Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Comics Wednesday: Kings Watch (Dynamite)

Quick Introduction: Flash Gordon. Mandrake the Magician. The Phantom. All working together in the same story...

Sound cool? Read on!

Today is Wednesday, and that means it's New Comic Book Day - the day all of this week's comics hit the store shelves (both physically and digitally). Every comic I feature here on Daddy Rolled a 1 is one that I'll personally be picking up later this evening when I go to my local shop with my daughter after I pick her up from pre-school.

Please note also that every Wednesday, I tweet out which issues I picked up that week, and then over the course of the week I send out individual tweets with 140-character reviews of each issue. You can follow me on Twitter here.

Lastly, if you're really interested in more comic reviews, I do "professional" reviews for the comic book site, ComicAttack where I post my reviews under the name "Martin." You can search my tag to see what I've reviewed lately.

As with all of my comic book overviews, I will attempt to explain what makes this comic interesting without giving away any spoilers.

Today's comic is from independent comics company, Dynamite, and is called Kings Watch. Dynamite has the licenses to a bunch of really cool pulp era characters. I wrote about one of their other comics a few months ago for one of my Pulp Noir Monday posts  - Masks, which features Green Hornet and Kato, The Spider, Miss Fury, the Shadow, Zorro, and more.

Issue #4 (of a five-issue limited series) came out today. 

What's It About?
See the "quick introduction" above. It's about three famous pulp-era heroes working together to stop a world-threatening crisis. It's a really interesting take in the development of Flash Gordon (who, of the three, is really the "main" character), and also in the setting, which is a somewhat vague modern setting. I was expecting to see a sort of 1930s era or perhaps an Atomic Age era, but instead we see these characters acting in a modern setting with modern computers and technology. However, the technology in this case doesn't "get in the way" or seem anachronistic with these characters at all. Flash Gordon is still the same old Flash - jumping into the fray with fists flying and flying cool aircraft and stuff.

Without giving away any spoilers, the story involves some strange seemingly supernatural phenomena in the skies, and people having nightmares of fantastic creatures, which turn out to be real. Like any good pulp story, there is a cult involved, and also fans of the three characters will of course get to see some very famous villains.

Who Is On the Creative Team?
Writer Jeff Parker scripts this title. Parker is probably best known for some of his previous work at Marvel, such as Hulk, Agents of Atlas, and Spider-Man: 1602. Parker's got a tough job here, by taking old pulp hero characters, none of whom have a history of working together or even similar methods, and throwing them into a modern setting where they could seem out-of-place or, at times, even a little silly. Add to that a scenario that has to be contrived to get these three working together, and you could end up with a bit of a mess on your hands.

Fortunately, Parker handles things very well. His characterizations of the three heroes are all really well-done. We get a sense right away of who these three guys are, what makes them tick, as well as how they are different, yet complementary. It's also fun to look at these characters and see a bit of the influence they had on later comics creations. This stands out the most with Mandrake as a source of inspiration for Dr. Strange, both in physical looks as well as mannerisms.

Plot-wise, it does take a while for things to get moving. Parker has a lot of work to do in the first few issues, introducing the characters, getting them together, introducing their allies (of course they ahve to have allies!) and also providing enough detail about the big mystery they are investigating to grab our interest and keep us coming back each month. This is only a five-issue limited series and I was getting a bit concerned that things were moving too slowly, but they pick up significantly in issue #3, and trust me, it's worth the wait.

Marc Laming provides pencils and inks for the series, and his work is fantastic. The script requires him to not only illustrate the huge cast of characters (not just heroes and villains but all their allies and henchmen), but also futuristic technology, huge areas of wilderness full of all kinds of flora and fauna, and locations across the globe from New England to Africa, and also other planets. The sheer amount of backgrounds is just staggering, but Laming takes it all in stride and delivers some great panels. His layouts are pretty straight-forward - we don't get a lot of odd-shaped panels or anything like that, but they're clear and easy-to-follow. His characters are all well-proportioned and easily identifiable from each other, which is easier said than done.

Who Will Like It?
This is a great action-adventure story featuring some iconic pulp-era heroes that haven't really been seen much recently. If you love old pulp tales, remember watching Flash Gordon (either in the theater or on the weekends during one of the local independent stations' Weekend Movie Showcase or whatever they called it), or enjoy classic science-fiction tales from the 1950s and 1960s, then you'll totally dig this book.

After last month's issue, I'm really excited to see where the story goes and what's going to happen in the issue that comes out today.

Any Good Idea for my Role-Playing Games?
If you've read the summary above and didn't come to that conclusion on your own, I'm not sure you should be reading role-playing games. Jungle adventures, wild and fantastic nightmare creatures, supernatural phenomena, magic, science-fiction, futuristic technology, galaxy-hopping dictators, aliens, cults... this thing is dripping with tons of ideas to last you for several sessions, if not form the basis of an entire campaign, especially if you're playing in a pulp or early science-fiction setting. As usual, I think that Savage Worlds would be a perfect system for this, but there are plenty of other systems that could work as well. As usual, the mechanics of the system are less important (to me) than how you use those mechanics to tell your story and rely on your inspirations to engage your players.

Is It Good for Kids?
The rating on this is T+, which actually kind of surprised me. I would have thought it would be rated for a big younger kids, but when I went back and re-read my issues to prepare for this review, I did see quite a few scenes of violence involving not just humans but also some scary creatures. There are also some pretty "adult" themes in terms of the cult and the ultimate bad guy that is revealed at the end of issue #3, so I guess you might want to err on the side of caution and keep it away from your little ones. My best advice would be, though, to read it for yourself and make your own decision. Only you know your own kids and what they can handle and what kind of information you want to expose them to.

KINGS WATCH

  • Format: Monthly 28-page full-color limited series (5 issues)
  • Where To Buy: As always, try to buy it at your local comic shop. You can find one by visiting the Comic Shop Locator. If you don't have one, try a bookstore, or you can buy the digital version to read on your PC, tablet, or smartphone by going to Comixology. That link takes you to the Kings Watch page, where you can find links to buy all four issues that have come out so far. Issue #4 came out today, but you should be able to find the previous print copies at your local shop.
  • Price: $3.99 per issue.
  • Rated: Teen+
  • More Information: The official Dynamite Entertainment page for Kings Watch



Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Recently had a Stochasticity Grapefruit Slam IPA (delicious)
Listening: "Chim Chim Cher-ee" by Louis Armstrong


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