Review: Merciless – The Rise of Ming / Author: Scott Beatty / Artist: Ron Adrian / Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment / Release Date: August 6th
Merciless: The Rise of Ming is an idea that could have easily gone wrong. Ming the Merciless, the early years? However, rather than doing a lengthy examination of his childhood, they’ve taken direction from the classic Dino De Laurentiis Flash Gordon movie and gone straight into the action with a healthy dose of overblown drama, hyperbole and high camp, which is exactly what you need.
We are introduced to the young Prince Ming, an ambitious young man who is looking to usurp his father and seize the throne. A chap so bound up in his superiority and arrogance that as far as he is concerned, he can do no wrong. Fans of villains such as Doctor Doom will recognise the archetype here, brilliant but evil men who happen to be so magnificent in their actions that it’s a damned shame they happen to be baddies. Ming is a hero in every possible way except the one that matters.
The book is a little let down by the art, but a solid effort is made to portray the retro sci-fi chic that makes the movie so memorable, and the younger versions of characters from the feature are instantly recognisable and a joy to behold. It’s just a pity that all of the women in this book look very similar to each other; still, we get all sorts of strange and exotic creatures, the covers from the original comic book series are also included, and they are quite pretty.
Prequel stories are at their best when they foreshadow the work they’re a part of, without taking anything away from the primary source. Merciless keeps a sense of mystery, but also adds atmosphere and a sense of exotic strangeness to the world of Flash Gordon. Fans of the movie will love this, though those looking for something more grounded in older versions of the source material may be slightly disappointed that certain elements are barely acknowledged. Merciless is a must for anyone who likes to shout out “Gordon’s Alive!” every once in a while.