REVIEW: Dark Horse Presents #1

by

After a prolonged absence from the print medium, Dark Horse Presents returns. But will this return, with such creators as Paul Chadwick, Richard Corben, and Neal Adams, be a boon? Or a burden? Take the jump faithful Spoilerite to find out.

Dark Horse Presents #1
Stories and Art: Paul Chadwick; Howard Chaykin; Neal Adams; Carla Speed McNeil; Michael T. Gilbert; Frank Miller; Richard Corben; David Chelsea; Harlan Ellison; Leo and Diane Dillon; Randy Stradley; Paul Gulascy; Patrick Alexander
Colors: Jesus Aburto; Moose; Jenn Manley Lee and Bill Murdon; Michael Bartolo
Letters: Ken Bruzenak; Clem Robins; Michael Heisler
Covers and Spot Illustration: Paul Chadwick; Frank Miller with Dave Stewart; Paul Pope with Lovern Kindzierski; Geof Darrow
Editor: Mike Richardson
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Story Pages: 80
Cover Price: $7.99 USD

Previously, in Dark Horse Presents: Going from the print medium, then online as Myspace Dark Horse Presents, it has come full circle to that of print again – returning with new, and old tales, as well as creators.

BANG FOR YOUR BUCK?

Within the pages of DHP(Dark Horse Presents) you usually get a fair share of stories. This issue is no exception. Packed within this anthology are 4 first chapters, including Howard Chaykin’s Marked Man; Neal Adams’ Blood; Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder: Third World; and Richard Corben’s Murky World. The issue also includes 3 one-shot stories, including Paul Chadwick’s Concrete; Michael T. Gilbert’s Mr. Monster vs. Oooak!; David Chelsea’s Snow Angel, as well as two one page strips by Patrick Alexander; Harlan Ellison’s illustrated prose tale, How Interesting: A Tiny Man; a prequel to the upcoming Star Wars: Crimson Empire III; a interview of Frank Miller; and a four page preview of Frank Miller’s prequel to 300, Xerxes.

Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff under the cover, but how are the stories? The Concrete tale is interesting, and deals with how the world around our protagonist has tangible humanity but squanders it, while he is trapped within a alien visage. The story could be kind of confusing for someone who has never read a Concrete story, but I think that if they like it they will travel to their local comic book store, or online equivalent to be able to read up on the character. The Concrete story is in my opinion the best tale in the entire book.

But then you have something like Neal Adams’ Blood. I thought it might be a straight forward, and entertaining tale of a one man crime buster versus the mob, as his fellow cops have been bought and paid for by the crooks. Which is exactly how I read into it as. But the Adams Twist comes into play and a brutal crime/action tale turns into space opera in the span of 8 pages. I don’t know if it’d be even on the same level as those Z grade movies that air on Saturday nights on Syfy, but if confusion is your thing, then by all means have at it. I don’t have any hopes that chapter two will be any better, but hell, I could be wrong. Though the story isn’t the best, the expressive art is pretty dang good, and for a man coming up on his 70th birthday, that artistic ability is something that no one could disparage him for.

Finder: Third World was a tale that was easily accessible, and something that I quite enjoyed. It actually made me want to go back and finish reading the Finder Volume 1 Hardcover that I have. It was a well constructed, and told a tale with interesting characters, and great scenarios peppered throughout. The Mr. Monster story is a throw back to the old Marvel Comics Tales to Astonish where you’d have this big old monster come to town, and it works great. The artwork by Gilbert does seem a little rushed, but not to a extent to make me skip over the tale. The story is pure bubble gum, so not a deep story at all, but why should that matter when it’s entertaining?

Both Marked Man, and Murky World are kind of murky indeed. I really haven’t cared for Chaykin’s computer assisted artwork from the past few years, I really loved his art on his American Flagg series from the ’80s. The artwork by Chaykin in this issue does at times come across as too stiff, and somewhat distracting. As for Corben’s Murky World the artwork is fantastic. Using only black, white, and gray, the atmosphere that Corben generates is spooky, and gorgeous. His artwork has only gotten better over the years. Being first chapters, the stories didn’t really hook me, and they didn’t have cliffhanger endings, and that might have helped. But with the two creators being Chaykin and Corben, I have a feeling in the long run, I am in good hands.

Snow Angel was a fun little romp, that was well crafted, and illustrated since the story is mostly visually based. The colors on it really stand out, and fit it really well, and enhance the tale. The two short strips by Patrick Alexander, titled “Aaaaaaaaaaah”, and “Personality Quiz” aren’t that bad, but really nothing to write home about. Ellison’s prose story, How Interesting: A Tiny Man was actually quite good, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it. I am one of these comic fans that shy away from walls of text. But it was good, and short.

The chapter with Star Wars: Crimson Empire III, that had artwork by Paul Gulacy wasn‘t all that bad. If you like Gulacy art, you will probably like the story.  It’s pretty hit or miss with me on Gulacy art, especially when it’s supposed to be an established character such as Princess Leia. Since I never read any of the Star Wars expanded universe novels or comics, I was kind of lost here. The writer, Randy Stradley does his best to inform me who they are, but it just didn’t click. The characters didn’t really come off as all that interesting, and it to me, the whole thing feels like Star Wars in name only.

The Q&A with Frank Miller by Editor/Publisher at Dark Horse, Mike Richardson, is good, and his discussion about Xerxes was very informative, kind of Ancient History primer of sorts. Plus, the four-page preview of Xerxes within makes me actually want to pick it up.  The artwork is great, and will look better with color. Xerxes seems to be more epic than 300, I hope Frank can deliver on it. The “camp fire” tale will not be focused on one battle, and one group, but the span of a decade, and including the battle of Marathon.

FINAL VERDICT: DHP ME, PLEASE!

The pedigree of the creative contributors alone should have you out to go and pick it up, and a 85% to 90% of the content within the comic is good to great. Though it’s a quarterly it might take the sting out of the cover price, but with only 4 issues a year a weaker comics fan may falter, and drop the book.  I know I will be there at my LCS for the second issue of DHP, will you?

In closing, Dark Horse Presents #1 receives 4.5 Stars, out of 5.

Rating: ★★★★½