For a change, I am going to review a graphic novel as opposed to a regular book this week. Why? Well, number one is that fact that tonight is Drawing a Crowd with my friend and moderator Tim Cook at New Moon Comics in Little Falls, and number two is the fact that I bloody well feel like it.
For those of us who grew up in the 1980's, most remember the movie Flash Gordon with Brian Blessed, Max von Sydow, Topol, and Timothy Dalton making a memorably fun film in spite of the slab of beef they had playing Flash. Flash Gordon, the character, has a long history stretching back to the days of the pulps and the serial movies, to weekly comic strips and eventually comic books (which were mostly just compilations of the weekly strips). After a long hiatus, though, Flash Gordon is back... or was back... or maybe will be back again when the rights get straightened out again.
OK, so now that I have confused the issue completely, let me clarify: Arden Entertainment recently put out a series of Flash Gordon comics, rebooting the franchise and kicking it up a notch (or three) while returning it to its comic strip roots. Sadly, Arden is not doing well financially and there are no plans as to what will be happening to Flash. As a last desperate gasp, Arden put out Flash Gordon: Secret History of Mongo which ties up a lot of loose ends, but still leaves things open to continue the story. Also, it allows us a glimpse of what had happened before Flash, Dale, and Zarkov arrived on the mysterious planet.
Secret History of Mongo takes place as a series of vignettes, showing the activities of most of the principal players in the Flash Gordon story during Ming's rise to power and his consolidation of the warring nations of Mongo under his despotic rule. We get to watch Ming as a child, we see Prince Barin in the slave pits, Prince Thun's loyal retainer Turg matching wits with Hawkmen, Prince Voltan being put into the slave collar in forced service to Ming to spare his daughter, and even that crazy Queen Fria of Frigia dealing with an alien who wants only to make her lands a better place. All these stories are told using the framing device of Flash having found a high tech gizmo that has stored recordings of these events. Oh, yeah, and it introduces another set of villains to the story with the Witch Queen Azura and her underground kingdom.
All in all, is Secret History of Mongo worthy of your attention? Well, if you like Flash Gordon, then yes. If you like stylish art, yes. If you like high adventure, yes. If you don't like comics, no.