I remember watching the old Flash Gordon serials, with Buster Crabbe, on TV with my dad when I was a kid. It was part of my early science fiction education. I still love Flash Gordon in all of its iterations – yes, including the 1980 movie with Sam J. Jones as Flash and Max von Sydow’s fantastic, scenery-chewing performance as one of my favorite villains, Ming the Merciless.
Dynamite’s Merciless: The Rise of Ming trade paperback packages the 4-issue miniseries from 2012 that chronicles the rise of Ming the Merciless from childhood to the point where a small planet called Earth catches his notice. We get his origin story – a young prince as cruel as a younger man as we know him to be in later years, we see him settle his father’s business and enforce discipline in the cruelest of ways. Not even falling in love redeems him, although it does make him almost sympathetic for about 5 minutes.
There are plenty of familiar faces here for Flash Gordon fans, including the Hawkman, Vultan; Ming’s chief flunky, Klytus, and his daughter, Princess Aura. Writer Scott Beatty respects the original material and gives us a tight story with intrigue and deception on all sides. Ron Adrian’s art is consistent with the images we have of Ming and the worlds of Mongo – there’s a lot of color and texture, with all the outrageous costumes that we’ve come to expect. Alex Ross’ cover art is not to be missed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book – I give it a 4/5 – and recommend it to anyone who loves a good science fiction opera. If you’re a Flash Gordon fan, by all means, pick it up.
MERCILESS: THE RISE OF MING
Author: Scott Beatty
Art: Ron Adrian
Cover Art: Alex Ross
Pub Date: September 4, 2013 (Available Now!)