“Flash Gordon” #5 is split into two parts, the first drawn by Sandy Jarrell and Richard Case and the latter portion by regular artist, Evan Shaner. Jeff Parker does a fine job dividing the story between his two artistic collaborators, and the transition from one to the next is relatively seamless, despite the more animated characters in Shaner’s pages.
After triggering a revolt against Ming, Flash Gordon and company leave the populace of Arboria behind and set off for Sky World. Properly known as Kaelum, another planet under Ming’s influence, the destination is said to open to the possibility of joining in the fight against Mongo. Along the way, however, trio of Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Hans Zarkov encounter a biomass that outgasses the crew and provides ample opportunity for comic book science fiction and Silver Age science theory to bounce around a few panels. Parker flushes out this scene; seemingly dragging it out, but in the process defines the characters a bit more for the reader without using clunk y exposition or heavy-handed descriptions. The writer also showcases the dynamics in the relationship our three protagonists share, infusing a bit of humor along the way.
Case and Jarrell’s figures lack the personality of Shaner’s drawings, or perhaps they just don’t match the animation, but the slight difference in style, coupled with colors that are a bit flatter than Jordie Bellaire’s work over Shaner’s drawings leaves “Flash Gordon” #5 feeling uneven. To this point, Shaner has built the universe around Flash Gordon, working with the foundations set by Marc Laming in the pages of “Kings Watch,” but pushing beyond that foundation. The art from Case and Jarrell seems more rigid, as if trying to adhere to what has been established rather than forging new ground in partnership with Shaner. If they were given the range of an entire issue, the end result might be more liberating, but front-loaded into a n issue with Shaner picking up the backside puts Case and Jarrell at a disadvantage.
Shaner builds more into the universe around Gordon, Arden and Zarkov as he introduces the Skyrens, the Hawkmen and many other inhabitants of Sky World. “Flash Gordon” #5 provides plenty of breathtaking moments, despite some hiccups, and continues to offer fun, exciting science fiction adventures without burdensome crossovers or oppressive backstory. Parker, Shaner, Jarrell, Case, Bellaire, Bowland and Cosby (with Laming on covers) are presenting a sparkling homage to a beloved character. This may not be the strongest of issues, technically, but it is certainly a fun read that gives fans plenty of the good stuff only comic books can deliver, from unlimited special effects to mind-numbing comic science.