Friday, November 23, 2012

Recommended Reading for 11/22: Dark Horse Presents

I'm sitting, attempting to write after a thoroughly huge Thanksgiving dinner, and have a trip out to visit my in-laws tomorrow, so I am lacking in both time and energy, but how can I leave my loyal readers without a little something to read over the long weekend? This is going to be a short recommended reading, but it's something different and impressive.

Anthologies aren't big in mainstream comics anymore. We might get one or two a year, but that's about it. But a year and a half ago, Dark Horse returned to publishing its venerable Dark Horse Presents anthology, the book that gave us Concrete, Sin City, and a lot of early Hellboy in its original incarnation in the 90s and early 00s. The new anthology is an eight dollar comic with at least eighty pages of comics per issue, and sometimes over one hundred, and no adds, so you're not going to find a better deal for your money. But what makes it even better is the sheer variety of stories. Even if you don't like every story in a given issue, you're bound to find something you like.

Among the offerings over the course of the first eighteen issues of the new Dark Horse Presents, there have been a good number of stories from established properties. The first issue alone featured a Concrete story, hearkening back to the first issue of the first volume, as well as a Star Wars story, and a preview of the upcoming prequel to Frank Miller's 300, Xerxes. Since then, we have gotten stories from various corners of the Hellboy Universe, including tales of Lobster Johnson and the funeral for Hellboy, a continuing feature from Carla Speed McNeil's wonderful Finder, a Criminal Macabre short, and an Alien piece by John Layman and Sam Keith. Dark Horse also has begun relaunching its old superhero line with Ghost, which is currently running as a miniseries but got its start as a short in Dark Horse Presents.

But one of the real pleasures of an anthology like this, though, is discovering new characters and concepts, and there have been a couple that have really jumped out at me. Nate Cosby's Buddy Cops is the story of two partners, one of whom is a by the book robot and the other who is a superpowered alien who has been banished to Earth for being too... overzealous (meaning overly violent). It's a crazy fun series of short stories that play on both sci-fi tropes and cop movie tropes. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are working on a sci-fi mystery series called "The Deep Sea," where, after 50 years, a lost deep sea sub returns with its crew completely unaged.

The highlight of new concepts for me has been The Black Beetle. Francesco Francavilla, whose work on Detective Comics and Black Panther: The Man Without Fear made him one of my favorite artists in comics and each work since has moved him higher in my estimation, writes and draws this excellent pulp influenced story. The Black Beetle is a pulp mystery man who fights a group of Nazis trying to steal an artifact from a museum. Its a standard set up, but Francavilla tells the story with such visual energy that you can't help be drawn in, and sets up mysteries about what the Nazis are up to and about the Beetle himself that I am excited to see answered in the upcoming Black Beetle mini-series.

I've just touched on a handful of stories from these first eighteen issues of Dark Horse Presents, and that isn't even scratching the surface. Do you like horror? Check out Richard Corben's Poe adaptations. Want some humor? Evan Dorkin has done new Milk & Cheese. In the mood for crime? Dark Horse is resurrecting the classic series Crime Does Not Pay. And this most recent issue saw the return of classic 40s comic hero Captain Midnight. Go out and pick up and issue of Dark Horse Presents and I challenge you to say there wasn't one story in there you enjoyed.

Dark Horse Presents is released monthly from Dark Horse comics, and the serials are often collected into one shot issue 0s of  upcoming mini-series. The Black Beetle: Night Shift #0, collecting the full serial will be released in December, with The Black Beetle: No Way Out #1 debuting in January.

No comments: