Some time ago, it was announced that Jeff Parker would handle a comic book series starring Flash Gordon, the Phantom and Mandrake the Magician. Those three characters, written by Parker, appear in “Kings Watch” #1 featuring art by Marc Laming. No matter how many characters on the cover known to the reader, Parker doesn’t get hung up on probability and opens the story up with just enough to entice readers.
With the Phantom in Africa, Mandrake on the northern coast of California and Flash Gordon in Connecticut, Parker makes the curious choice of opening the issue in New York, in the apartment of Dale Arden. From there, Parker makes it quite clear Arden won’t simply be decorating Flash Gordon’s arm, transforming the one-time damsel in distress into a much better Lois Lane. Parker doesn’t worry about balancing all of the characters evenly throughout the book, electing to have the Phantom take the lead, which is an inspired choice given the Phantom’s locale and its propensity for adventure. Mandrake has the lowest impact in this comic, but his scene is instantly chilling and intriguing, egging readers on without giving them too much information.
On the art side, Marc Laming brings a healthy blend of realism and fancy. His style is similar to Gabriel Hardman’s, with a strong side of Stephen Sadowski, but in the end becomes a fresh, energetic pioneer, filled with kinetic characters and lush scenery. The one downside in Laming’s art is the dinosaur-thing that attacks a bull African elephant. The appearance of the monstrosity is a little too ambiguous to be as intimidating as it needs to be, waffling between full-on carnivorous dinosaur and dino-man, not unlike Stegron. That challenge extends to the scale of the creature, where it towers over the elephant then bites a man nearly in half. A couple panels later, however, that same man is bigger than the monster’s head. Colorist Jordan Boyd provides intense, bold colors throughout the issue, amplifying the action and uncertainty these three characters encounter.
“Kings Watch” #1 is an inviting setup that doesn’t wallow in exposition, but instead offers just enough of the three primaries to trigger shared collective unconscious of readers everywhere. Every comic book reader has some frame of reference for Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake, and Parker welcomes them all into this story. The writer also offers no guarantees, except that “Kings Watch” is filled with so much potential that the writer has no choice but to prove this title to be an entertaining read.