Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Archive for the 'Reviews – Dark Horse' Category

Time in a Butthole

Posted by Don MacPherson on 29th March 2015

VariantPast Aways #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Scott Kolins
Colors: Bill Crabtree
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Kolins (regular edition)/Kindt (variant)
Editor: Brendan Wright
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99 US

When I first learned of this new title, I was immediately interested, given the involvement of artist Scott Kolins. His is such a distinct and strong visual voice in comics storytelling, I’m always up for more work from him. Unfortunately, there was also something off-putting in the promotional material for this series: the title itself. The punny nature of “Past Aways” makes me think the play on words is the starting point for the story instead of an actual plot or cast of characters. It feels like Kindt came up with “Past Aways” and worked his way backward from that. Maybe that’s not the case, but that’s the impression I got when I heard of the book. Nevertheless, I wanted to see what the creators had in store here, and unfortunately, the title pretty much sums up the plot on the nose. I could live with that, but after reading this inaugural issue, I found I wasn’t interested in spending time with these characters. Almost all of them are unpleasant in some way, and that makes it hard to care about what happens to them. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | Comments Off on Time in a Butthole

Odder Couple

Posted by Don MacPherson on 9th April 2013

Buddy Cops one-shot
Writer: Nate Cosby
Artist/Cover artist: Evan Shaner
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Jim Gibbons
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99 US

This one-shot collects three short stories that ran in Dark Horse Presents #s 14-16, and apparently, I’ve been missing out since I stopped following that title. I stopped reading it regularly because like most anthologies, it tended to be a mixed bag. But apparently, the best features in DHP aren’t just good, they’re great, if these comedic strips are any indication. This over-the-top satire of the buddy-cop genre is peppered with sci-fi elements, making for an experience as surreal as it is silly. And yes, I mean that in a good way. The only truly disappointing thing about this weird and wonderful comic book is a hyphenated term on the cover: “one-shot.” I desperately hope this isn’t the last we see of these oddball, genre cop characters. The dialogue and juxtaposition of so many ludicrous, over-the-top story elements and designs are unrelentingly hilarious. This reprint comic is bound to fly under the radar for many readers, but it’s well worth the effort to seek out a copy. I owe my local comics retailer a big thank you for putting one in my hands. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | 3 Comments »

Full Nelsons and Full Moons

Posted by Don MacPherson on 9th November 2011

Hellboy: House of the Living Dead original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Cover artist: Mike Mignola
Artist: Richard Corben
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Clem Robins
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $14.99 US/$16.99 CAN

The storytelling in this hardcover book is a bizarre and wondrous mish-mash of classic Universal Pictures movie monsters and the cheesy appeal of masked Mexican wrestlers. Hellboy creator and writer Mike Mignola manages to instill a campy, fanciful quality into the story while maintaining a macabre and melancholy mood that immerses the reader in the title character’s personal drama. This graphic novel sums up everything there is to love about Hellboy and his weird world. I absolutely loved the story and art… and after purchasing and reading it, I honestly wished I’d paid closer attention to the solicitation information before I committed to it. For only 49 or 50 pages of story and art, 15 bucks is pretty steep. As a lover of great comics, I was thrilled with this book and thoroughly entertained by the storytelling. As a consumer, I have to confess to some disappointment. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | Comments Off on Full Nelsons and Full Moons

Kitchen Party

Posted by Don MacPherson on 14th November 2010

The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen
Artist/Commentary: Denis Kitchen
Essays: Neil Gaiman & Charles Brownstein
Editors: John Lind & Diana Schutz
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Price: $34.99 US

Like a lot of comics readers — not all, mind you, but a lot — I discovered the wonder of the medium through the super-hero genre. I remain a fan of both the medium and the genre today (obviously), but as an adult comics reader, I’ve enjoyed discovered different corners of the medium and industry, different applications, different histories. I’ve been aware of Denis Kitchen as a publisher for decades, but I really knew little of the man as an artist. My tastes tend to run a little more mainstream, so I never really happened upon his work before or chose to seek it out. Though this is billed as an art book, it’s really much more. It’s a history of an important and vital aspect of the comics industry from years gone by. While the art featured in this book is reproduced from originals in Kitchen’s own files, just as interesting as the images are Kitchen’s own commentaries on the selected pieces. The ease with which Kitchen moves between different roles in the creative and business processes is impressive, as is his apparent comfort with moving between different sectors of the industry and society. Kitchen somehow manages to embody respectability and rebellion at once, and while he helped to push comics into the future with his underground comics and publishing savvy, he also built bridges with the medium’s past in the form of friendships and partnerships with the men who helped to establish it in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | Comments Off on Kitchen Party

