Kabuki! Resident Alien! The Big Guy and Rusty The Boy Robot! It’s the return of Dark Horse Comics’ most beloved anthology series, with a whole new volume of stories featuring favorites new and old… Your Major Spoilers review of Dark Horse Presents #1 awaits!
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #1
Writer: Geof Darrow/David Mack/Peter Hogan/Brendan McCarthy/Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray/Damon Gentry
Artist: Geof Darrow/David Mack/Steve Parkhouse/Brendan McCarthy/Andy Kuhn
Colorist: Dave Stewart/John RauchArron Conley/Joseph Bergin III
Letterer: Peter Doherty/Steve Parkhouse/Nate Piekos of Blambot/John J. Hill/Damon Gentry
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Previously in Dark Horse Presents: Way back in the late 1980s, (cue Rodrigo singing A Flock of Seagulls) upstart publisher Dark Horse Comics introduced Dark Horse Presents, an anthology title to showcase new and upcoming creators and their wacky ideas. The series featured the likes of Concrete (in his very first appearance), Hellboy, the very first Sin City stories Frank Miller ever did, as well as licensed tales from Dark Horse’s large library, including key moments in the Star Wars expanded universe. DHP was a phenomenal success for the era, lasting to the dawn of the 21st Century, and getting a couple of noteworthy revamps since then, including one that was entirely driven by social media. (Let it not be said that they’re not willing to take risks at Dark Horse.) Now, the legendary anthology is back with a new volume, giving a new voice to independent creators.
BUT HOW DOES IT STACK UP?
Ironically for an industry accused of playing into the eternal youth of man-boys who refuse to grow up, nothing makes me feel older than comic books. Case in point: This issue’s cover, featuring The Big Guy and Rusty, characters whom I remember Otter Disaster being impressed by when they first debuted WAAAAAY back in our college days. I had forgotten, however, what a pointed satire it is, especially this issue’s story, taking place at the beach on the 4th of July. Geof Darrow’s super-detailed art is in rare form here, giving us a beach full of bored, tattooed and utterly jaded people and also a huge tide of filth. Big Guy’s rather one-sided battle with a mysterious kaiju is offset by Rusty trying to handle crowd-control, with entertaining results. A short story of David Mack’s Kabuki immediately follows that, and if you could find a more divergent set of stories to transition between, I salute you. Full of mystery, metaphor and meaning, the chapter of Kabuki is beautifully illustrated and confusing as all hell, in the nicest way possible. It also seems to be a setup for a new story, but whether it’s going to be entirely within these pages, or this is a kickoff to a new Kabuki book is unclear. Another chapter of ‘Resident Alien’ has title alien Icarus setting out on his own, and winning a stake in Las Vegas to build a new life, while paying off his old debts with honor. I’m liking both the story and art there, while a Brendan McCarthy short called “Dream Gang” is fascinating on both fronts, with a hook strong enough to make me want to read more.
LOTS TO LIKE HERE
I’m less positive about the first chapter of ‘Wrestling With Demons’ from Palmiotti and Gray, partly because an 11-year-old girl being put in danger is the central plot point, and the art is a bit sketchier than I like, but the super-trippy stream-of-consciousness narrative of Sabertooth Swordsman wraps the whole issue up in a bow with a fun, haphazard story of a mercenary trying to recover his stolen pants. I think… Either way, there’s not a real clunker in the lineup, as even ‘Wrestling’ has some compelling bits in the narrative, while the best of the issue reminds me of the wonderful lost anthologies past, like Epic Magazine and classic Heavy Metal. What’s even more impressive is the price tag, only a dollar more than the premium titles from the big two with nearly twice the content, a much better value than DC’s NINE DOLLAR anthology books that have been popping up lately. The biggest problem with the book, as with any anthology, is one of interest, and keeping the readers interested month over month, but Dark Horse has been playing the short story game for a long time, and I am very much interested in seeing what they have up their collective sleeves.
THE BOTTOM LINE: WORTH YOUR TIME
The original DHP title ran for 15 years and over 150 issues, and has some real star-making turns in it, even if it also gave us Sin City. (*rimshot*) This issue shows a lot of potential, and there are some really engaging moments to be had, as well as a great balance of stories and art-styles throughout the issue. I’m really wanting to read more of ‘Resident Alien’ and ‘Dream Gang’ after these cool first chapters, and even interested in more Kabuki, a title that has historically left me cold. In short, Dark Horse Presents #1 shows off Dark Horse’s mastery of packaging and assembling these type of books, and reminds me how much I miss really good anthology titles, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. Don’t let the multiple stories format throw you: This is a good comic book.