The Medusa Chain

By Ernie Colon (DC Comics)
ISBN: 0-930289-00-5

Born in Puerto Rico in 1931 Ernie Colón is a tremendously undervalued and unsung maestro of the American comics industry whose work has been seen by generations of readers. Whether as artist, writer, colourist or editor his contributions have affected the youngest of comics consumers (Monster in My Pocket, Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost for Harvey Comics and his similar work on Marvel’s Star Comics imprint) to the most sophisticated connoisseur with strips such as his startling indie thriller Manimal.

His catalogue of “straight” comic-book work includes Battlestar Galactica, Damage Control and Doom 2099 for Marvel, Grim Ghost for Atlas/Seaboard, the fabulous  Arak, Son of Thunder, Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, the Airboy revival for Eclipse, Magnus: Robot Fighter for Valiant and so very many others.

In 2006 with long-time Harvey Comics/Star collaborator Sid Jacobson he created a graphic novel of the 9/11 Commission Report entitled The 9/11 Report: a Graphic Adaptation. In August 2008, they released a 160-page follow-up: After 9/11: America’s War on Terror. Even now he’s still hard at work on the strip SpyCat which has appeared in Weekly World News since 2005.

During the first wave of experimental creativity that gripped the 1980s comics business he released this self-generated (even lettering and colouring it himself) science fiction thriller through DC’s ambitious, oversized Graphic Novels line. Intriguing, complex and multi-layered, it is the gritty tale of Chon Adams, a star-ship officer convicted of a dreadful crime, sentenced to a lifetime of penal servitude on a deep-space space cargo ship, and how he finds a kind of fulfilment in a situation most would describe as a living hell.

Flavoured by Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination (commonly known now as Tiger! Tiger!) by way of noir prison/chain-gang movies like George W. Hill’s The Big House this is a fascinating tale-within-a-tale as Chon’s “crime” is gradually revealed whilst he endures and survives against unbelievable odds in the depths of infinity gaining unlikely allies and a grain of self-respect…

Graphic, uncompromising and thoroughly compelling this classy tale careens from cynical depths of human depravity to heights of glorious high fantasy with ease: a true lost gem of that boldly exploratory 1980s comics boom, and a cracking read for any older SF fan.

And the one good thing – for you – about Colon’s relative obscurity is that copies of this gem – and his later Marvel graphic novel Ax – are still readily available through internet retailers at ridiculously low prices. Definitely one you really, really want…
© 1984 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Me & Joe Priest

By Greg Potter & Ron Randall (DC Comics)
ISBN: 0-930289-04-8

In the 1980s graphic novels were still an unproven quantity in America and Big Guns DC and Marvel adopted a kind of scattershot, “suck it and see” attitude to content although all parties were seemingly decided on the now extinct (more’s the pity) 8½ by 11 inch page format.

Whereas the House of Ideas had a solid publishing plan that didn’t stray far from their usual periodical product DC looked to expand or overlap markets by creating niched imprints such as the Science Fiction Graphic Novel line (adapting classic short stories and novellas into highly experimental graphic narratives) and the plain old catch-all – if unimaginative – DC Graphic Novel Series. Often there’s not much discernible difference between the two.

In the near future the human race is stricken with mass sterility and descends into slow anarchy as Man prepares to die with as little dignity and grace as possible. America quickly devolves into semi-feudal chaos with small self-sustaining enclaves – think spaghetti Western meets Mad Max. In the desolate landscape of Arizona an itinerant priest wanders about ministering to the spiritual needs of the shell-shocked populace.

But Father Joseph St. Simone is on a rather unique “Mission from God”. As well as salving souls Joe is also creating hope. As the only fertile man in the world, he’s repopulating the planet one household at a time. If only all the husbands he’s cuckolded saw it that way…

Certainly the frankly demented cult of ex-clergy called the Order of Darkness doesn’t: they have liturgical ninjas roaming the landscape with orders to shoot him on sight. Lucky then that Joe has teamed up with the violently capable army deserter known as Lummox…

Fast paced, action-packed, laconic and breezily devil-may-care in execution (you’ll either love or loathe the literal Deus ex Machina ending) this strange blend of buddy-movie, comedy thriller and road-trip adventure was a genuine attempt to offer comic-book audiences something a little different from their usual fare. Moreover considering the plot maguffin and subject matter, it’s a lot less prurient and exploitative than you’d expect. Perhaps that’s why it failed to attract a following; inadequate nudity and not enough naughty bits…

Me and Joe Priest is a strange creature. More racy Western than high-tech extravaganza, this highly readable piece of eye-candy, clearly patterned on the European bande Dessinée model, sacrifices a lot of logic in favour of set-piece theatrics – but nevertheless pulls it all off with great aplomb. In all honesty, I can’t see why I like this book… but I do.