Halloweek – Hellboy/Beasts of Burden #1

Posted by Don MacPherson on 30th October 2010

Variant coverHellboy/Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice one-shot
Writers: Evan Dorkin & Mike Mignola
Artist: Jill Thompson
Letters: Jason Arthur
Cover artists: Thompson/Mignola (variant cover)
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.50 US

Well, it’s the day before Halloween, and I needed something else fitting my Halloween theme to review on the site, so as I thumbed the stack of comics on my desk, I happened upon something perfect: a comic featuring two fun properties that are firmly entrenched in supernatural adventure. This Hellboy/Beasts of Burden one-shot hits all of the right notes. There are enough dark, creepy elements to make for a deliciously dark atmosphere, but it’s balanced nicely with some strong personality and goofy interplay among some colorful characters. The creators pull off this crossover quite well, but this is a natural pairing of concepts and characters. While I wouldn’t want to see Dorkin, Thompson and Mignola return to this trough too often, I also hope this isn’t the last time these characters cross paths. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | Comments Off on Halloweek – Hellboy/Beasts of Burden #1

Shades and Grey

Posted by Don MacPherson on 19th October 2009

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #4
Writer/Cover artist: Mike Mignola
Artist: Ben Stenbeck
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Clem Robins
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I don’t think Mike Mignola and his various collaborators have ever released a poor Hellboy or B.P.R.D. comic book, and I’m sure there are thousands of fans who never miss an issue. I can’t help but wonder if Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder, a title that lurks on the periphery of the Mignola-verse, might slip by those fans. If so, they’d be well advised to check out this Victorian monster-hunting story. Mignola captures the same sort of gothic vibe and sense of dark adventure he does in his other titles, and it’s spiced up with an interesting dose of historical fiction. History has always played an important role in his Hellboy comics, so it’s fun to sample a similar story that’s actually immersed in that history. This penultimate issue of this limited series doesn’t read as such. Mignola keeps ramping the story up, introducing new characters that add to the intrigue and mystery. The writer also has a knack for partnering with artists who are skilled at incorporating the unique Mignola style into their work while still instilling their own unique styles into the storytelling, and Ben Stenbeck is no exception. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | 1 Comment »

The Beginning of the End (League)

Posted by Don MacPherson on 25th January 2009

The End League: Volume One trade paperback
Writer: Rick Rememder
Pencils: Mat Broome & Eric Canete
Inks: Sean Parsons & Eric Canete
Colors: Wendy Broome, James Rochelle & Naomi Baker
Editor: Dave Land
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $12.95 US

Rick Remender has slowly but surely transformed himself into one of the more prolific and relief-upon writers in American comics today. He’s always got work on the go from Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse Comics, and some of his work is quite strong. A recent highlight was the recent launch of Gigantic, another ongoing title from Dark Horse. Given that track record, it was with some interest that I approach the first collected edition of his dystopian super-hero saga, The End League. Promotional copy on the back of this book bills it “a thematic merging of The Lord of the Rings and Watchmen.” It’s not an apt description at all. Remender clearly has a lot he wants to say about and do to the various archetypes of the super-hero genre; actually what’s really clear is that he has too much to say. This opening storyline — consisting of the first four issues of the series — is scattered, shifting focus repeatedly. The expansive nature of the cast of characters is overwhelming. The unfortunate thing is that the initial premise — what happened when Superman screws up? — is an interesting one, but it’s buried by what seems like a multitude of other plotlines. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | Comments Off on The Beginning of the End (League)

By Hook or By Crook

Posted by Don MacPherson on 13th November 2008

Hellboy: The Crooked Man #s 1-3
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Richard Corben
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Clem Robins
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99 US each

