Grim_Noir Watches The Kings Watch Men

Kings Watch 1 Cover

Title: Kings Watch

Writer: Jeff Parker

Covers: Marc Laming & Chris Sotomayor

Variant Cover: Ramon K. Perez

Art: Marc Laming

Colorist: Jordon Boyd

Letterer: Simon Bowland

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

Mandrake The Magician. Flash Gordon. The Phantom. Three antique tastes that should taste antique together. But they don’t. Dynamite Comics’ Kings Watch feels thoroughly modern.

After all, Dale Arden is the orginal Lois Lane. Mandrake is the prototype for Dr. Strange. The Phantom is jungle-Batman. And Adam Strange owes his inspiration to Flash Gordon. Yet, writer Jeff Parker ably brings all of his cast into the 21st Century without breaking a sweat. This book feels more like a rejuvenation than just a reboot. (And how many DCnU or Marvel NOW titles can you say that about?)

The idea sounds so simple at its face, “just team-up three adventurers for an adventure.” However, these are three very long running franchises; each with their own casts of supporting personnel and villians. Every one of whom is someone’s personal favorite. (I’m pretty sure somewhere at Star Wars Celebration con, there’s even a person whose favorite character in that franchise is Jar-Jar Binks…)

Kings Watch 1 page 11

Parker is working the slow-burn for the beginning of his long tale: Reporter Dale Ardin is having the same nightmares as most of the citizens of the planet, Mandrake’s villian, The Cobra, is searching for a mystical item of great power and Ming the Merciless is (probably) bringing Mongo to Earth. Can the Singh Brotherhood be far behind? (And if you have to ask who The Brotherhood are, you are clearly not up on your Treat Williams/Billy Zane movies.)

While not a whole lot of action happens in this issue, there are a buttload of really nice character moments. I have always believed that the audience must care about characters before their later jeapordy can mean anything, so this is a good start. Mr. Parker even manages to find a brilliant new connection between everyone’s favorite purple crusader and Mandrake’s right-hand man, Lothar. Think of this issue like the pre-credit scene in a Bond film.

The biggest flaw in this book is its outsides. I really do have to ask you not to judge this title by its first two issues’ covers; none of them look good. There is just something rushed and uninspired by both the Ramon K. Perez and Marc Laming & Chris Sotamayor covers.

Thankfully, Marc Laming the interior artist is 1000 times better than Laming the cover artist. This is not an easy story to tell visually, you are called upon to create lush tropical flora and fauna on one page and then move to a page that flitters back and forth between otherworldly demons and intergalatic space battles. He is a master of sequencial art, facial expressions and even body posture. (I especially love the self-satisfied pose and smirk Dr Zarkov has when his spaceplane actually achieves transplanetary flight.) At one piont, Laming is called upon to slip a subtle reference to a prior meeting between Flash and Mandrake into a single panel, and he achieves it like a boss.

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And I really do have to get back to that Zarkov-Gordon spaceplane. I don’t know how you’re supposed to pronounce “V-ZHWOOMMMNN,” but when it left the atmosphere, my Farscape-sense was tingling. Clearly this is a labor of love for the creative team.

By the way, for the uninitiated, “Kings Watch” is more than just the MacGuffin that gets this tale rolling. It is a sly nod in the direction of King Features Syndicate, the company that controls licensing and distribution of these heroes. Those kind of easter eggs are always what make Dynamite books stand out from the competition.

Put all of your Defenders of the Earth preconceptions out of your mind. I found this book filling the hole in my heart left by the cancellation of Matt Fraction’s 2011-2012 Defenders series. Creepy, ookey and slightly apocalyptical, this is the kind of a ride I could happily settle into for a couple of years.

Kings Watch 1 page 13

 

Ol' Grim Hisself* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet is a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or Friend on Facebook to end his self-delusions.

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