When I was a little kid, I used to love the Sunday Comic strips in the newspaper. Ideally, I would be the ideal targets for Dynamite’s recent cross-over series King’s Quest, now available as a trade paperback. It sends Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Prince Valiant and another Phantom back to the Planet Mongo, because the Evil Ming the Merciless has returned and threatens the entire universe. But when I was a kid, Sunday newspapers were at the tail end of their ubiquity. And even as a child, most of these old-timey comic strips were squeezed out by Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes and the ever depressing Funky Winkerbean.
If you’re confused as to who some of these characters are, you are not alone. Of all of them only the Phantom and Prince Valiant ever made the Sunday paper my parents bought. Flash Gordon here is pretty much the version from the camp 80s movie.
But the big twist in this adventure is when they get to Mongo, they are confronted not only by the forces of Ming, but the machinations of his bride, the evil and cruel Dale Arden! Part of the problems is that due to magical time dilation, while only a couple of days has passed for Flash and his buddies several years have gone by for the rest of the universe.
During that time, Ming and Dale have put a serious beat down on all of the forces on Mongo that rose us against them in the past. So, while we don’t get hawk-men and lion-men, the heroes do find another ally in Jungle Jim, who I don’t remember, but apparently can turn into a giant being composed of jungle trees and vines, when he gets hammered on his homemade hootch. (Trust me, you don’t want to know how homemade it is.) At this point I was shocked that when Professor Zarkov gets critically injured, Rex Morgan, M.D. and Mary Worth didn’t pop out of the woodwork to save the day.
Ben Acker (Deadpool, The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast) and Heath Corson’s (DC Rebirth Holiday Special) story is light-hearted and fast paced, so you don’t really have time to question the jumps in logic that it takes in order to rush towards the end. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you shouldn’t either. Don’t question how Mandrake takes out a squad of soldiers with a card trick and hypnotism or why Jungle Jim needed any of the other heroes.
The biggest problem of the book is that there really is no core to the team and with a few exceptions no real depth to the characters. Flash is always rushing into trouble without calculating the odds. The Phantom is trying to be the mentor to his granddaughter, Jen, the current Phantom. Prince Valiant is, well … valiant.
Phantom Jen gets the most characterization, because she is the point of view character that leads the reader through most of the story. An old reporter friend of Dale’s, Jen was recently thrust into the role of The Phantom, “The Ghost Who Walks” who can talk to the ghosts of all the previous Phantoms and has some other powers. I’m not sure what those other powers are because she spends much of the first book puking.
I’m also not sure who this book’s audience really is. I don’t really think that there are a bunch of 50- and 60-year-old comic book collectors clambering for these characters to get new stories. And Acker and Corson really are not doing much with them. They aren’t re-inventing them or even trying to re-introduce them. They just throw them into the story and expect that you’ll know who they are. There would be a good chance that this might gel together for the reader in the 1936, but in 2016 most of them will just get a shrug.
Writers: Ben Acker and Heath Corson
Art: Dan McDaid and Bob Q
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment