Tell me if you’ve heard this one: The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, and Flash Gordon walk into a comic book. The Phantom turns to Mandrake and says, “Hey, shouldn’t we all be in a syndicated newspaper somewhere?”
All joking aside, if this blast of 30’s nostalgia doesn’t reel you in — the stakes these very human heroes face just might. Besides, it’s never too early to appreciate the classics. We review the new King’s Watch #1 from Dynamite Entertainment to answer the question, is it good?
Kings Watch #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
My familiarity with two thirds of the characters in this comic is from their respective movies and comic strips.
Flash Gordon of course had the epic, game changing comic strip that inspired artists even today. His powers really only stem from his athleticism and charm. I wrote all about the recent collected edition here and I was inspired by it.
The Phantom had his own movie in 1996 and, if my thirteen year old mind can be trusted, was a halfway decent superhero flick set in the jungle. He too doesn’t have powers, but only his very human physicality. (And bad-ass reputation as the “Ghost Who Walks,” and the “Man Who Cannot Die.”)
Mandrake the Magician I’ve never heard of, but he also had a comic strip in the 30’s. Of the three he’s the only one with supernatural powers, although his stems from hypnosis type abilities and aren’t as powerful as say… Dr. Strange. (Although who is these days?) Being they are all very human, when these very human heroes encounter the end of the world…well that’s just epic storytelling.
Yeah shut up you insanely huge wolf you!
The issue opens with a nightmare about ape like men riding dinosaur type monsters. The woman having this nightmare wakes to see scary looking lightning blowing up the sky. The issue then cuts between our heroes as they encounter the lightning for the first time. We also check in with an unknown villain who’s torturing a dude for answers.
This issue deserves some major props for deftly cutting between scenes and never losing your attention while also introducing new information at every turn. Writer Jeff Parker has to convey a lot of info in this issue, particularly because these heroes aren’t very well known and also because he’s setting everything up.
The civilian protagonist who opens the book having nightmares is also well written and in only a few short panels we get the jist of her personality. Each of the three heroes get just enough airtime to understand their personalities too. This is going to be pretty important once they do team up, because I get the feeling Parker is going to write around the dynamics of these heroes working together.
Lightning aint that bad…unless those are portals!
The only downside I can see to this issue is the villains being underwritten. They don’t get much airtime, and really we only learn where they are headed and their general look. It’s understandable though, because the real villain of this issue is the mass psychosis hitting all of humanity, the potential threat looming, and a massive dinosaur man thing that Phantom gets to fight.
Artist Marc Laming does a stellar job throughout the issue. His style reminds me of Rags Morales. There’s a photorealistic detail going on here, especially with the backgrounds, but his layouts are quite nice too. The action sequence The Phantom has with the dino-monster is particularly good. I imagine it’s difficult to draw a normal man in a purple suit believably, but he does so here. The action is always clear and you’re always aware what The Phantom is feeling in every panel. That helps differentiate him from superheroes and makes him that much more human, which helps increase the tension of the fight sequence.
There’s a bit of a pulpy feel to the pages, maybe due to the coloring, or maybe it’s just the slightly thicker ink work, but it does a good job setting the tone, time and place. It’s obvious this is set during today, there are computers everywhere, but the heroes still have an aged quality to them. Like they are from another time. Maybe that’s a negative in some sense, you don’t want kids thinking this is comics for older folks, but it’s not like that at all. Instead, the heroes just feel pulpy, but in a modern world. Needless to say this an interesting concept and it’ll be fascinating to see Parker build up the world these heroes live in over the following issues.
Always nice to see the villains a little human in thier banter.
- Well paced with a lot of information conveyed naturally
- Looks fantastic
- not getting a good feel for the villains just yet
I went into this comic having no idea what to expect, but ended up being completely sold on the concept, story and heroes within. I’m intrigued by the potential danger these heroes must overcome, especially since they’re all very much human. So often comics jam as much information as they can into the first issue to setup the wild ride ahead which typically means a lot of exposition heavy, pace slogging pages to get through. This comic however, has a ton of information passed on to the reader, all very naturally and well paced.
Is It Good?
Yes. If you’re looking for a nice surprise you can’t go wrong with this issue.
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