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Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Reader's Diary #1373- Jeff Parker (writer), Evan Shaner (artist): Flash Gordon The Man From Earth

As I continue to explore non-Marvel/DC pulp icons, the ones that have have clung on since their hey-day of radio-dramas, newspaper strips, and lunch boxes and yet now seem to just exist in the background, largely with forgotten legacies and no one quite sure what to do with them (let them fade into obscurity? Reboot with a movie franchise? Who owns the rights anyway?), I didn't have high expectations for Jeff Parker's take on Flash Gordon: The Man from Earth. I've enjoyed seeing the originals of the likes of Dick Tracy, I've enjoyed the attempts of rejuvenating the likes Buck Rogers and the Green Hornet. But The Man From Earth is the first one I thought could really make the most of a comeback.

I knew next to nothing about Flash Gordon. I vaguely remember there was a movie in the early 80s, but I'm not sure that I ever saw it, and for the longest time I thought DC's speeding superhero, the Flash, and Flash Gordon were one and the same. So, with Parker's reboot there was a lot to learn and I was immediately put off. Flash Gordon has no superpowers, by the way, but he is the athletic, blonde son of wealthy family. Ew. Do we really need that again right now?

But miraculously, Parker endeared him to me and I can almost pinpoint the moment it happened. Coming near the end of the book, Gordon recounts how he got his name from a teacher who said, "You'll always enjoy your life Mr. Gordon. You're all flash, and no substance." It has become apparent how these words stung and in retrospect makes his heroic actions more genuine, more sincere than some rich white kid who just happens to save the universe out of boredom. And thankfully Gordon isn't the only strongly developed character, reporter Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov, also have hinted at complexities.

Not that it's a dull character-driven novel by any stretch. Flash Gordon: The Man from Earth is a space opera of the highest caliber, with an assortment of crazy worlds and plots like out of Star Trek or Guardians of the Galaxy. Finally, Evan Shaner and Jordie Bellaire's art is spectacular, drawn and coloured in the vein of Fiona Staples work in Saga.

Lastly, this collection adds a few bonus stories, with work from different artists and writers, all of whom help to prove that Flash Gordon deserves to continue as a pulp-culture icon.

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