The Rhinegold #1-3

            Its official title must be among the longest in comics history: The Ring of the Nibelung, Book One, The Rhinegold. Chapter One: "The Rape of the Gold". With luck, it will also be long remembered.

            To make a long review short, The Rhinegold is a powerful and entertaining adaptation of a Richard Wagner opera in which, thankfully, you won't have to listen to the fat lady sing. You will, however, have to read an engaging story of theft and adventure among Scandinavian gods, and enjoy some of the best art in the comics medium.

            If you haven't seen the opera, you'll be surprised at how heavy a debt fantasy novelist J.R.R. Tolkein owes to Wagner for the inspiration for Tolkein's Lord of the Rings.

            You'll also be amazed at how heavy a debt superhero comic books in general owe to Wagner and mythology, especially the work of the late artist and writer Jack Kirby. The melodrama of epic opera is no stranger to comic books.

            That debt becomes obvious as Alberich of the Nibelungs steals a block of gold that hold a power awesome enough to Frighten the god Votan (Odin). The dwarfish Nibelungs are masters of metalcraft, and Alberich makes a ring from The Rhinegold. Votan, with the help of Loge (Loki) and Donner(Thor) must steal that ring to ransom his wife's sister from a deal poorly struck with two giant brothers.

            The deal struck between readers and this column has always been for your humble reviewers to find comic book titles that adults will enjoy. Our contract is fulfilled: we have struck gold.

            The only criticism offered is that Russell needs four of six extra hands so that he can produce more of some of the best work in comics history.

            The Rhinegold is highly recommended for all ages.

            A 4-part series at 26 pages each. Priced at $2.95, published by Dark Horse Comics. Art: P. Craig Russell; text: Patrick Mason.


Flash Gordon

            Better late than never.

            Actually, this Flash Gordon is better now than ever. Millions of miles across the black void of space spins Mongo, a planet of weird peoples, fantastic creatures, Dale Arden, Dr. Zarkov and Flash Gordon, the greatest hero of two world.

            Created as a comic strip, Flash and Mongo live again (after too long an absence) in an astonishing two issue comic book miniseries.

            At the onset of "Olympic” games introduced by Flash, he is kidnapped by the Witch Queen, Azura, and carried to her stronghold. But Flash is freed by the Queen’s trusted advisor and discovers Azura's motives during a series of wild adventures on the lush, exotic world of Mongo.

            As always, Flash is adventure unadulterated with layers of subplot or even characterization. And as always, the style of this famous icon either loses or wins the day.

            Herein, the day is won.

            Victory isn't in the writing alone, which is better than competent, completely appropriate for its subject, and helped substantially from its familiarity by most people alive today with its cast.

            Once original and now widely imitated, Flash's writers are victims of its success in a sense. To stray from its trademark touches would destroy it.

            Victory is also in its art.

            Heavily influenced by Flash’s creator, Alex Raymond, it's fresh, dynamic, creative, exciting visual storytelling at its absolute best. Its exotic, ancient cities, aliens, spacecraft and human anatomy are unsurpassed in comics.

            Better late than never said, Al Williamson is one of the greatest artists in the history of comics.

            Highest recommendation.

            Flash Gordon #'s 1 & 2 are price at $2.95 & are 32 pages. Published by Marvel Comics. Al Williamson art with written by Mark Schultz.


MINIVIEW: Plague

            Published by Caliber press. Better never than late. Published in 1984, this obscure tale of adultery, aids, obsession and death is a mishmash of high contrast art. For adults only, and for very few of them.


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