The last time we saw Flash Gordon it was in the failed, and quite frankly terrible, Sci-Fi channel reboot back before the network rebooted their own name to the far dumber SyFy. Regardless of the failures of modern Flash Gordon, Titan Books, publishers of many video game novels and graphic novels, has seen it fit to release all of the original Flash Gordon comic strips over four collections. The second is The Tyrant of Mongo and collects everything from April 25, 1937 to January 12, 1941.
Each volume is presented in hardback and has some truly spectacular art for the cover. There is something to be said for nice, clean cover design and The Tyrant of Mongo plays its hand wonderfully. I usually don’t enjoy it when my books shine. Unless it’s a special run or limited edition, I like having my shelf have some semblance of consistency. There is some use of foil in the cover, but I found the use so tasteful and sparing that it only enhanced the overall look instead of making the package seem cheap and eye catching.
You can tell that real love has gone into painstakingly restoring these strips into a comparable format from what you would have experienced in the newspaper. The art and coloring look fantastic and have been perfectly restored. I really liked how right next to the page number at the bottom of each page was the date when the strip was originally published, it helped frame the context of each into the time period when it ran and was also just a nice tidbit to know.
If you’ve never read Flash Gordon before, that context of the time period might be pretty helpful. While the complex narrative and heavy sci-fi elements were very forward thinking, some of the writing really shows its age. While I laughed of misogynistic lines like: “Faced with the hopeless puzzle of women’s emotions, Flash takes mankind’s age-old escape and throws himself grimly into his work,” some might not be so forgiving.
The Tyrant of Mongo is not only a collection of comics, but a window into history. The volume opens with a nice piece about the creation of the comic and how it became such a cultural phenomenon, rapidly expanding into serials and movies. I loved reading it, but I wish it went a little deeper and was just a little longer. Perhaps having an afterword would have helped. What is here is fantastic though and well worth the asking price if you’re a Flash Gordon fan or simply a sci-fi buff wanting to read up on the early successes of the genre.