Dark Horse Presents is worth $7.99. Chadwick, Adams, Corben, McNeil, Chaykin, Miller, and more.
Credits & Solicit Info:
The legendary, premiere anthology is back! The 80-page spectacular, Dark Horse Presents returns with all-new stories by Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, and Richard Corben; a new Concrete story by Paul Chadwick, a new Crimson Empire story from the Star Wars universe, and an exclusive sneak peek of Frank Miller's highly-anticipated prequel to 300, Xerxes!
The celebration continues with a brand-new, all-color Finder story by Carla Speed McNeil, a prose piece from science fiction legend Harlan Ellison, the return of Michael T. Gilbert's Mr. Monster, and much, much more!
Dark Horse Presents is a fat bastard, 80 pages, with a hefty price tag, $7.99, and damn if it isn't worth every penny. Given the history of Dark Horse and the previous incarnation of this book, I am damn excited to have this in my hands. The original Dark Horse Presents was filled with material that challenged people's notions of what a comic was, while maintaining a sense that comics were rooted in pulp novels. The names and the books to come out of it are too numerous to name, but I suggest you hit some quarter bins and take a look; there are some treasures to be mined in the one hundred and fifty-odd issues of the original run. Lets not forget the digital version as well, that can still be found on MySpace and is absolutely free. Go, find it, read it.
Dark Horse Presents was issued with multiple covers - I went with the Chadwick cover as I have discovered Concrete through the beautiful collections Dark Horse has put out. The cover is pink and yellow featuring Concrete, and the spine has numbers on it so that it will look good on your bookshelf. Geoff Darrow gives us a little black and white number of Shaolin Cowboy on the back, which is an added bonus.
So I'll start the countdown with Paul Chadwick's Concrete. For those of you who don't know, Concrete is the story of a journalist stuck in the body of an alien. His story has been collected in multiple black and white manga-sized collections that I suggest you read. Chadwick gives us a stand-alone story about a night-time walk that leads into an adventure of sorts. The story doesn't have much meat on its bones, but is what Concrete is all about: mistaken adventure and philosophy. Chadwick's art is stellar, and seeing Concrete in color for the first time is great as Chadwick handles the colors sparingly, evoking much of the black and white feel while adding additional texture to the characters when needed.
Howard Chaykin bats next with Marked Man: a heist tale of suburban deceit, strippers and jarred ass fat (yup), and the story is pure Chaykin. You've seen his art, you know the deal: thick, brushy strokes and lots of Photoshopped colors and textures added by frequent collaborator Jesus Aburto. You either like it or hate it. Marked Man isn't fantastic, but it is a solid eight-pager by visionary creator, and leaves a lot to be explored now that the concept has been laid out.
Another visionary creator, Neal Adams, brings us Blood, and if you like the insanity that is going on in Batman: Odyssey, you will probably enjoy this. Adams packs his dialogue balloons to the maximum, over-filling them with dialogue that befuddles as it enlightens us to Blood's origin. Certain passages told by a bound and beaten man are so confusing I had to read them multiple times in order to understand them. That said, Adam's stories are told in such a way that the crazy in them is kitsch-y and amusing, a throwback to another era of comic book storytelling.
One of the stories that excited me most is Carla Speed McNeil's new Finder tale. I've been enjoying reading Finder in the new graphic novels by Dark Horse (Voice, The Finder Library Vol. 1), and was hesitant when I heard that this new story was going to be in color. While I miss the stories in black and white, Jenn Manley Lee and Bill Mudron do such a wonderful job that the color does not interfere with McNeil's delicate lines. McNeil has promised that this tale will tell some of the backstory of Jaeger (one of the series' main characters) as he attempts to find some gainful employment in an environment that he is unsuited to. The story starts fairly well with a light-hearted touch, and I look forward to seeing more of this story. If you like this, check out the other work by McNeil as well; it is some of the most original sci-fi in comics.
A Mr. Monster feature follows- Michael T. Gilbert is back between the pages of Dark Horse Presents, and his zany retro-hero Mr. Monster is back to battling monsters. This feature vaguely reminds me of the Godzilla comic that Eric Powell did a couple of weeks ago that I panned, but done with a wink and a nudge and a lot more tromping of cities. Gilbert's Mr. Monster is a little gem of Lee and Kirby goodness (who get a nod) to ease us into the prose to come.
Xerxes is Frank Miller's new effort that will probably debut in a year or two, and the first couple pages are shown here with an interview by Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson. The interview reminds me why I like Frank Miller (which started while reading Eiser/Miller published through Dark Horse Books): he is interested in telling an exciting story and will take a lot of flack for not being historically correct. The art pages are Miller's Sin City style, and I'm sure the book will be damned pretty to look at.
Harlan Ellison has three pages of prose sandwiched into the middle of the comic and while the story is quaint, if I wanted Ellison stories I would buy a book of them. The story only serves to slow down my comic-reading enjoyment and I could have done without it. I buy comics to read comics, and this could have easily been illustrated. Next.
Zombies, gigantic breasts and Richard Corben in black and white are perfect in the first installment of Murky World, but then I adore Corben and he can do little wrong in my book. I love the texture that Corben infuses into every panel, his cartooning skills are astounding and apparent in every facial gesture and body movement. Simply amazing!
For Star Wars fans Paul Gulacy, Randy Stradley and Michael Bartolo bring a beautifully illustrated tale setting up the third Crimson Empire. The story includes bounty hunters and a vow to kill the protaganist after trying twice, I'm assuming in the first two Crimson Empires. This story holds no real weight for me, but I'm sure Star Wars fans are happily clutching it in their fingers.
The last feature is Snow Angel by David Chelsea. Snow Angel is totally out of place with all the action/adventure stories, but is charming nonetheless. Chelsea's art style is simple and lacks backgrounds in almost all the panels, but is infected with joy and a child-like glee that you can't help but smile a little at the series protagonist, Snow Angel, and her little missions of goodness and terror.
The last two pages are Patrick Alexander of chickennation.com, and are frickin' hilarious. Really. You will laugh at the sick and twisted little jokes that he has illustrated. They are a strange dessert after so many little snacks, but leave you with a smile on your face.
Dark Horse Presents did not let me down, but then I like variety in my comics. I've had discussions with others saying that anthologies often have one story they like, but are not worth buying for just that. Dark Horse Presents has reams of talent, and an even bigger talent pool on which to draw for future issues. This will be on my pull list far into the future and you should add it to yours, as it will introduce you to some of the best you haven't heard of, some of the best you haven't heard of in awhile, and in some cases the best period.
Review by: Martin John