Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs: Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon, Vol. 2

Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon, Vol. 2Written by Alex Raymond and Don Moore; Illustrated by Alex RaymondChecker; $19.95

First, wow.

I said when I talked about Volume 1 of this series that Alex Raymond’s art was gorgeous and convincing. Compared to the material collected in Volume 2, it’s xkcd.

Some of that may have something to do with the manner in which it’s collected. The first couple of months of strips follow the formatting from the last part of Volume 1. Each week’s strip is split over two pages to allow each half to be printed at a huge size. Purists might not appreciate the separation, but no story is lost and – since each strip is divided across a single, double-page spread – the pacing doesn’t even really change. It’s the next best thing to something like Sunday Press’ oversized Little Nemo in Slumberland volumes, and when you figure in that Flash Gordon is almost a tenth of the Little Nemo price – it’s a change I can live with.

After the first two months, the format changes and we’re back to one page for one strip. The art’s not much smaller though and it’s obvious that there was some kind of format change to the strip itself in June 1935. What bothers me is that there’s no title on these strips in the collection. I’ve unsuccessfully tried to find a scan of a Flash Gordon strip from this period because I’m a little concerned that we’re missing the drop panels from these strips. I’ve got no way of knowing for sure, and the story still flows nicely from strip to strip without a lot of cumbersome catch-up exposition, but I guess there’s a little purist in me after all and he’s a bit nervous. Still… love the huge, detailed art. Raymond’s linework is a lot more sumptuous and delicate in this volume than the last and it’s a joy to be able to lose yourself in it.

Not that you’re all that tempted to slow down your reading. There is an interesting tension though between the desire to leisurely immerse yourself in the world of Raymond’s visuals on the one hand, and the irresistible pull of the stories that he and Don Moore are telling on the other.

The collection covers three, successive wars between King Flash and various rivals. At the end of Volume 1, Flash had won a cave kingdom from Ming and begun the work of taking possession of it. As Volume 2 opens, he has to go to war with a Witch Queen over the land they both claim. Once that’s settled, Ming himself attacks Flash. Flash is able to hold back Ming’s forces and even do some damage to Ming’s city, but he only barely escapes with his life. He, Dale, and Zarkov flee to a mysterious ocean controlled by an undersea kingdom of water-breathers. When Flash is captured and transformed into a water-breather himself, things look dark for his rule and – more importantly – his relationship with Dale.

Raymond and Moore keep things moving quickly with never a dull page. From a big picture perspective, things can sometimes get a bit repetitive (alien queens always seem to have the same reaction to Flash, for example), but you don’t think about that when you’re in the middle of the story and Flash is fighting a Devourosaurus. You’re too busy being in love with the adventure and the art.

Four out of five octoclaws.

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