One of my favourite Marvel books of the last few years was Jeff Parker’s Agents Of Atlas, where he took a bunch of Marvel’s forgotten, pulpy characters like Gorilla Man and 3D Man and really made them work in a series of crazy adventures. Even though Marvel gave it plenty of chances, it never got a big enough audience and it finally came to an end. Now it looks like Jeff Parker is going to get the chance to revisit the same kinds of characters and genres over at Dynamite, only this time he’s getting to use people we may have actually heard of in the shape of Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake The Magician. I remember watching this grouping as a kid in the cartoon ‘Defenders Of The Earth’, and this is a great modernization of that concept and a cool new, continuity-free take on these classic characters for new readers.
This first issue introduces our 3 main heroes, along with Lothar, Mandrake’s assistant, and a few of Flash Gordon’s famous supporting cast, like Dr Zarkov and Dale Arden, as well as the mysterious threat they will have to face, which is a weird light in the sky that is causing bad dreams throughout the world. Flash Gordon and Dr Zarkov are planning to head off into space to find out what the light’s deal is and Mandrake is receiving dire warnings from a demon. Oh yeah, and The Phantom fights an awesome dinosaur man. That was probably the best scene in the comic, the Phantom kicks some serious ass. These are great, classic characters, and it’s awesome to see them in such a modern series that pays great tribute to their past, and even though I’m a little surprised that the 3 main heroes are yet to meet, I’m glad Parker is taking things slowly, he needs to reintroduce these guys to an audience and show that they aren’t just Billy Zane or Brian Blessed camp.
I’m betting that the villain behind these lights is Ming The Merciless, but I’m willing to be to surprised, I’m also interested in what the nature of being ‘King’s Watch’ is, it’s obviously a name that means more than just these characters originally belonging to the King Features Syndicate right?
If you’re a long-term fan of these classic heroes, you should check out this new Ultimatized take, but even if you aren’t familiar, this is well worth reading, Parker is a great writer, he has a real affinity for this kind of story, and really, if you read superheroes, you need to be familiar with these characters, they are very influential, The Phantom, not Superman, is arguably the first ever superhero.
Marc Laming’s artwork was also very good, I’m not familiar with him, but he has a good style that’s very reminiscent of the artists Parker worked with on Agents Of Atlas, realistic, but also capable of getting a bit out there, like the fight between Phantom and the dinosaur-man, this is overall a great book, with stuff like this and Uncanny, Dynamite are on a real hot-streak.