Kings Watch #5

The conclusion to the Flash Gordon, Phantom, Mandrake team-up, "Kings Watch" #5, drops the curtain on Ming's attempted invasion of Earth, but also sets up adventures for years to come, courtesy of brilliant story construction from Jeff Parker. Assisted by artist Marc Laming, colorist Jordan Boyd and letterer Simon Bowland, Parker gives readers a story that succinctly summarizes the scope of this five-issue series, cleanly identifies the characters and deftly establishes no less than a new story arc for each of the primaries in this cast.

Anyone reading solicits or checking out previews would be well aware that "Kings Watch" #5 clearly sets up "Flash Gordon" #1, which is conveniently also on sale this week from Dynamite Entertainment. What readers may not realize, however, is how enjoyable a story Parker can craft with any and every character he touches. Currently enjoying a stint as writer for Aquaman and the Adam West version of Batman, Parker is just as adept telling tales that team up three of the oldest fictional heroes known to man. Mandrake, Phantom and Flash Gordon each have distinct personalities and voices and each find a way to channel Parker's work back into the story. Parker doesn't stop there, providing Dale Arden, Zarkov, Lothar and Karma with roles to play in this drama. Parker doesn't spend too much time with any one character, but spends just enough to describe them for readers through the story itself. Even Ming and the Cobra have a modicum of history and predicament about them that plays into the tale.

The visual side of the book is every bit as solid as Parker's writing. Laming keeps the action contained in traditional comic book panels, with dynamic acting and masterful expressions. Laming doesn't skimp on detail, from the vacuum tube radio in the opening panel to the petals on the rose of Mandrake's boutonniere on the final page of "Kings Watch" #5; every panel is filled with detail and nuance. Mandrake's showmanship with his top hat, Flash's confident smirk throughout the issue and Phantom's rugged weariness all work to describe the characters in perfect association with Parker's tale. Jordan Boyd's colors are filled with the exuberance of Saturday morning cartoons, but they don't ever overpower the artwork or the story. As a matter of fact, Laming and Boyd find several opportunities throughout the comic to let their talents blend one into the other, with dazzling results. All of that is smartly capped with lettering from Simon Bowland. Capable of subtly indicating scene or amplified the frustrated wailing of Ming, Bowland handles everything Parker's story gives him and seems to ask for more.

Like many other stories Parker has shared, this adventure is gore-free, but not homogenized, all ages friendly, but not dumbed down. Quite simply, this is good, fun comics as they truly should be. It's just a shame Parker can't move each of these properties forward now that he has clearly given each of them a solid foundation to build upon. This is a solid conclusion to a fun adventure. Parker has laid some serious groundwork through this series and "Kings Watch" #5 affords Dynamite Entertainment ample opportunity for further exploration.

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