Brandon Borzelli’s Geek Goggle Reviews
Flash Gordon 75th Anniversary HC (New York Comic Con Special)
DeMatteis, Casey, Krueger, O’Neil, Wein, DeFalco, Deneen, McManus, Perez, Delgado, Cavallaro, Enjeti, Staton & Green
While at the New York Comic Con I picked up the 75th Anniversary Flash Gordon special hardcover at the Ardden booth. The story has long list of creators contributing (as you can see from the cover and credits in this review) and as such I didn’t know how this story was going to unfold. What I found was a series of six stories loosely tied together that introduce some new characters, flesh out some existing ones and keep a common theme that the planet of Mongo itself is one of the major contributors into the war-like mindset. It’s a terrific read that isn’t essential reading to follow the Flash Gordon series, but certainly one not to be missed.
The set up (by Deneen and Green) is that Flash stumbles upon a crystal of some kind in a cave. His touch activates the object and it shows him some pieces of history of Mongo. It’s a simple launching device that allows virtually any kind of story to follow. Except we wont be seeing the ghost of Christmas future, that’s pretty much out of the question.
The first story (by DeMatteis & McManus) shows Ming’s childhood. He and his sister suffer some hardships and eventually find out how cruel the civil war can be. Ming finds a path not only of vengeance to some extent, but also of broken promises. He manages to create his own definition of merciful when he becomes an adult. This is a very good story but opens up more questions about what his parents were like and what happened to them to be explored later.
The second story (by Casey & Perez) takes a look at the Hawk Men, particularly Vultan. This really examines what keeps Vultan in line by Ming. He seems like a bit of a renegade and now we know why he doesn’t just go ballistic on Ming. The art in this story really captures the old school feel of Flash Gordon. I really liked the coloring tone here as it felt as bleak as the situation for Vultan.
The third story (by DeFalco & Staton) takes a look at some interaction on the outskirts of the warring characters. A Lion Man, Turg, is being tracked by a Hawk Man (woman), Zartara, then he captures her. This takes a look at trust and the roles of the races in this war and how they react to each other on the planet. For using two obscure characters, this story was excellent because of the irony here.
The fourth story (by O’Neil & Cavallaro) probably feels the most out of place in terms of characters and setting. The story is set in the icy part of Mongo with a people I’m not even familiar with. However, the story captures the brutality of rulers that live on Mongo perfectly. It also shows just how resistant the planet’s inhabitants are to change and how they feel about outsiders. After reading this story it seems Ming might not be the meanest guy on the planet.
The fifth story (by Wein & Enjeti) is about Ming’s daughter. This explores the lessons Ming taught her and how he manipulated her to embrace his version of tough love. This was a good story, but it left me wondering about her mother, Ming’s wife (or mistress) way too much. This is another story I would love to see revisited at some point down the road.
Finally we have a story (by Krueger & Delgado) about Barin and how he struggles with Ming. This story uses the mechanism of Barin in the gladiator arena which isn’t too original but there is a nice twist that makes this a memorable story and a good character piece for Barin. It left me wondering how Barin escapes though. Or does he? This story was probably the closest story to the in-continuity series. The hardcover is wrapped up by Deneen and Green with Flash in trouble because he’s looking at the crystal. This brings in a new and interesting character.
There you have it. Six stories, all about ten pages long, jumping around stories of Mongo past, printed on thick paper with a printed hardcover rather than a dust jacket. To gather this many creators together and tie them into a collection like this is impressive. Add in that the story has a purpose and informs the reader of many aspects of Mongo and you have a great book for your buck.
This collection will probably be difficult to find sooner rather later so if you have any interest in the Flash Gordon universe and like stories that explore characters other than Dale, Zarkov or Flash then this collection is a must have for you.
5 out of 5 geek goggles