With two feature films and several animated features on the market, Hellboy certainly has a remarkably strong degree of pop-culture penetration going in his favor. There’s so much potential inherent in the property, and creator Mike Mignola demonstrates it once again with another limited series. He should also be applauded for allowing a diverse array of artists to tackle his creation; it’s no surprise that Richard Corben, who’s proven as a top-notch horror artist, excels in Hellboy’s world. This was a thoroughly accessible story. One of the elements that impressed me the most, though, was that despite the backdrop, Mignola doesn’t go for any easy redneck gags, opting instead to treat people in the Appalachians as a proud culture in and of itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | 2 Comments »

Hybrid Vehicle

Posted by Don MacPherson on 23rd October 2008

XS Hybrid Vol. 1 graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Song Ji-Hyung
Translation: Jay So
Lettering: Kathryn Renta
Editor: Tim Ervin
Publisher: Dark Horse/Dark Horse Manwha
Price: $10.95 US

This Korean comic was originally published in 2003, but it made its way westward last year thanks to Dark Horse Comics and its line of translated manwha books. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Asian comics in the past, but there have been some select titles that caught my attention and impressed. The simple but slick design for this book caught my eye, and the blurb on the back led me to sit down and give it a read. Song Ji-Hyung certainly brings a lot of personality and attitude to his characters, and his linework brings an undeniable energy and lightspeed-quick pace to the action. It seems clear to me that Song is more of an artist than a writer. The focus in on the visuals; there’s not nearly enough information conveyed through dialogue or captions in order for the reader to follow the story rather than the action. The first half of the book is confusing, and the central plot only just begins to come into focus in the latter chapters of this volume. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | Comments Off on Hybrid Vehicle

You Can Feed These Ones After Midnight

Posted by Don MacPherson on 22nd May 2008

Return of the Gremlins #1
“Return of the Gremlins, Part 1 of 3”
Writer: Mike Richardson
Pencils: Dean Yeagle
Backgrounds: Nelson Rhodes
Colors: Dan Jackson
Letters: Michael David Thomas
“The Gremlins”
Artists: Walt Disney Studio
Color restoration: Dan Jackson
Editor: Dave Land
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’d heard tell of this little-known Disney property but didn’t know much beyond the look of the characters and the name. The premise behind it is surprisingly compelling. With the new story that serves as the real meat of this issue, Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson really captures a strong sense of Disney magic. The plot is predictable, but it’s so charming that one can’t help but be enthralled. The same goes for Dean Yeagle’s art, which takes its cues from the familiar, comforting Disney style. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | Comments Off on You Can Feed These Ones After Midnight

Academic Discourse

Posted by Don MacPherson on 1st January 2008

UA #1 second printingThe Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite #s 1 & 2
Writer: Gerard Way
Artist: Gabriel Ba
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Blambot
Cover Artist: James Jean (Gabriel Ba for #1 second print)
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99 US each

The biggest factor that’s gone into the marketing of this property is the participation of music star Gerard Way. Personally, I don’t know the difference between My Chemical Romance and the Chemical Brothers, so that other-media fame isn’t a lure in my book. The greatest strength of The Umbrella Academy is the incredible balance between the surreal Silver Age wonder of the concepts and the heartfelt emotions that drive these bizarre characters and serve to bring them down to earth. Way and Ba’s collection of oddball, dysfunctional heroes represent a delightful slice of the creators’ imagination, but they prove to be compelling, fragile souls as well. They have power in droves, but happiness seems to elude them. One can recognize elements from the dynamics of how their family functions (or doesn’t) in one’s own life as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | Comments Off on Academic Discourse

People Are Strange, When You’re a Strangewell

Posted by Don MacPherson on 10th September 2007

Maxwell Strangewell original graphic novel
Writers/Artists: Matthew Fillbach & Shawn Fillbach
Editor: Dave Land
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $19.95 US

