Book Review: Flash Gordon: The Tyrant of Mongo

SYNOPSIS:

Continuing the comprehensive library of the greatest science fiction hero of all time, this gorgeous collection of library editions feature all-new restorations that will preserve these legendary adventures for generations to come. Featuring strips from world-famous writer-artist Alex Raymond, restored in their original format, complete and uncut! This volume continues the seminal adventures of pulp hero Flash Gordon, an ordinary man trapped on an alien world, and his ongoing battles with the deadly and heartless Ming the Merciless.

REVIEW:

Flash Gordon is a pop culture icon of all mediums – he has been the subject of live action films, serials and television shows, animated shows, radio serials, comic books, novels and even a commemorative stamp – but his heroics began in a comic strip in 1934. Brought to life by influential artist Alex Raymand, the science fiction adventures of Flash Gordon were published weekly in the Sunday paper.

The first is a series of volumes, Flash Gordon: On the Planet Mongo, was released in September 2012 via Titan Books. It compiled the complete Flash Gordon Sunday strips from 1934 to 1937. The second volume, Flash Gordon: The Tyrant of Mongo, is now available. It reprints the strips from April 25, 1937 until January 12, 1941. (The third and fourth volumes, Flash Gordon: The Fall of Ming and Flash Gordon: Kang the Cruel, respectively, are due out in 2013.)

The tome begins with an insightful introductory essay, entitled Flash Gordon Conquers the World, by comic book writer Doug Murray. It details the comic’s rise to fame with some interesting behind-the-scenes facts. The comic strips are then broken up into five stories: The Beast Men of Mongo, The Outlaws of Mongo, The Tyrant of Mongo, The Ice Kingdom of Mongo and The Power Men of Mongo.

The hardcover book, equipped with striking cover art, makes for a nice coffee table piece. Each week’s strip, typically six panels, is presented on its own 10×11, heavy-stock page. Although previous reprints exist, the Titan Books versions have been restored from the original tear sheets for optimal presentation. The restoration process was performed by comic historian Pete Maresca, who did a great job. This time period was considered Alex Ray­mond’s artistic peak, and it shows. A far cry from a mere newspaper print, his imaginative and increasingly elaborate artwork jumps off the page.

The ambitious story arcs, written by Don Moore, remain engaging over 70 years later. Flash Gordon, a polo player-turned-intergalactic hero, is on the alien planet Mongo trying to protect earth from the aptly-named supervillain Ming the Merciless. Picking up where the first volume left off, The Tyrant of Mongo continues Flash and his girlfriend/sidekick Dale’s quest to defeat Ming as the travel to various cities, running into other friends and enemies along the way.

An influence on countless superheroes (Captain America and Batman among them), along with such iconic works as Star Wars, Star Trek and Dune, Flash Gordon is arguably one of the most enduring and influential stories of all time. Thanks to the top-notch presentation and restoration, Flash Gordon: The Tyrant of Mongo feels more like a collection of art than a simple comic strip. The faithful reprinting can be appreciated by longtime fans and newcomers alike.

Book Review: Flash Gordon: The Tyrant of Mongo

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