birds is simply stunning. Together, he and Parker are crafting a tale of high adventure, which is a pleasure to read.
In the 1930s, Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon comic strip set a high standard for science fiction adventure comics. Writer Jeff Parker and artist Evan “Doc” Shaner are great stewards of Raymond’s legacy; their work on the first issue of Dynamite’s Flash Gordon comic updates the strip’s classic trio (Flash, Dale Arden, and Dr. Zarkov) for a modern world.
On Earth, Flash is an athletic rich kid that disappoints his father by performing crazy stunts for his Internet following. Dale is a smart science reporter working in a society that doesn’t care about science. Dr. Zarkov is a brilliant scientist dismissed as a drunken eccentric. The three heroes are misfits on Earth, and it is only when they travel to Mongo that they find their calling as heroes.
The comic begins where the Dynamite miniseries Kings Watch ended (although readers will not need to read that series to understand what is going on), with the protagonists having just saved Earth from the tyrant Ming, but unable to return home to Earth. The first issue does a fantastic job of showcasing the new, modern take on the world of Mongo; settings like Frigia and Arboria are no longer regions on the planet Mongo, but other planets connected to Mongo by wormholes, or “portals”. Parker and Shaner are great at giving each character a distinct personality: the athletic and impulsive Flash, the smart and beautiful Dale, and the cynical but brilliant Zarkov.
Shaner’s art style is gorgeous, with crisp, classic art that honors Raymond’s style and captures the action and emotion that the story demands. Colorist Jordie Bellaire gives a lush look to Shaner’s art; in particular, I found the art for the world of Arboria breathtaking. Updating a classic for a modern audience can be challenging, but Parker and Shaner rise to that challenge, delivering an exciting and engaging science fiction adventure comic worth reading.