This is how you launch a book.
“Flash Gordon” #1 reignites the familiar franchise with a modern spin. It’s well-paced, efficient in it’s delivery of information, and just damn fun to read. Jeff Parker continues to prove that he’s one of the best writers in the business and Evan “Doc” Shaner gives the book incredibly clean and detailed visuals. Jordie Bellaire creates another color palette that kicks her up the ladder of great colorists in the industry. She’s on another level right now and it’s baffling to me that she is on as many books as she is and continues to produce work at the level she does. (I wish I was half that talented at anything; I can’t even pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time and she’s all “Here’s 80 books a month that all look different and beautiful.”)
Parker establishes the characters and their motives through 5 pages of action across three scenes. A reporter states that the space program was shut down; check. A weird old genius has developed a space plane that could change the world but needs funding; check. Flash Gordon comes from money and lives a life of adventurous leisure that irks his father; check. Then the issue jump ahead to today, mid-action, as these three characters attempt to navigate the space plane across alien terrain while trying to jump back to Earth. Within the mix, Emperor Ming is introduced and he is not pleased that the aliens in their metal box have invaded his Mingdom.
Staying true to the to tone of the original, this book is fun swashbuckling adventure. It’s very Spielbergian in its execution. There are great gags like Flash’s father’s assistant arriving to deliver a slap to the face and a telephoned dressing-down from dear ol’ dad, Flash complimenting the doctor’s running skills as they sprint for their lives from a giant tree vell, and a whole lot of improvising on the fly in the heat of the moment. Parker shows-doesn’t-tell with the characterization in this book, which makes me cheer. Everyone has a point of view, a voice and is interesting to read. Readers are swept through the plot at a breakneck pace, simulating the speed at which the action happens on the page.
Shaner’s art is beautiful. The work is in the clean-but-detailed cartooning school of a Chris Samnee or a Herge. His characters are all expressive in both facial features and physicality – the sprint from the tree vell is a great example, as the crew are all high-knees, arched backs, and concerned looks. He makes dramatic shot choices that enhance the story, zooming in and pulling back when needed. With Bellaire’s colors, who adds incredible warmth to the heroes, these two make a dangerous art combo. I want more, and I want it now.
I expected this to be a run-of-the-mill review and instead I was completely blown away by the execution and swagger of this debut issue. Nate Cosby is credited as packaging this project for Dynamite and I’ll say it — the guy has a nice package. This is a home run as a first issue, and if the rest of the story is as good as this, you will not want to sleep on “Flash Gordon.” I know I won’t be.