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The Complete Flash Gordon Library Volume 2: The Tyrant of Mongo

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The Complete Flash Gordon Library Volume 2: The Tyrant of Mongo

Credits

  • Words: Don Moore
  • Art: Alex Raymond
  • Publisher: Titan Books
  • Price: £29.99
  • Release Date: Dec 6, 2012

In a comics market that is perhaps now oversaturated in desirable collections of vintage comics work these Flash Gordon tomes remain indispensable, must-have items.

Following on from On the Planet Mongo, the first Titan collection of classic Flash Gordon Sunday strips by the masterful Alex Raymond, volume 2 The Tyrant of Mongo continues the adventures of Flash and his allies in their attempts to bring peace to the fractured planet ruled by the despotic Ming the Merciless.

When we last left Flash, Dale Arden, and Dr. Zarkov, their mission to this rogue astral body, that had arrived in our solar system and was threatening the Earth, had seen them make an enemy of Mongo’s malevolent emperor, allies of Prince Barin and Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen, and, after much exploring of Mongo’s many lands, become embroiled in a massive war between the planet’s kingdoms.

This second collection covers the publication period between April 1937 and January 1941 wherein Raymond and writer Don Moore provide much the same in the way of swashbuckling science fiction heroics but with more of a sense of accomplished ease. They’re in their comfort zone in terms of established structural layout now and characterisation is more consistent. The serial has found its narrative voice and the sometimes fluctuating appearances of some of Mongo’s inhabitants have settled down into a more constant portrayal.

Flash’s adventures this time around see him come into conflict with the Ape-Men of Mongo amongst the tree-tops of Prince Barin’s arboreal realm, form his own band of outlaw freemen, face public execution by Ming, visit the ice kingdom of Queen Fria, and help foment open rebellion against Ming alongside the Power Men of Mongo. It’s all heady high adventure with a pulp feel but, in contrast with the first volume, Moore and Raymond’s Mongo has become a more complex environment and its politics and culture more detailed and considered, with Flash himself now fully entrenched as a saviour figure for the masses of Mongo. That’s not to say there aren’t still moments of relative unsophistication in the storytelling but there’s also a joy in that narrative naivety; an innocence that should be cherished and embraced.  

While the basic plots within each story section of the strips begin to repeat themselves a little – love rivals for both Flash and Dale abound, there are frequent falling outs and misunderstandings between the two, and the discovery of new races/kingdoms on Mongo becomes a common fallback storyline – it’s essential to remember the context of these strips’ publication and evaluate them in that light. What’s collected in this volume spans four years – a remarkably long period of time for 200 or so pages – and, when read over the space of years, that element of repetition would scarcely have been noticed.

Copyright: Flash Gordon © 2012 King Features Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

The Complete Flash Gordon Library - The Tyrant of Mongo (Vol. 2), by Alex Raymond & Don Moore. 6th December 2012, £29.99 by Titan Books.

Raymond’s art is a thing of beauty throughout. This is the period where he has really hit his stride with each gorgeously fabricated frame appearing as a stunning, nearly standalone tableau in its own right. There’s an almost classical composition to each carefully posed panel here and if that perhaps invites criticism that Raymond’s art seems more static, more obviously constructed, then that’s a small price to pay for an illustrative eye capable of creating imagery this sumptuous and extravagant. Of course, at the time, newspaper strips were the place to be for artists in comparison to the less well regarded arena of comic book publishing and one only need take a look at a DC Archive from a similar period to see how crude the work therein is in comparison to Raymond’s lush and gorgeous embellishments.

Every time I come to review a Titan book I find myself making the same point about the extra material included in that release but it’s a valid one and it needs underlining. While not as comprehensive as some Titan publications The Tyrant of Mongo does contain a scene-setting introductory essay from comics writer Doug Murray discussing the history of the strip with accompanying publicity photographs, depictions of Flash Gordon merchandising, and related topical material.

While these newspaper strips may well have been regarded as throwaway ephemera at the time of publication, history has rightly judged them as timeless classics and Raymond’s work here (and subsequent influence) is justly regarded as groundbreaking both in conception and execution. Titan has done an amazing job in repackaging these stories into handsome, collectible hardcover compilations that, in terms of presentation and thanks to Peter Maresca’s restoration work, never forget the original newspaper origins of the material. In a comics market that is perhaps now oversaturated in desirable collections of vintage comics work, these Flash Gordon tomes remain indispensable, must-have items.

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