Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review - Flash Gordon #1

"...I've got this."

Everyone knows Flash Gordon. Most people know the character form some of the more recent approaches, most of which are a little tacky primarily because of the technology and camp used to bring the character to the screen. The old-school Flash Gordon was significantly more swashbuckling and Dynamite Entertainment brings back the old friend in Flash Gordon #1. The issue is written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by Evan Shaner, colored by Jordie Bellaire and lettered by Simon Bowland.

Flash Gordon is a daredevil playboy. Dale Arden is a sci-journalist lamenting the death of the US space program. And Dr. Varkov is a genius with a propensity for being a lot more than he let's on. The three of them traverse the galaxy, seeking to prevent Earth from being invaded by the evil Ming. The trio find themselves jumping from one sticky situation to the next, all the while trying to take in the sights that often accompany interstellar travel.

Parker wastes no time introducing the reader to who Flash Gordon is; in fact, if you don't have even a passing knowledge of the character you might feel a little lost in the first issue. It's clearly a somewhat calculated gambit, but it does afford Parker plenty of opportunity to get right into the thick of things with Flash, Dale and Dr. Varkov. Quite frankly, it works pretty well in Flash Gordon #1. There is something of an acclimation period on the part of the reader, as it's likely many will think they missed a page or that something is out of order. Just the opposite though, as Parker gets right into what makes Flash Gordon so loved: space exploration. And that's where Parker excels most, by infusing Flash Gordon with all the panache he's known for as opposed to trying to redefine him.

Shaner's art evokes a newspaper strip feel that is especially appropriate for the character and work. Flash Gordon was first published as a newspaper comic strip in 1934 and Shaner really taps into that nostalgia for the first issue. Despite the throwback style, Shaner modernizes the look somewhat by giving the characters plenty of room to emote, helping the reader feel as if they're jumping through the galaxy alongside the main characters. Bellaire has to get a nod here as well, as the colorist seemingly on fire manages to work in just about every major color imaginable as the heroes travel from one world to the next. Flash Gordon may be the hero of the story, but both Shaner and Bellaire manage to shine on their own by giving the reader a feast for the eyes in terms of characters and settings.

Flash Gordon #1 is a book that really pays homage to the source material and offers it in a pretty pure form. It doesn't try to modernize the character or look; instead, it recognizes the character itself and plays into that world. The creative team do a great job in paying respects to the timeless hero, really presenting both him and his world in a way that is reminiscent of how they used to be presented. Parker doesn't wait for the reader to feel comfortable and puts them right in the midst of danger like Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov often find themselves in. Shaner and Bellaire showcase a great artistic touch that makes the book feel nostalgic without feeling cheesy. Flash Gordon #1 is a book that's quite exciting to read and doesn't let up at all in the first issue, revisiting an old favorite with respect.

Flash Gordon #1 is available in stores now with interiors below.


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