Recent Read – Kings Quest TPB

Review by Joe Douglas.

I originally read Kings Quest when it was released as single issues in 2016. At the time I remember not really feeling it. Re-reading it now though in collected format I found it to be a really fun, if not perfect, story.

Kings Quest is actually the third part in Dynamite Entertainment’s Kings “event series.” While you don’t need to have read the previous two mini-series that started the event, it does help to have some prior knowledge of who the characters are. All the characters, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Prince Valiant, Lothar, Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim, are classic Kings Features comic strip heroes who come together Avengers-like to fight the evil Ming the Merciless. If you’ve ever seen the 80’s TV series Defenders of the Earth, this is basically a modern version of that, the story all but directly saying as much at several points.

I enjoyed all the characters in the book apart from Flash. I’ve never been a fan of the cool-jock football-player type and that is pretty much how Flash is written here. I simply find it boring and predictable, but I did enjoy how other characters would comment on this part of his character.

Mandrake feels pretty spot on, retaining the genteelness he had in the comic strip. However, I could have done without the “magic is a burden” arc that modern writers seem the need to saddle any magic-user with nowadays. Not only had it been done to death, it just doesn’t fit the character at all.

The Phantom – admittedly my main interest in the story – is managed really well. For reasons I won’t spoil Mandrake’s usual companion, Lothar, has taken up the mantle of the Phantom and takes it very seriously. Lothar’s Phantom is more the stoic, quiet Phantom we saw in the early days of the Lee Falk/ Ray Moore era than his somewhat more jovial modern self. Still, it works really well here, especially when put against Jennifer, a new Phantom-in-training.

The other two characters, Prince Valiant and Jungle Jim, I don’t really have any familiarity with so I can’t really judge how their depictions here measure up against their traditional portrayals. What I can say, however, is I greatly enjoyed both with Jungle Jim in particular being a very fun character.

The main story of the book, which basically sees the heroes try to stop Ming’s forces from taking over the universe, is pretty standard stuff. However, it’s the interactions between the characters and how all these people from very different view-points all come together. Unlike the Marvel or DC characters which were all created to function in the same universe, the characters here were never intended to operate together upon creation. Flash Gordon was an early sci-fi series while The Phantom was a jungle-based adventure strip. Prince Valiant was a medieval-based adventure while Mandrake the Magician was a modern detective who used his knowledge of magic to sole crimes (like of like the more modern Jonathan Creek). Really, none of the characters should go together, and yet Acker has made it all work wonderfully and shown that each character has a purpose for being in the story.

The art, sadly, is something of a mixed bag. For the first two and a half issues, the art is handled by Dan McDaid. While I’m sure he has his fans, I find his style muddy and unclear. It gives the art the appearance of being rushed and the whole book suffers for it. Things much improve in the last two and a bit issues when Bob Q takes over with clean, clear lines which depict the action in an enjoyable way. Each character had personality and the story flows much better visually.

While it may not do anything hugely original, Kings Quest is worth tracking down if you’re a fan of any of the classic characters involved or just enjoy a fun, lighthearted adventure.

Review originally posted HERE