There haven’t been any “Comics Picks of the Week” articles for a while, and the major reason for that is because I’ve just been too caught up with other stuff and I just can’t be… well bothered. It just takes too much out of my time to keep these titles going, especially when Wednesdays also see me trying to get through two TV shows and doing reviews for them. Though, that situation has kind of abated now.
Anyway, this week’s surprise hits were Batman: Arkham Knight #2 and Gotham Central Book 1 from DC. It was a relatively small week for me since I didn’t read all that many new titles and most of those were middling. Ongoing greats were Django/Zorro #4, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4, Fantastic Four #643 , Inhuman #12, Aquaman #39 , Catwoman #39 , and He-Man: The Eternity War #3 among others .
Last year Dynamite closed out its Kings Watch mini-series, which brought together three of the greatest pulp-era comic-strip heroes Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician in an effort to combat an invasion of Earth by Ming the Merciless of Mongo. The extra-dimensional war took its toll on the heroes and the villain alike, and by the time we were done with it all, Earth had been saved, but the planet’s technological level had been set back considerably and while the resultant Flash Gordon series has been moving along at a very good clip, we haven’t seen anything with either Mandrake or The Phantom. Until now.
King: The Phantom #1 deals with the immediate aftermath of Kings Watch and we see how Lothar deals with carrying on The Phantom’s legacy in Bangalla. Before the end of Kings Watch, Lothar Kehwabe was a friend and ally to the twenty-second Phantom, and following his friend’s death, he became the next Phantom although only temporarily, until the actual Walker heir can be found. And writer Brian Clevinger does a great job with portraying Lothar as Phantom. A really incredible story of how Lothar carries out his duties as The Phantom, and the art by Brent Schoonover and Robt Snyder follows that incredibleness.
Getting on a roll again, this week I managed to repeat the “Magic 40” with 2 graphic novels and 38 singles, with many of the latter being absolutely new series, so that was a lot of fun for the most part.
My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Archer & Armstrong: One Percent #1 from Valiant Comics, Deep State #1 from Boom Studios, Django/Zorro #1 from Dynamite Entertainment and Vertigo Comics, and The Kitchen #1 from Vertigo Comics also. The most disappointing comics of this week were Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #1 and Death of Wolverine: Logan Legacy #4 both from Marvel Comics, New 52 – Batman #36 from DC Comics and Grimm Fairy Tales: Cfinderella #1 from Zenescope Entertainment. Other than that, the regularly great titles like Hexed, Fables, New Suicide Squad, Red Sonja and Unity all proved to be immensely fun.
The graphic novels for this week were King Conan: The Hour of The Dragon by Timothy Truman, Tomás Giorello and Jose Villarrubia, and Fables Volume 5 by Bill Willingham, Tony Akins, Jimmy Palmiotti, Daniel Vozzo, Todd Klein, James Jean, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha.
The Phantom is one of my favourite pulp heroes ever. I grew up reading the Indian comics, and even the short-lived live-action television series. Not to mention the good days when Flash Gordon, Mandrake and Phantom joined together to take down some really nefarious villains with plans to take over the world. Those were some great times. Last year I got a chance to read The Last Phantom 12-issue series from Dynamite but that didn’t really prove satisfying, least, not until I read the recent Kings Watch mini-series.
And then there’s the new ongoing The Phantom by Peter David and Sal Velluto which does a fairly good job of portraying The Ghost Who Walks. The first issue, released this week is a bit stiff with the dialogue in a few places, perhaps echoing some of the old pulp roots of the character, and the art is similar in some respects as well, but on the whole, The Phantom #1 proved to be a very satisfying read. I’ve always loved the Phantom as a character and now finally there is an ongoing with him that I can love and read every month.
Kings Watch has been one of the most amazing new mini-series to come out of Dynamite in recent months. The first issue, which I read way back in February, was simply awesome. It made me reconnect with characters I’d missed out on for more than a decade, other than Phantom whom I’d caught up with thanks to the Last Phantom 12-issue series from Dynamite that I read last year. These characters were part of my childhood, and it was very gratifying to see them all in action once again. The trio of Flash Gordon, Mandrak the Magician and Phantom is one of the most potent heroic teams and Jeff Parker delivers on that again and again in Kings Watch.
Of course, where these three are concerned, there is always some kind of a global threat involved and as Kings Watch #2 and #3 show, that threat is the man named Cobra, part of an ancient Egyptian cult that has sought power and control over the Earth for ever. Now, with the newly-discovered quantum crystals, Cobra plans to do something very drastic and open a portal to another dimension in service of his true master. Jeff Parker writing in these two issues continues to be aces and so does the art by Marc Laming, who has a pretty good handle on all these characters.
Years ago, there used to be this little animated series called Defenders of the Earth. To a young kid growing up in the 90s, the show was one of the most memorable ones at the time, in part because it featured The Phantom, a comics character from my childhood that I had a ton of fun reading about in the Hindi-version comics that were released in India. I don’t remember the show all that much, but I do remember that Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake pretty much kicked ass every time and that Ming the Merciless was utterly despicable, a true villain.
Fast forward to now, when Dynamite has begun releasing Kings Watch, a mini-series that focuses on the adventures of this trio and goes to some new places. The original animated series was set in 2015. It is now 2014 (the series started in September last year). Funny how that works out, huh? Reconnecting with these characters after all this time has been quite a thrill, and this first issue has been very entertaining. The story isn’t quite as put together as I would like it to be, but the art is pretty top notch and this is definitely a really good issue. One that makes me want to pick up the others immediately.