I MUST HAVE been asleep in 2015 when Dynamite Comics celebrated 100-years of King Features Syndicate with a handful of new series starring five of the Syndicate’s best-known legacy characters: Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, Jungle Jim, and Prince Valiant. They’ve actually been publishing these characters pretty steadily for the past two years, but I didn’t find out about it until I got my hands on Flash Gordon: Kings Cross. It’s Dynamite’s latest collected edition, and, boy, am I glad this whole thing finally fell into my orbit. Or, as Prince Valiant might say, Huzzah!
Kings Cross is an epic adventure that brings together all five heroes and a few familiar guest stars as well. It’s set in the present, only it feels a lot more like the past because Flash’s arch nemesis, Ming the Merciless, has turned our digital world back to analog. This is just a prelude, however, to Ming’s ultimate plan for conquest, which involves lifting an entire continent from his home planet, Mongo, and dropping it—along with its indigenous monsters—right into the Pacific Ocean!
And this is why we read comic books.
But fear not, earthlings, for Flash and his cohorts are Ming’s welcoming committee! Writers Jesse Hamm (Hawkeye) and Jeff Parker (Adventures of Superman) have pulled out all the stops for this, frankly, weird and wonderful saga, which races along at about 80 MPH through one pulpy set piece after another, giving us giant sea monsters, hallucinogenic episodes, man-eating plants, armies of beast-men, and even gopher apes. Yes, I said gopher apes… and that name is not even the weirdest thing about them.
But at the center of all this madness there lies a big heart. We experience its highs in the playful camaraderie between Flash and friends, and its lows in a few well-conceived panels that really bring home the awful implications of what Ming’s got planned for humanity. This is an unabashedly old-fashioned book, and I mean that as a compliment. There are no participation trophies to be had here. Every hero contributes to the effort in their own unique way, and in the end, we really want to be on Team Flash.
Now that I’ve had my first taste of Dynamite’s ongoing tribute to King Features Syndicate, I plan to go back and check out what I’ve missed.