DARK HORSE PRESENTS: The Good, The Bad and the Great

Today, Dark Horse Presents #10 hits comic book stores, marking 10 issues of the return of the landmark anthology series that as a long legacy of bringing some top comic talent, both new and old, to the eyes of readers.  To celebrate this occasion, I’m joined by iFanboy staff writer Matt Adler to break down the first 10 issues of Dark Horse Presents and give you a taste of what we liked, what we didn’t like and what we loved.

Now, before you start crying foul, we’ve focused on some of the surprises contained with in Dark Horse Presents, so we’re not highlighting the no-brainers like Hellboy, Beasts of Burden, Concrete or Finder and stories by creators like Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin and Mike Mignola. We know those are amazing comics and creators, and many of you know that all ready.  If you don’t know that, then run out and buy Dark Horse Presents or their specific titles, because it will be worth it!

 

The Good

The Massive by Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson

Dark Horse Presents #8 – #10

When they announced Brian Wood’s latest project at Dark Horse would reunite him with Supermarket artist Kristian Donaldson, I got excited. But I got a little less excited to hear that it would be coming out in the pages of Dark Horse Presents. I wanted it all in one volume! But boy was I wrong about this one.  I have to admit that breaking up the story and releasing it over time through Dark Horse Presents really worked in terms of giving me a taste of the story and leaving me to want more. Wood and Donaldson work great together, and when you think about the concept of an environmental disaster story, that’s a hard sell but they totally make it work.  I can’t wait to see more of “The Massive”. – Ron Richards

4 out of 5 stars

 

Number 13 by Robert Love and David Walker

Dark Horse Presents #2-6.

This is the kind of post-apocalyptic sci-fi that I love, the sort that doesn’t waste your time with a lot of pretentious scene-setting, and instead takes you straight into the visceral action. The story opens with a cannibalistic ogre gnawing on the leg of a young girl, who happens to still be alive… and it just gets wilder from there. And yet for all the carnage, there’s still an innocence to it that underlies the universal theme of its protagonist’s search for identity. – Matt Adler

 3.5 out of 5 stars

 

The Bad

Mr. Monster by Michael T. Gilbert

Dark Horse Presents #1-3

I appreciate what this feature is trying to do, in trying to send up the monster stories of comics’ Silver Age past. But the jokes too often fall flat, or seem repetitive. There might be the germ of a good idea here, something that might actually benefit from a slightly more serious treatment, but as it is, it’s a chore to read through. – Matt Adler

1 out of 5 stars

The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne by Rich Johnston and Simon Rohrmuller

Dark Horse Presents #8 – #10

The challenge with presenting content in an anthology with a legacy like Dark Horse Presents is that you need all the content to be the best it can be.  When a story isn’t as good as the others, it sticks out like a sore thumb that much more and that’s exactly what happened in “The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne”. An amateurish attempt at a clever murder mystery that didn’t quite get the job done for me. – Ron Richards

1 out of 5 stars

The Great

Change by Fabio Moon

Dark Horse Presents #6

Now, I know this one kind of breaks the rules above because we’re all pretty much aware of Fabio Moon’s talent.  But after marveling in Fabio Moon and his brother Gabriel Ba’s work in Daytripper, reading Moon’s solo story of “Change” brought me right back to where Daytripper took me.  There’s something so marvelous and subtle in Moon’s artwork and storytelling that really gets across the emotion of a story.  In “Change”, we get a subtle mix of science fiction, romance and optimism for life that left me all warm and fuzzy inside. That’s what you call, a win. – Ron Richards

5 out of 5 stars

Concrete Park by Tony Puryear

Dark Horse Presents #7 -9

How to describe this extremely offbeat serial? Perhaps as an urban fairytale, but this really isn’t something you’d want to read your kids to put them to sleep at night. In the Los Angeles of the “near future”, gangs are warring for supremacy as always, but in a world where law and order has broken down, the stakes are even higher. Still, it’s the characters more so than the setting that make this story compelling, from Isaac, a gangbanger who tries and fails to protect his young sister, to Luca, a high-roller who likes to use her sex appeal in negotiations but may now find herself in over her head. Puryear does a great job on both the visual and verbal fronts, and the result is a tale which even only three installments in has me hooked. – Matt Adler

4 out of 5 stars

 


That’s a look at some of the stories we enjoyed in Dark Horse Presents over the first 10 issues, but there were so many more. What stories did or didn’t work for you? What did you love? What did you hate?  Let us know in the comments below

 

Comments

  1. filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

    In general I’m not a big fan of anthologies but I’ve always been tempted by Dark Horse Presents. I will finally start picking it up with #11 for Francesco Francavilla’s Black Beetle (I’ll pick Francavilla’s cover variant). Lucky for me that this issue will also feature John Arcudi and Geof Darrow. I’m actually pretty excited by it.

  2. All in all i agree with your picks Ron except for the bad. I think you have to mention the Neal Adams story. It’s painful to read and look at. Oh and that really cool Harlan Ellison prose story was some fun to read.

  3. This is what I like about this series. A grouping of various stories in this medium which really work for a casual or uncommited reader, and good writers with artist whom can stretch there muscles for what is a short story.

