The covers: Marc Lanning provides artwork for the Main cover which has a gigantic Ming looking as though he’s about to grab the spaceship that Flash and Dale are in. This tyrannical ruler is not the humans’ greatest threat at the moment because they’re being attacked by several Hawkmen. This is a classy looking cover and would be poster worthy. The 80th Anniversary cover by Roberto Castro is a gorgeous conglomeration of iconic images. Standing partially in shadows, Ming holds a trident-like staff. Before him, barely clad, is a woman gesturing dramatically to the right. Behind them is a dragon-like monster prowling about a futuristic city. In the bottom third of the cover Flash lets a blast of energy fly from an alien rifle, as soldiers are shot at and shot down in a hanger engulfed in flames. Exciting imagery with super coloring. The Subscription cover is by Ken Haeser. Li’l Flash has crashed his flying saucer in angry Ming’s prize rose bushes. The unlucky tyke consults a map, unknowing that the ruler of Mongo is howling close by in rage. It’s cute, it’s funny, and it makes Ming look like Mr. Wilson to Flash’s Dennis. Overall grades: Main A, 80th Anniversary A+, and Subscription A
The story: This “1st Chapter In a New Story Arc” as advertised on the cover has Flash, Dale, and Zarkov blasting away from Mongo for Kaelum, better known as Sky World. Writer Jeff Parker has some fun dialogue among this trio as they try to reason out loud how to get to their destination. I love that Dale is the one that figures out how to get there–She’s not the lost lass among the stars in this series. Zarkov’s affirmation begins with “Flawless positing, Arden,” while Flash’s response is “Good sciencing, Dale!” Funny and good character building through dialogue. Also funny is Flash’s exit line at the bottom of Page 3. This fun is a good distractor for what is revealed on Page 4. I loved what happened on 5 and the group’s reaction. A fantastic fusion of biology and technology is shown on 7 in creepy fashion. On 16 something happens to split our group and was teased on a chase cover for Issue #1. This was eerie, beautiful, and spooky. The final page shows only one character with their wits left, but what is there to do? Parker continues to show Flash in new stories that have a classic adventure feel while being perfectly accessible to new readers. What a joy to read! Overall grade: A+
The art: Part One of this issue has layouts by Sandy Jarrell with finishes by Richard Case. These first twelve pages look slick in three distinct environments in space. Without getting specific, the ship looks great flying though space, their discovery is icky cool, and the travelogue charmingly art deco. The characters look good, reminding me a bit of Brett Blevins’s figures. My favorite page was 8 due to the heroes’ poses–Loved that! The second part is illustrated by Evan Shaner. The setting is beautiful in its simplicity, as there’s not much to the settings, but Shaner moves his point of view around to show the environment from many angles. The inclusion of wild life is great, especially on Page 15. There’s a beautiful and ominous reveal on 18, with 20 having it’s own reveal that is also surprising. I love circular panels used to focus on a character’s reaction, and the book ends with a beautiful one. I preferred the art more in the second half, but the introductory half looks fine. Overall grade: A-
The colors: As with two different art teams, there are two colorists: Sandy Jarrell on the first and Jordie Bellaire on the second. Jarrell’s colors are pale pastels, going vivid on Page 8. Granted, the browns and greens on the previous pages are appropriately sickly, but I wanted something to be as bright–at least as bright as the lettering on 8. Bellaire’s colors are brighter, but when the story dictates a white sky it’s a tad difficult to vary the colors. I did like the muted violets on 18 to show the new arrivals. Overall grade: A-
The letters: Dialogue, titles, singing (You’ll see…), a recording, and a flapping sound are all created by Simon Bowland. They’re sharp and clean fonts that allow readers to breeze through this book. Overall grade: A
The final line: A new arc has begun but the quality remains. Consistently excellent. Overall grade: A
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.