Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More Fun Than a Pack of Rabid Squirlons

Today's a quickie review of the second installment of IDW's collection of the original Flash Gordon Sunday strips by Alex Raymond as well as his continuing run on Jungle Jim. I covered Volume One about two months back. That one came out December of 2011. Volume Two was August of last year. Volume Three comes out in April. I should get to it some time next November.

Once again, it's a large beautiful book that comes close to the size of the original new prtintings of the strips.   There's a little less wear and tear on the reproductions on this one, though there's a few that have been noticeably marred. The line work looks solid. The colors are rich. Again, it's an impressive collection and the nicest I've ever seen them look. Additionally, there's a fantastic introduction by Bruce Canwell that follows Flash's adventures into magazines, books and the early serials, which includes some wonderful stills, posters, and book covers. I give IDW full marks for the work they've done in putting these volumes together, and fully look forward to Volume Three. However...

Treat yourself to some 20 minute doses of Art Deco Sci-Fi Madness...
My only objection this time has more to do with the material. I imagine that as an excited kid tearing into the lastest adventure in 1937, one would be far less likely to notice the repetitive nature of the story telling. Flash gets in a rocket, it gets shot down, they get out of the wreckage only to be attacked by an animal who they have to fend off, then run into Ming's troops who they then escape. In the three years of strips the book covers, there are two major plot lines where chaos ensues because Flash let's a betrayer off the hook only to have them return to raise holy hell.  Compared to the novelty of the strange sights and sounds of the arrival on Mongo in the first book, the strip seems to have fallen into some complacency here.

Having said that, they were still immense fun to read and it's still impressive to see how Raymond's line work continued to develop and refine itself. In fact, once he seems to have hit a real hot streak with making Flash impressively flashy, Jungle Jim sees a marvelous jump in refinement and nears the elegance of its larger companion strip. I've never gone through the rigors of producing a regular comic strip, but imagining the demands, it's not hard to see where plot formula could be your friend as deadlines were closing in.

And by formula, I mean killer flying squirrels...
Reading this second volume also called to mind Bloom County cartoonist Berke Breathed's complaints about maintaining coherency on the ever shrinking comics page. These full pages are barely enough to contain all the action and adventure, I can only imagine what Breathed was up against.

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