Why don’t you see if it calls to you?
© 1985 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume II

By Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill (Americas Best Comics)
ISBN: 1-4012-0117-2

The Victorian era saw the birth of both popular and populist publishing, particularly the genres of fantasy and adventure fiction. Writers of varying skill but with unbounded imaginations expounded personal concepts of honour and heroism, wedded unflinchingly to the innate belief in English Superiority. In all worlds and even beyond them the British gentleman took on all comers for Right and Decency, viewing danger as a game and showing “Johnny Foreigner” just how that game should be played.

For all the problems this raises with our modern sensibilities many of the stories remain uncontested classics of literature and form the roadmap for all modern fictional heroes. Open as they are to charges of Racism, Sexism (even misogyny), Class Bias and Cultural Imperialism the best of them remain the greatest of all yarns.

An august selection of just such heroic prototypes were seconded by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill for a miniseries in 1999 that managed to say as much about our world as that long gone one, and incidentally tell a captivating tale as compelling as any of its antecedents.

In short succession there was an inevitable sequel, once more pressing into service vampire-tainted Wilhelmina Murray, aged Great White Hunter Allan Quatermain, Invisible Man Hawley Griffin, the charismatic genius Captain Nemo and both cultured Dr. Henry Jekyll and his bombastic alter-ego Mister Hyde, and including cameos from the almost English Edwin Lester Arnolds’ Gullivar Jones and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars and even creatures from C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet.

As London rebuilds after the cataclysmic denouement of the first volume a savage planetary conflict on the fourth planet ends with the firing of gigantic projectiles at our fragile, unsuspecting world…

This startlingly impressive and effective interleaving of HG Wells’ landmark fantasy classic with the skewed but so-very plausible conceit that all the great adventurers of literature hung out together captures perfectly the feeling of a world and era ending, as internal conflicts pull apart the champions – at no time do they ever even slightly resemble a team – and Moore’s irrepressible imagination and vast cultural reservoir dredges up a further elite selection of literary touchstones to enhance the proceedings.

Dark and genuinely terrifying the tale unfolds largely unchanged from the original War of the Worlds plot, but the parallel side-stories are utterly gripping and unpredictable, whilst the inclusion of such famed and/or lost characters as Bill Samson, Doctor Moreau, Tiger Tim and even Rupert Bear among others sweetens the pot for those in the know (and for those who aren’t you could always consult the official companion A Blazing World.

The idea of combining shared cultural brands is not new: Philip Jose Farmer in particular has spun many a yarn teaming such icons as Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, Tarzan and such like, Warren Ellis has succumbed to similar temptation in Planetary and Jasper Fforde has worked wonders with the device in his Thursday Next novels, but the sheer impetus of Moore and O’Neill’s steampunk revisionism and the rush of ideas and startling visuals that carry them make this book an irresistible experience and an absolute necessity for any fiction fan let alone comic collector.

This book is an incredible work of scholarship and artistry recast into a fabulous pastiche of an entire literary movement. It’s also a brilliant piece of comics wizardry of a sort no other art form can touch, but as with many Moore craftings there is a substantial text feature at the back, and it is quite wordy.

Read it anyway: it’s there for a reason and is more than worth the effort as it outlines the antecedents of the League in a fabulously stylish and absorbing manner. It might also induce you to read a few other very interesting and rewarding books…

© 1999, 2000 Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill. All Rights Reserved.

Michael Moorcock’s Elric: The Dreaming City – Marvel Graphic Novel #2

By Roy Thomas & P Craig Russell (Marvel Comics)
ISBN: 0-939766-12-4

Elric is an absolute icon of the Sword and Sorcery genre: the last ruler of a pre-human civilization. The Melnibonéans are a race of cruel, arrogant sorcerers: dissolute creatures in a slow, decadent decline after millennia of dominance over the Earth. An albino, Elric VIII, 428th Emperor of his line, is physically weak and of a brooding, philosophical temperament, caring for nothing save his beautiful cousin Cymoril, even though her brother Prince Yrrkoon openly lusts for his throne.