According to Dark Horse’s website, the Fillbach Brothers’ previous claim to fame is some popular work on the Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures digests. Now, while Maxwell Strangewell is a science-fiction story, it’s a radically different sort of story than some Lucasfilm spinoff. There’s a distinctly philosophical and surreal quality to this book that’s quite appealing. Now, the ultimate granola message of the story is rather obvious (and spelled out far too plainly by the book’s end), but it never fails to amuse. Furthermore, the cast of characters is expansive, and early on in the book, the reader can never be sure if each new character or alien contingent is a protagonist or villain. There’s a complexity to the structure of the dramatis personae that’s appealing. Maxwell Strangewell isn’t quite as deep as it seems at first, but it’s solidly entertaining from start to finish. As I read through the first couple of chapters, it reminded me of other samples of pop culture I’ve enjoyed in the past. Have you ever seen the movie Starman, John Carpenter’s sci-fi love story featuring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen? Maxwell Strangewell is like that movie, had it been written and directed by Tim Burton. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | Comments Off on People Are Strange, When You’re a Strangewell

Handheld TV

Posted by Don MacPherson on 25th July 2007

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #s 1-4
“The Long Way Home” Parts One through Four
Writer: Joss Whedon
Pencils: Georges Jeanty
Inks: Andy Owens
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artist: Jo Chen
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99 US per issue

From what I can gather, the announcement a few months back that Joss Whedon was going to continue the TV saga of a certain vampire slayer in the comic-book medium was met with glee on the part of the show’s diehard fans, but I assumed that the appeal of the new title would be limited to that crowd alone. Of course, I realized I shouldn’t assume anything about a particular comic book. The new series has performed well for Dark Horse, of course, and Whedon has written a few non-Buffy comics that I enjoyed in the past. With that in mind, I delved into the first four issues of the Buffy “Season Eight” series. While there are a lot of references to Buffy’s TV continuity, I was surprised to find that the plot is fairly easy to follow. Whedon has taken a much more ambitious approach to the vampire-slayer mythology, and the dialogue, unencumbered by U.S. television’s Standards and Practices people, is snappy and entertaining. Nevertheless, the subplots and revelations of this series are clearly intended for fans, not for new readers. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | 12 Comments »

Ghosts in the Machine

Posted by Don MacPherson on 26th March 2007

B.P.R.D.: The Universal Machine trade paperback
Writers: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi
Artist: Guy Davis
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artist: Mignola
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Price: $17.95 US

Mike Mignola’s decision some time ago to shift the Hellboy property to a series of limited series about his colleagues in the B.P.R.D. was a wise choice. He’s managed to avoid telling repetitive stories featuring Hellboy and how his toughness and grounded nature ultimately enable him to come out of supernatural scrapes intact, and the shift has also provided Mignola and co-writer John Arcudi to explore more character-based stories by fleshing out the supporting characters and adding to the cast. The writers take a split approach to the storytelling here, as they offer up a plotline about an intellectual quest that turns dangerous as well as a number of shorter stories that delve into the past and personalities of the members of the core team. It makes for a well-balanced and accessible read. And if ever there was an artist whose style was as well suited to the surreal and gothic, supernatural world that the B.P.R.D. patrols as Mike Mignola’s, it’s Guy Davis’s. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | 3 Comments »

Sakai It to Me

Posted by Don MacPherson on 18th March 2007

Usagi Yojimbo #100
Writers: Stan Sakai, Mike Richardson, Frank Miller, Diana Schutz, Sergio Aragones, Jamie S. Rich, Jeff Smith, Mark Evanier & Guy Davis
Artists: Sakai, Rick Geary, Miller, Matt Wagner, Aragones, Andi Watson, Smith, Scott Shaw! & Davis
Letters: Sakai, Geary, Miller, Tom Orzechowski, Watson, Smith & Shaw!
Cover artist: Sakai
Editor: Schutz
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.50 US

Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo has been a mainstay of the comic-book industry for more than two decades. When people think of longtime, successful comic-book creators who work outside of the dominant super-hero genre, names such as Dave (Cerebus) Sim and Jeff (Bone) Smith come to mind. Sakai has earned a place among such creators with his single-minded dedication to this property, which he has guided single-handedly over the years. This 100th issue of the current Dark Horse series doesn’t feature a milestone story in the life of the title character or a climactic conclusion to a long-running plotline. Instead, it’s a jam issue in which the creator, not the character, is honored by colleagues in a colorful, roast-like fashion. Even if one isn’t familiar with the rabbit samurai hero of the series, this self-contained, tongue-in-cheek issue offers up an entertaining and frank look at the culture and camaraderie of the comic-book industry. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | 6 Comments »