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Presenting Dark Horse Presents #34!

Written by Tim Midura on Friday, March 21 2014 and posted in Reviews

Presenting Dark Horse Presents #34!

A fun one-shot, two stories start and two more end!

This week sees the release of Dark Horse Presents #34 from Dark Horse Comics! Highlights from this issue include Integer City, Across The Channel and Cruel Biology. The cover by legendary cover artist Michael Kaluta is a hyper-detailed image of a wood nymph surrounded by demons and owls. 
Opening with the third chapter of The Deleted, a psychedelic sci-fi romp by Brendan McCarthy and Darrin Greenwood, we’re introduced to more of the history of the video game Dante has entered. The games they reference are funny, specifically Axes of Evil. I noticed a discrepancy in the dialogue regarding level numbers, but that aside, The Deleted is a fun, brightly-colored, video-game themed story.
Then we have the first chapter of S.H.O.O.T. First: Bett and Byron by Justin Aclin, Nicolás Daniel Selma and Marlac. I found the art very stiff as if traced from photographs. The story itself, about an organization who tracks down occult and supernatural beings, has been done before, but I’m a sucker for monster hunting. This places a twist on it, as it shows just how bad blind faith is, especially regarding an enormous talking snake. The metaphor isn’t lost on me. 
The creepy WWII thriller Cruel Biology is next. From Christopher Sebela, Brian Churilla and Dave Stewart, we enter chapter two as the downed balloon wreaks havoc across their small island. It’s an interesting take on the stuck-on-a-deserted-island trope, and seeing how the U.S. government would handle a biological outbreak.
Dean Motter’s Mister X: Frozen Assets, chapter two, follows Cruel Biology. The retro-futuristic noir continues as Mister X persists in his “medical research,” and we catch up with a few criminals after their big heist. I really dig the art with its muted sensibilities and dabs of bright colors. The series is very 50’s sci-fi and a police officer using a jet-pack perfectly sums up Mister X.
The long running sci-fi epic Nexus: Into The Past concludes with chapter 16 from Mike Baron, Steve Rude and Glenn Whitmore. Rude’s scenes are busy and action-packed, in addition to the heavy amount of dialogue from Baron. The “place out of time” was my favorite scene as the backgrounds were over-the-top coupled with Whitmore’s bright colors. Nexus confronts Zanzibar and Cicely to get his baby back and we see how Baron and Rude wrap it all up with a cameo from the world’s favorite detective!
Michael T. Gilbert’s beautifully titled superhero comedy Mr. Monster vs. The Brain Bats of Venus continues with chapter two. Mr. Monster teams up with Doc Steel (a robot version of himself) to take on The Brain Bats! A playful superhero story with vibrant art that’s great for all ages.
Chapter one of Dennis Culver and Sloane Leong’s Davey Jones and The Mystery of the Monocle Men is next. When people start disappearing in a small town, two kids take it upon themselves to write Davey Jones a message in a bottle for help. Another fun all-ages tale with simplistic art skewing towards a younger audience (even though the Monocle Men are a bit creepy).
A one-shot by Kel McDonald and Kate Ashwin titled Across The Channel is a historical account of Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a pioneer in early balloon flight, showing a funny take on the relationship between Blanchard and his financial backer, John Jeffries. Kel McDonald’s art is heavily sepia-toned and stating it is based on true events, I wonder if Blanchard and Jeffries actually did end up nearly naked in the woods together.
Rich Johnston and Simon Rohrmüller’s Victorian-era whodunit, The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne: The Library in The Body, wraps up with chapter three. Inspector Wrightson and Constable Hunt confront Lady Frobisher about her maid and husband’s murder, until she summons Miss Cranbourne, who doesn’t help her defense one bit. I enjoyed Rohrmüller’s use of benday dots contrasted with the occasional solid color.
We close with chapter five of Integer City by Jamie S. Rich, Brent Schoonover and Jean-Francois Beaulieu. The crime drama goes on as Detective Jonny Kilmeister needs to escape a murderous cult and save a mobster’s daughter. The writing is clever and the colors are always drenched in blues and oranges. Plus, I’m a crime buff, so stories in the vein of The Spirit will always have a place in my heart.
Dark Horse Presents #34 is the best anthology book around, with stories running the gamut from retro sci-fi, to historical narratives, to all-ages. This is one of the strongest issues Dark Horse has released in awhile, which is really saying something!


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About the Author - Tim Midura

Born in the frozen tundra of Massachusetts, Tim Midura has long possessed a love for comic books and records. After stealing the beard of Zeus and inventing the pizza bagel, a much more heavily tattooed and bearded Tim Midura has finally settled in San Diego. He's the world's first comics journalist who doesn't want to become a comics writer. Find him on twitter, facebook or by email.

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