Elric doesn’t even really want to rule, but it is his duty, and he is the only one of his race to see the newly evolved race of Man as a threat to the Empire. He owns or is possessed by a black sword called Stormbringer: a magical blade that steals the souls of its victims and feeds their life and vitality to the albino.

In this beautifully realized adaptation Elric has been ousted by Yrrkoon, who has cast Cymoril into an enchanted sleep and holds her hostage. The Faustian albino has entered into a devil’s bargain with assorted human rulers and now guides an armada of ships in an all-out attack on the island citadel of Immyr, determined to raze the city and eradicate his entire race if that what’s necessary to rescue his beloved…

The Dreaming City was the first Elric story Michael Moorcock wrote, appearing in the pulp magazine Science Fantasy #47 in June 1961. An instant hit, the last Emperor became the vanguard of a modern revival of the weird fantasy form and an inadvertent foundation stone for the new-born role-playing game market.

This is a stirring, spectacular, entrancing tale of startling power, as are all the Elric adaptations Russell was involved with (see also the eponymous Elric of Melniboné ISBN: 0-936211-01-6 and Sailor on the Seas of Fate ISBN: 0-915419-24-6) and it’s high time somebody collected them and the Epic Illustrated vignette ‘While the Gods Laugh’ into some kind of definitive edition…
© 1981, 1982 Roy Thomas and P Craig Russell. A Star*Reach Production. Adapted from the original story by and © Michael Moorcock 1961.  All Rights Reserved.

Time Beavers – First Comics Graphic Novel #2

By Timothy Truman, with Acres, Snyder, Bruzenak & Lessmann (First Comics)
ISBN: 0-915419-01-7

Sometimes there’s a feeling in the air that leads to similar concepts “spontaneously” occurring in different places – Swamp Thing and Man-Thing always spring to mind – and sometimes it’s just a bunch of in-tune creators jumping rapidly onto a bandwagon. That’s probably the only bad thing I can even imply about this superb lost gem of a book from the ever-excellent Tim Truman, aided by co-creator, Mark Acres, co-designer John K Snyder, letterer Ken Bruzenak and colourist Linda Lessmann.

That the 1984 debut of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in some part inspired this superb fantasy I have no doubt, but since it was months ahead of the deluge of cheap knock-offs that followed I suspect that creative appreciation rather than greedy speculation fuelled the tale. Moreover, as the tone and content more closely resembles the Bill Mantlo, Keith Giffen and Sal Buscema character Rocket Racoon (who debuted in the Incredible Hulk #271, May 1982 before Mike Mignola made him a seminal star in a quirky four-issue miniseries), any charge of “cashing in” becomes largely irrelevant.

In a dark place beyond the universe the Great Dam of Time regulates the time streams of each and every dimension, maintained and defended by high-tech Beavers against sinister extra-cosmic Rats called the Radere who utilise vile magic and embrace Chaos. Eternally at war since time began, the Rats have suddenly gained a deadly advantage over the Timeguard by removing three objects of power from the Dam itself, and fled to three separate eras on the key world known as Earth.

Now as the Rat forces mass to finally destroy the critically weakened dam, only the grizzled Captain Slapper, old Doc, faithful Mac and raw recruit Shiner can be spared to follow the Radere to those locations and retrieve the objects before it’s too late.

Even though there are laughs aplenty this deliciously dark fantasy far exceeds its broadly comedic roots, as the hairy heroes save young D’Artagnan and the Queen of France in 17th Century Paris, save Abraham Lincoln from assassins at Gettysburg in 1863 and retrieve the Nagasaki Atom Bomb from Hitler’s bunker in the hours before his suicide in 1945. Despite cosmic catastrophe, sneaky plot-twists and insidious treachery, the Beavers naturally save the day (and years and centuries), but not without suffering tragedy and heartbreak…

Time Beavers is a grand old romp, with strong characterisation and sharp dialogue that elevate this gritty fantasy far beyond its “funny-animal” antecedents, almost into the realm of “Straight” science fiction, captivatingly illustrated with Truman’s trademark graphic intensity. Still readily available, it’s a book that all fans of the medium should get to know.
© 1985 First Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


By Bruce Jones, Scott Hampton & April Campbell (Eclipse Books)
ISBN: 0-913035-27-0 (Limited Edition: hardback, signed with a tipped-in b&w plate)

ISBN: 0-913035-26-2 (hardback)

ISBN: 0-913035-22-X (trade paperback)

If you’re ever in the mood for some grand old-fashioned space-opera, magnificently illustrated and thrilling as all get-out, then you can’t go far wrong with this lost gem (still readily available through various online retailers and, for all I know, your local comic shop).

