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Flash Gordon: Invasion of the Red Sword (revisited)—“Royal cleavages healed at last on planet Mongo”

Writer: Brendan Deneen

Artist: Eduardo Garcia

Colorist: Estudio Haus

Ardden, June 2012

TWO BABES ON THE COVER attracted my attention to the first issue of this six-issue set, “Invasion of the Red Sword,” and also made me hesitate, yet it turns out the flesh factor is minimal in this rendering of classic space adventurer Flash Gordon so often fetishized with scantily clad companions. This time it’s different.

This is the third story arc for Flash on the planet Mongo, with CIA girlfriend Dale Arden and professor Hans Zarkov, and a host of tribal leaders with diverse animal characteristics posing as alien races, with wings or claws, and Roman costumes and other exotic trappings, anything that looks good washed in the yellow-orange firelight skies that colorist Estudio Haus supplies in unending variation: seeping through the cracks in caves, slanting through windows, and blazing overhead, while very normal jet fighters, transported from planet Earth by the evil guy invading Mongo with the help of the US military and wormhole technology, shoot missiles at a hovering alien sky city where Dale and her alien friends have taken refuge, making yellow-orange explosions in the yellow-orange sky as a host of determined winged figures launch around them shooting handheld laser rifles. This kind of action in glowing light unreels in three different places at once, pretty much nonstop through the whole story.

Writer Brendan Deneen makes Flash refreshingly normal, and others around him, too, all charged but reasonable, as if good sense is a common commodity. It must be an alien planet. Even the despised, deposed ruler Ming has a devious charm.

The artwork by Eduardo Garcia, like the story, flashes forward ineluctably coiling and springing within each panel, and vaulting across the page in leaps and bounds gripping one’s attention onward without pause. It turns out the female heroine Dale is a trained CIA agent with combat experience, like Flash, who also like Flash and all the others in view, just happens to be a totally hot, perfect specimen of her species. Even the professor is in great shape. The female figures don’t seem to be intended for gawking, rather as an idealized female similar to Flash as an idealized male. Everyone of all types is evidently getting a lot of exercise.

The characters made me think of a frequent comment registered by pioneer whites of American Indian woodsmen they met, saying, “He is the most handsome man I have ever seen,” as also registered in the muscular charisma of Alexander the Great, and many of his age. We can acknowledge them great, whatever our mindfulness for diversity. Put me down on the side saying, in this edition, Flash rocks.