  4. Personally, I found the Adams and Chaykin stories to be borderline unreadable. I’ve mostly been picking it up for the “big name” features I already know I would enjoy like Beasts of Burden and Concrete, but I’ve also been enjoying some of the other stuff like the Number 13 one and Resident Alien.

  5. I agree with MrGlass about Adams’ piece. “Blood” was pretty bad, although it did slightly redeem itself at points.

    However, my big issue with your ratings is your diss of “Miss Cranbourne,” which I thought was a cute, entertaining and fun story which is actually going somewhere pretty awesome if I’m right about what’s going on. I haven’t read this week’s installment yet, so maybe it took a turn for the worse…

    Finally, I think “Concrete Park” is really poorly structured, the flow of the story is interrupted every other page and there are too many characters flying by for me to care much about any of them at all. It’s the wrong story for the anthology, not Miss Cranbourne.

    Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

  6. “Dark Horse Presents! The Same bunch of artists and writers that have been around for the last 20 years” So lame. Give me Marvel’s “Strange Tales” any day of the week, Jason and Benjamin Mara, come on!

  7. The Very Very Very Very F***ing Bad: Neal Adam’s BLOOD

    I’ve been reading the new DHP since issue #1 and it has just been fantastic. If not without a handful of problems. The first issue wastes to much space on Previews (and Mr. Monster, and Blood). But after issue 2 it really hit the ground running.

    FINDER by Clara Speed McNeil and Howard Chaykin’s MARKED MAN are probably my favorite serials. SKELETON KEY was probably the most unexpectedly adorable thing I’ve ever read. Fabio Moon’s CHANGES, Paul Pope’s 1969, Dave Gibbons’ TREATMENT, and Eric Powell’s ISOLATION were some of the best short-form one-off comics ever printed. RESIDENT ALIEN was a great springboard for an on-going. And I hope NUMBER 13 gets the same treatment. But to be fair, I’d have actually much rather both stories just keep being serialized in DHP. I’m not entirely a fan of DHP space being used as a glorified preview for an on-going series.

    With the current content in issue #9/10. Shockingly I was rather disappointed in THE MASSIVE. Its narrative felt too all over the place, it didn’t sink its hooks in. CONCRETE PARK isn’t doing anything for me either. Surprisingly TARZAN has been a welcome surprise, but since when has Tarzan been Cadillacs & Dinosaurs? MISS CRANBOURN is largely harmless, I think 1 out 5 stars is way over reaching. The art’s pretty good. Evan Dorkin gives us new MILK & CHEESE, as well as new MURDER FAMILY. So… HOT DOG, I say. SKULTAR isn’t great. But AMALA’S BLADE could be.

    At any rate, DHP is some of the best value in comics right now. And for the most part its quality is through the roof, and if you want to see some of the best in experimental and old stand-by indie comics. This is where to find it.

  8. I’m gonna start picking up Dark Horse Presents with issue 13, I’m curios about The Ghost story that’s going to begin there. It also doesn’t hurt that the art will be done by Phil Noto.

  9. Being a Hellboy,B.P.R.D. and they’re spin off charter series like Lobster Johnson and Abe Sapien reader, I’m really surprised I haven’t ever picked up an issue of DHP, and pretty sure I just missed one with Lobster Johnson on the cover, (loving his The Burning Hand series and The Long Death right now).Many of the the talents I’ve loved and still am enjoying they’re work from have always contributed to DHP as well as countless other talents. I love the noir/pulp appeal of the Black Beetle and will check that issue out. Aside from the $7.99 price tag that’s kept me away, is there anything else I’m missing that is good enough to jump onboard or kept me away?

    • Finder, Skeleton Key, Marked Man, Resident Alien, Number 13, Concrete, Beasts of Burden; one-offs by Brandon Graham, Paul Pope, Eric Powell, Stan Sakai, Fabio Moon, and Dave Gibbons; up-coming stuff like Ghost, Black Beetle, new Mister X, and new Nexus.

      Its all around an excellent title in general. Blood is probably the weakest title it runs, and that looks to be largely over. So.. smooth sailing going forward.

  10. I think what’s great about a series like this is that it offers so much variety, which creates such wide differences of opinion. There are opinions here, both from Ron and other members, that I agree and disagree with.

    The one story I’ve been missing lately is the one with the alien that’s a doctor in a small town. I don’t remember that ever wrapping up, and it was a memorable story that I wanted to see continue.

    Eithe way, I dig the variety in this anthology and how often it can surprise you in both good and bad ways.

    • That’s Resident Alien, and its graduated to an on-going series. Issue 0 (reprinting the DHP stories) should be out soon. Issue 2 is soliciting in the next previews catalog. And I agree, it ended rather too abruptly in DHP. It really should have tried to finish its first thought in DHP. THEN became an on-going.

  11. I’m very happy I started reading DHP from #1 on. I’ve been introduced to some (new to me) great writers and artists that are on my radar for other books and titles they may be on. All in all its one of my favorite reads every month.

  12. …Every month this book is a Blessing & a Curse: The quality is some of Comics’ best [and I do mean cap c], teamed with a wallet-busting price.
    Still… I CAN’T stop getting this. Thanks, Dark Horse.