Starting life as a limited series from the groundbreaking but woefully unprofessional Pacific Comics (always superb product, but lamentably underfinanced, poorly scheduled and badly distributed) in December 1983, the completed tale finally found its way, like so many others, to fellow West Coast outfit Eclipse, where it joined the ranks of their superb Graphic Novel line alongside such classics as the Rocketeer, Sabre and I am Coyote.

The story from Bruce Jones and April Campbell tells of Silverheels, a troubled young “‘Pachee” warrior with hidden psychic powers. On a future Earth where Aryan Supremacists the Nazites have won a global war and installed themselves as a triumphant master-race, all sub-races are treated like cattle – or game. The Nazites even took their xenophobic madness into space, but their dreams of purity and conquest were crushed by an alliance of space-faring races.

Always an outsider, Silverheels escapes the reservation where the impure races have been left to die and breaks into the Nazite fortress just as inspectors from the Intergalactic Council arrive to assess whether the defeated Aryans are reformed and repentant enough to be allowed back into space.

Of course they aren’t, but as the young Apache, acting on the instinctive promptings of his psi-potent subconscious, bluffs his way onto an extraterrestrial training mission to select worthy Earthmen, he is indifferent to the hatred of the duplicitous Nazites. Although they all want him silenced before he can expose their secrets, the young mongrel only has eyes for Miranda, the beautiful, racially perfect daughter of the Nazite leader. Such a pity that she’s promised to the brutal übermensch Kraus…

Produced in the gloriously humanistic Faux-EC Comics style beloved by so many of Jones’ generation, this tale of love, pride and the unconquerable human spirit isn’t as clear-cut as it may sound and there are plenty of surprises to augment the spectacular action and gritty drama as Silverheels triumphs over every lethal obstacle before the shocking ending arrives.

As always the lush painted art of Scott Hampton is utterly entrancing, and great story-telling is timeless so this book is one you’ll delight in over and over again.
Story © 1987 Bruce Jones Associates. Art 1987 © Scott Hampton. All Rights Reserved.

DC Archive: Adam Strange Volume 1

Adam Strange Archive

By Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino & Mike Sekowsky (DC Comics)
ISBN: 1-4012-0148-2

For many of us the Silver Age of comics is the ideal era. Varnished by nostalgia (because that’s when most of us caught this crazy childhood bug) the clear, clean-cut, uncomplicated optimism of the late 1950s and early 1960s produced captivating heroes and villains who were still far less terrifying than the Cold War baddies who troubled the grown-ups. The sheer talent and professionalism of the creators working in that temporarily revitalised comics world resulted in triumph after triumph which brightened our young lives and remarkably still shine today with quality and achievement.

One of the most compelling stars of those days was an ordinary Earthman who regularly travelled to another world for spectacular adventures, armed with nothing more than a ray-gun, a jetpack and his own ingenuity. His name was Adam Strange, and like so many of that era’s triumphs he was the brainchild of Julius Schwartz and his close team of creative stars.

Showcase was a try-out comic designed to launch new series and concepts with minimal commitment of publishing resources. If the new character sold well initially a regular series would follow. The process had already worked with phenomenal success. The revised Flash, Challengers of the Unknown and Lois Lane had all won their own titles and Editorial Director Irwin Donenfeld now wanted his two Showcase editors to create science fiction heroes to capitalise on the twin zeitgeists of the Space Race and the popular fascination with movie monsters and aliens.

Jack Schiff came up with the futuristic crime fighter Space Ranger (who debuted in issues #15-16) and Schwartz went to Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs to craft the saga of a modern-day explorer in the most uncharted territory yet imagined.

