Review by Ian Keogh
Dynamite’s confusing use of the King Features newspaper strip characters continues from Kings Quest, a graphic novel that certainly surprised, but at the cost of reducing the credibility of some characters. To summarise: Ming the Merciless has been deposed and exiled from Mongo, although the opening pages here have him in rude health and scheming again; the planets under his control have been freed; we have two Phantoms, a transformed Jungle Jim who controls nature, and Prince Valiant in the present day, but powered up; and a result of Ming’s failed invasion of Earth is digital technology being wiped out.
From there Jeff Parker, whose work on these characters to date has been the most engaging of the writers, takes the cast and readers on a thrill ride. Ming is again the major threat, with the various secrets of his home planet threat enough to delay and confound the united heroes attempting to reach him. There’s also good use made of that Ming standby, tinkering with DNA to create human/animal hybrids. Having published the last two instalments of this ensemble cast under various King-related titles, we’re back to Flash Gordon, perhaps headlining as the most commercially viable character, and as the subtitle demonstrates, the King titles are becoming forced.
Jesse Hamm co-writes with Parker and also brings his brilliant jagged cartooning to the table. His layouts stun the eye and his designs are stupendously creative. The second chapter features a spider like none you’ve ever seen, and contributing to the plot means Hamm can factor in what he wants to draw and never become bored. He provides a jungle environment to enable the most faithful use of the Phantoms’ background, and the adventure reel style of the plot
King’s Cross is very much a plot driven story, with the character developments introduced in previous use of the cast forced into the background or dropped altogether. It’s a lot of fun, but leaves the franchise stalled, and with a concern about the cast running into a dead end. Ming has now been the opponent over four of the five graphic novels in this connected series (and his influence was all over The King Collection) and are continuing ensemble graphic novels the best use of these characters?