“Return to Earth” was the sixteenth installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally published between July 6 and December 28, 1941, “Return to Earth” is the first storyline following the conclusion of the Mongo storyline that had carried the strip through its first seven years.
The journey back to Earth takes six days. Flash, Dale, and Dr. Zarkov crash land in the Atlantic Ocean and are picked up by a US Navy Destroyer. Rather than receiving the heroes’ homecoming they anticipated, they find they are treated with suspicion. The government fears that they might be Fifth Column agents of the totalitarian Red Sword regime (Alex Raymond’s commentary on 20th Century Fascism) whose aggression has led to a Second World War.
The US War Department agrees to release them in the custody of Zarkov’s former colleague, Dr. Grubich who flies them to his secret mountain retreat where he and his colleague, Dr. Bogan are developing weapons to combat the Red Sword. Zarkov sets to work on designing a new war rocket using scientific advancements he learned on Mongo. Grubich and Bogan assist with the hasty development of the rocket while Bogan’s alluring niece, Olga takes a fast interest in Flash.
It doesn’t take long before Flash has reason to mistrust their hosts. First, he awakens to find a prowler in his bedroom. He shoots the man in the shoulder, but he escapes through the window. Flash follows in pursuit and finds Ivor, the test pilot with a shoulder wound that he claims he received when he struggled with the night watchman who lies dead on the ground. Ivor claims that the night watchman was the prowler in Flash’s room who must have been working for the Red Sword. Zarkov and Dale agree with Flash that they must guard the scientific secrets they have brought back from Mongo even closer.
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