Showcase #17 (cover-dated November-December 1958) launched ‘Adventures on Other Worlds’, and told of archaeologist Strange who, whilst fleeing from enraged natives in Peru, jumps a 25 ft chasm only to be hit by a stray teleport beam from a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri. He materialises in another world, filled with giant plants and monsters and is rescued by a beautiful woman named Alanna who teaches him her language.

‘Secret of the Eternal City!’ reveals that Rann is a planet recovering from an atomic war, and the beam was in fact a simple flare, one of many sent in an attempt to communicate with other races. In the four years (speed of light, right? As you Know, Bob… Alpha Centauri is about 4.3 light-years from Sol) the Zeta-Flare travelled through space cosmic radiation converted it into a teleportation beam. Until the radiation drains from his body Strange would be a very willing prisoner on a fantastic new world.

And an incredibly unlucky one apparently, as no sooner has Adam started acclimatising than an alien race named The Eternals invade, seeking a mineral that will grant them immortality. His courage and sharp wits enable him to defeat the invaders only to have the radiation finally fade, drawing him home before the adoring Alanna can administer a hero’s reward. And thus was established the principles of this beguiling series. Adam would intercept a follow-up Zeta-beam hoping for some time with his alien sweetheart only to be confronted with a planet-menacing crisis.

The very next of these, ‘The Planet and the Pendulum’ saw him obtain the crimson spacesuit and weaponry that became his distinctive trademark in a tale of alien invaders which also introduced the subplot of Rann’s warring city-states, all desperate to progress and all at different stages of recovery and development. This tale also appeared in Showcase #17.

The next issue featured the self-explanatory ‘Invaders from the Atom Universe’ and ‘The Dozen Dooms of Adam Strange’ wherein the hero must outwit the dictator of Dys who plans to invade Alanna’s city of Rannagar. With this story Sachs was replaced by Joe Giella as inker, although he would return as soon as #19’s Gil Kane cover, the first to feature the title ‘Adam Strange’ over the unwieldy ‘Adventures on Other Worlds’. ‘Challenge of the Star-Hunter’ and ‘Mystery of the Mental Menace’ are classic puzzle tales as the Earthman must out wit a shape-changing alien and an all-powerful energy-being. These tales were the last in Showcase (cover-dated March-April1959). With the August issue Adam Strange took over the lead spot and cover of the anthology comic Mystery in Space.

As well as a new home, the series also found a new artist. Carmine Infantino, who had worked such magic with The Flash, applied his clean, classical line and superb design sense to create a stark, pristine, sleekly beautiful universe that was spellbinding in its cool but deeply humanistic manner, and genuinely thrilling in its imaginative wonders. MIS #53 began an immaculate run of exotic high adventures with ‘Menace of the Robot Raiders!’ by Fox, Infantino and Sachs, followed in glorious succession by ‘Invaders of the Underground World’ and ‘The Beast from the Runaway World!’

With #56 Murphy Anderson became the semi-regular inker, and his precision brush and pen made the art a thing of unparalleled beauty. ‘The Menace of the Super-Atom’ and ‘Mystery of the Giant Footprints’ are sheer visual poetry, but even ‘Chariot in the Sky’, ‘The Duel of the Two Adam Stranges’ (MIS #58 and #59, inked by Giella) and ‘The Attack of the Tentacle World’, ‘Threat of the Tornado Tyrant’ and ‘Beast with the Sizzling Blue Eyes’ (MIS #60-62, inked by Sachs) were – and still are – streets ahead of the competition in terms of thrills, spectacle and imagination.

Anderson returned with #63, which introduced some much-needed recurring villains who employed ‘The Weapon That Swallowed Men!’, #64’s chilling ‘The Radio-active Menace!’ and, ending this volume, ‘The Mechanical Masters of Rann’, all superb short-story marvels that appealed to their young readers’ every sense – especially that burgeoning sense of wonder.

The deluxe Archive format makes a fitting home for these extraordinary exploits that are still some of the best written and drawn science fiction comics ever produced. Whether for nostalgia’s sake, for your own entertainment or even to get your own impressionable ones properly indoctrinated, you really need this book in your home.

