Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Fifteen

Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Fifteen

Flash Alpha 1Flash Alpha 2“Return to Mongo” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from January 2 to March 24, 1956. The story gets underway with a party celebrating Dr. Zarkov’s newly discovered young adult daughter Zara and her arrival on Earth after growing up on an otherwise deserted swamp planet with her mother. Flash, Dale, and the Space Kids are at the party when Zarkov is alerted to the discovery that Mongo is once again entering Earth’s orbit and threatening our world’s stability. Willie, who still has the ability to psychically grant wishes, inadvertently teleports everyone from the party to Mongo.

Flash and the Space Kids are immediately set upon by Queen Azura’s cowled servants, who nearly massacre them. Working as a team to defeat Azura’s servants, Flash and the Space Kids are overcome by a paralyzing gas as they explore a nearby cave. They are subsequently captured and brought to Queen Azura’s palace, where they learn she is plotting to overthrow Prince Barin.

The Queen injects Flash with a drug that makes him susceptible to hallucinations, reducing him to a quivering wreck and breaking down his resistance in the process. Under Azura’s direction, Flash writes a letter to Barin, asking for him to rescue him from the clutches of Queen Azura and Emperor Ming. Flash knows he slew Ming in combat, but a curtain parts, revealing the Emperor’s apparent twin in the form of his son, Ming. There is a continuity error here when Flash states he was unaware Ming had an heir. Earlier in the series, he had fought and slew Ming’s heir, Kang. Perhaps Dan Barry merely meant to have Flash say he was unaware Ming had another son!

Flash Alpha 3kurtzman_flash_gordon_cvr11Zarkov, Dale, and Zara discover they are on the border of Azura’s kingdom and begin the long journey to Arboria, where they hope to enlist Prince Barin’s aid to liberate Flash and the Space Kids. Ming cruelly torments the drugged Flash by whipping him and marking him with his sword. Azura knows Ming intends to kill Flash once he takes control of Mongo and, despite herself, still harbors feelings for Flash.

Zarkov, Dale, and Zara are captured by a patrol of Hawkmen who take them to Arboria, now the seat of the Free Council of Mongo. King Vultan is meeting with Prince Barin to discuss the impending war with Queen Azura. They are overjoyed to see their friends Zarkov and Dale again, but are angered to learn Flash and the Space Kids are being held captive.

Captain Jado, Queen Azura’s spy, arrives in Arboria and delivers the message Flash was forced to write. Jado nearly escapes, but is overcome by Forest Men and Hawk Men working together. A bizarre mind transference experiment is conducted to place Barin’s mind in Jado’s body and Jado’s mind in Barin’s body before setting them both loose on Queen Azura’s kingdom.

Barin (with Jado’s mind) winds up in a dungeon, where he is tortured by Ming, while Jado (with Barin’s mind) gives Flash an antidote to free him from the effects of the hallucinatory drug. Before he can set Flash loose, Queen Azura arrives and angrily dismisses him. Believing Flash is still drugged, she attempts to make love with him in a surprisingly seductive sequence for a newspaper strip in the mid-1950s.

Flash, with Barin’s help, overcomes Queen Azura just as Ming arrives to further humiliate Flash. Stunned to learn Flash is free of the drug, Ming presses forward, determined to kill Flash in a duel. The swordfight is violent and well-staged and only spoiled by having the Space Kids come to the rescue and defeat Ming themselves. Queen Azura is subjected to the hallucinogen and agrees to disarm her people and avert war. Ming ends up in prison, Flash and Dale reunite, but Willie cannot teleport them back to Earth for he has a premonition that Ming will soon threaten the stability of Mongo once more in a nice set-up for the following storyline.

 


William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press) and The Destiny of Fu Manchu (2012; Black Coat Press). The Triumph of Fu Manchu is scheduled for publication in July 2014.

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