Because I’m not very familiar with these characters, beyond seeing the Phantom and Flash Gordon movies as a kid, I enjoyed this issue a lot more than the first because I was becoming more and more familiar. Jeff Parker is doing a good job here at explaining to new readers like me who these heroes are, whilst not laying it on too thick, which would piss off aficionados. Here, the central mystery of the story is developed, and we find out more about the main characters.
Let’s start with the item that gives this book it’s name, the King’s Watch. It’s not a watch, but a mystical gateway in Africa that is powered by that weird crystal around the villainous Cobra’s neck. Lothar and The Phantom try to seek it out, and it’s here that we find out some crucial information about the least famous member of this group, Mandrake The Magician. Mandrake has tangled with The Cobra before, and in their last battle, Cobra killed the love of his life, and he became depressed, in fact, he hasn’t left his house since. It looks like this adventure will see him get out of his funk.
Back in America, Flash Gordon and Dr Zarkov’s mission into space is a success, as they fly right into the mysterious light, and see the strange visions a lot clearer, and it looks like they are some kind of portal to Mongo, as we see not only Ming The Merciless, but also the Hawkmen and whoever it was that Timothy Dalton played in the movie. Prince something. After their successful mission, Flash and Zarkov are celebrities, and Dale Arden investigates them, and Flash reveals to her that the ship wasn’t powered by a rocket, but by a strange crystal… a quantum crystal much like the one The Cobra sports! Of course, the bad guy soon shows up and a fight is on. Flash holds his own, and even Zarkov gets in on it, smashing a bottle of whisky over the head of a henchman (I love Zarkov in this book, he’s hilarious and different). But in the end, Cobra unleashes his superpowers, and as an ordinary human, Flash is outmatched.
This is a very enjoyable book, the art by Marc Laming is excellent, and as I said, Parker is making me care about these characters I only have cursory knowledge of. I do find that perhaps the book is focused too much on Flash Gordon, but then, he is the most famous character in it. I want more of Phantom and Mandrake! That one panel where we see the imprint of Phantom’s ring on the tribesman’s face was bad-ass, more of that. But really, I’m nitpicking, if the focus of this opening story is a portal to Mongo, then I’m fine with Flash Gordon being centre-stage. I know the comics market is flooded with nostalgia-porn, but this is one book dusting off old intellectual properties that’s actually worth it.