© 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 2003 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface

Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface

By Shirow Masamune (Dark Horse Manga)
ISBN: 1-84023-767-8

The long awaited sequel sees Motoko Aramaki (neé Kusanagi) as a bodiless presence capable of possessing both meat and robotic bodies in her ongoing struggle to stabilise an increasingly insane and out-of-kilter planet and society. The plot however is broad and meandering, lacking a clear narrative drive, and there is an overwhelming dependence on increasingly more detailed footnotes and authorial asides which hinders the flow. Also, on a personal note, I quickly tired of the preponderance on “anatomically coy” nude and crotch ‘n’ gusset shots.

I’ve heard all the blather about cultural differences but I refuse to believe that cyber-space combat can only be rendered with authenticity if all the combatants are young, leggy, nude, lavishly and luxuriously painted girls with prominently displayed pudenda and nipple-less breasts in every shot. It’s just cheesy, prurient and not a little bit sad.

Ultimately it also detracts from the storytelling. It’s like Hamlet in the nude. Nobody goes home pondering on the deathless poesy, and it’s just not necessary to get your attention.

The advances in computer imaging techniques have enabled the creator to produce a truly mind-boggling display of visuals for what is sadly a rather confusing and slow story that ultimately feels rather shallow to this reviewer. Perhaps however many readers will like it for the very reasons I can’t.

© 2002, 2003, 2005 by Shirow Masamune. All rights reserved.
English version © 2002, 2003, 2005 by Dark Horse Comics All rights reserved.

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell

By Shirow Masamune (Dark Horse Manga)
ISBN: 1-84576-018-2

Reformatted and released to complement the publication of the long awaited sequel, Ghost in the Shell is ostensibly the story of Major Motoko Kusanagi, an agent for a covert security department dedicated to protecting a country in political and economic decline from outside threat and internal depredations by hackers and organizations capable of supplanting human consciousness and turning people into robots and vehicles.

Her dedicated fight to preserve some kind of status quo in a world spiraling out of technological/spiritual balance and her inevitable evolution to another state struck a metaphorical chord world-wide, spawning a TV series, two movies and a computer-game. Shirow Masmune’s complex prognostications and spectacularly detailed illustration astonished and captivated audiences, although previous English language publications were drastically censored. This new edition restores and translates these omissions for the first time.

Complex and intriguing with much to recommend it, it nevertheless remains a difficult book to read if all you want is a quick thrill, but the visual panorama is an art fan’s dream. I suppose we should try to concentrate on what’s going on, not just how well it’s drawn.

© 1991, 1995, 2004 by Shirow Masamune. All rights reserved.
English version © 1991, 1995, 2004 by Dark Horse Comics All rights reserved.

Flash Gordon Volume 2

Flash Gordon Volume 2 

By Alex Raymond (Checker BPG)
ISBN: 0-9741-6646-4

The second irresistible collection of the immortal Flash Gordon’s adventures sees Alex Raymond and co-writer Don Moore introduce a host of new races and places for their perfect hero to win over. In Sunday Comics pages that ran in newspapers from April 21st 1935 until October 11th 1936 (generously sub-divided into ‘Witch Queen of Mongo’, ‘At War with Ming’ and ‘Undersea Kingdom of Mongo’ for your ease and delectation) we can experience the sheer beauty and drama that captivated the world, producing not only some of the world’s most glorious comic art, but also novels, three movie serials, a radio and later TV show, a daily strip (by Raymond’s former assistant Austin Briggs), comic books and more.

The Ruritanian flavour of the series is enhanced continuously, as Raymond’s futurism endlessly accesses and refines the picture perfect Romanticism of idyllic Kingdoms, populated by idealised heroes, stylised villains and women of staggering beauty.

Azura, Witch Queen of Mongo, wages a brutal and bloody war with Flash and his friends for control of the underworld, which eventually leads to all out war with Ming the Merciless – a sequence of such memorable power that artists and movie-men would be swiping from it for decades to come – and the volume ends as the heroes are forced to flee, only to become refugees and captives of the seductive Queen Undina in her undersea Coral City.

I never fail to be impressed by the quality of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon. True, there is the merest hint of formula in the plots, but what commercial narrative medium is free of that? What is never dull or repetitive is the artistry and bravura staging of the tales. Every episode is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, but the next episode still tops it. You are a fool to yourself if you don’t try this wonderful strip out, and all the more so in such inexpensive yet lavish volumes. It’s not too soon to start dropping hints for Christmas, you know…

© 2003 King Features Syndicate Inc. ™ Hearst Holdings, Inc.