Beware the Skyrens! The final story arc of Flash Gordon from Jeff Parker, Evan Shaner, and Jordie Bellaire takes Flash and the crew to Sky World! Can Dale Arden save Flash and Zarkov from their impending doom? Will the Hawkmen get the gatestone crystal? Will Ming the Merciless actually conquer the Earth? This week on Arc Reaction we’re discussing “Flash Gordon and the Hawkmen,” so stay tuned! Spoilers ahead!
It’s no coincidence that Jeff Parker works on Batman ‘66. Parker has refined tickling the nostalgia centers of your brain into a science. But it is a coincidence that Lorenzo Semple Jr. was a prominent writer on the ‘66 Batman show before writing the infamous Flash Gordon film. Perhaps working on Flash Gordon is just the natural progression of the world, or maybe Parker just has a talent for creating the comic equivalent of cartoons and cereal. Dale Arden being forced to save Flash and Zarkov from the Skyrens? That’s fun. Flash nailing Zarkov in the ear with a ball of beeswax? That’s hilarious. Vultan screaming “Gordon’s Alive!?” That’s perfection. It’s perfection because Flash Gordon gets everything else right, so the references never feel like cheap shots.
When I say Flash Gordon gets everything else right, I’m not just talking about the story elements. I’m obviously talking about the art. Shaner’s seems to naturally capture a clean, retro look for Flash Gordon. Flash himself has a youthful looking, drawing on the appearance of Buster Crabbe from the serials, and it really works with his depiction as a brave, but vapid, pretty boy. The characters are all gorgeous, and their depictions seem to come from all over the various Flash Gordon incarnations while never straying terribly far from Alex Raymond’s original designs. Just look at the colors from Jordie Bellaire. The palette, the grain, the blush in everyone’s cheeks, and Vultan’s yellow eyes; Bellaire’s work is absolutely vibrant, but always respectful to Raymond’s work. Bellaire’s contribution to Flash Gordon is impossible to quantify, but it’s no surprise she just won an Eisner for her color work.
Flash Gordon does have problems. It’s an eight issue series that feels like it was intended to run longer. The end is abrupt. The return to Earth is sudden. The face-off with Ming is jarring. Luckily, the time on Earth is still well executed and I quite enjoy the twist with Ming using a body double. It fits the tone of Flash Gordon impeccably. These scenes don’t feel lazy, they just feel out of place. The pacing isn’t there. My biggest gripe is actually that issue 5 opens with a large segment featuring art from Sandy Jarrell and Richard Case. I’ve complained about art fillers like this before, and I will again. The stories are firmly divided, but Jarrell and Case are not Shaner and Bellaire. The shift in artwork is significant, and as a result it feels like the story doesn’t even begin until page 15. That is absurd.
I still love Flash Gordon. I wasn’t a big Flash Gordon fan before; but Parker, Shaner, and Bellaire may have very well turned me. It’s just a shame that this series is now over. Where would they have gone taken Flash next? Flash isn’t gone. Dynamite’s starting up a new series in their line of King books–King: Flash Gordon. But I will still miss this series. Every time I hear someone talk about the Flash Gordon movie or sing the Flash Gordon theme I will just point them at this book. Gordon’s alive!