Welcome to another addition of Dark Horse Comics Round Up with Digga D (and some thoughts from Vincent)! With Halloween right around the corner we have a bunch of reviews for Dark Horse’s occult and horror themed comics like Hellboy, Frankenstein, and some vampire stuff! We’ve also got reviews of new Star Wars, Conan and Killjoys.
Story: Steve Niles
Art: Christopher Mitten
I’ve seen Criminal Macabre for a while, and for some strange reason, I’ve never dived in. It has always seemed kind of neat, but I never sprang. I’m kicking myself now. The story here is Cal McDonald is teamed up with Frankenstein at the start. Frankie seems a bit depressive, but good all the same. Cal’s a bit abrasive and kind of a jerk. They make their way to Cal’s assistant’s house (a ghoul by the name of Mo’Lock). Apparently Frankenstein’s eyes aren’t so good and he wants to be able to see better. They try some store bought glasses and they just make him look ridiculous. The threesome meander their way to a Dr. Strange type dude that is master of the dark arts for help with Frankie’s eyes.
The book was a super-fun Halloween read. It’s got some fantastic humor in the writing, but also the art. Both writing and art are fantastic through-out the book as well. I’m sure there are some jokes that may have been funnier if I knew the characters beforehand (if they were introduced prior). I’m normally not a Steve Niles guy, but I though this was him at prime-form. I’m a sucker for Frankenstein stories, and this didn’t disappoint in the slightest. If you like dark humor buddy stories, this one will get you right in the funnies.
Script: Mike Gagerman and Andrew Waller
Story by Etan Cohen
Art: Evan Shaner
Vampires and Zombies, zombies and vampires. Have we had enough yet? Well… One of the characters in this story has. We lead off with some white kid tired of being a vampire and looking for a blood transfusion during the equinox. There’s a human that is dying of cancer and wants to become a vampire and there’s a bummed out friend that is going to miss his BFF (and forever would be right). The vampire who no longer wants to be is with a human girl and wants to just be human. There’s bad vampires, good vampires and vampire hunters… all kinds of things going on here. Apparently the human that wants to be a vampire will be the end of the world. Maybe this would all make more sense before issue 3.
So the story was penned by the same guy that brought us Tropic Thunder (Not Ethan Cohen, co-writer/director of some of the best movies ever made), so I was expecting a bit more. This comic was fine for what it was, but I’m not itching to get back to the other 2. There’s quit quips that are smirk worthy, and the pacing is good, but I wasn’t in love with it. Maybe I’m just getting tired of the undead as a writing trope. It was interesting to see a vamp wanting to be un-vamped, but other than that, the whole vampire thing has been sucked dry.
Vincent’s Viewpoint: I have enjoyed this title thus far and I wanted to provide a counterpoint to Digga D’s review, but I ran out of time to read this issue. *sad trombone*
Art and re-telling Richard Corben
So here we have to very common and well known Poe stories re-told again. Both are tied together with a Mag Hag (kind of like a Crypt Keeper a’la Tales From the Crypt) I’ll break off each story into their own paragraph:
The Raven. We all know it, once upon a midnight dreary. So this book doesn’t do the full poem and kind of takes a more liberal approach to it, which is fine. Corben takes it in a little bit different of direction than I’ve ever known, but still good. The art here is awesome and not a bad quick Raven tale for an October evening.
Masque of the Red Death: This one impressed me more than the Raven’s retelling. So this story is being told to the Mag Hag from a survivor of the Red Masquerade. If you’re a fan of tale, this one won’t disappoint. The colors and art really pop here and help catapult the story.
If you like a Poe book in October, maybe check this one out. Purists might be disappointed, but if you want the essence with some good art, check it out. Quick pacing and the art make this a fun read.
Itty Bitty Hellboy
Art: Art Baltazar
So just like Marvel and DC, Dark Horse has taken it’s biggest name character and made it a kid’s book… and I couldn’t be more happy. I know they’ve done Hellboy Junior (and I loved that) and this is a bit more kiddy than that. Here you have a bunch of lil’ stories with Hellboy and all your favorite BPRD characters (and Lobster Johnson!) There’s a story involving Pancakes (obviously) the cloning of Roger and a bunch of mini-demons going all star-crazy over Hellboy. All of them are still tied together, but who cares about that.
Is this going to be for all families? No. There’s Hell and demons used in a cute ways. I know as a father, if my daughter wants to read Itty Bitty Hellboy, I’ll be stoked. I’ve already read the free Halloween issue given at my local comic shop… she drooled in excitement! Well, or she drooled because she’s teething, but that’s besides the point! The art in here is super cute and the stories were just fun to read. If you have kids and are looking for a fun little romp, give this one a whirl. If you’ve been a long time Hellboy fan and miss some of the gang, pick it up! If you are a fundamentalist and are in no way going to let your child read something with Hell in the name, there are other fantastic comics for you to look at for you child.
Vincent’s Viewpoint: If you are a fundamentalist and are reading this website, what is wrong with you? Have I not done my job enough to turn you off? I really need to put up more scantly clad pictures of ladies…
Star Wars: Dark Times #4
Script Randy Stradley
Art: Douglas Wheatley
This was the first of the Star Wars comics I’ve read for the Robots PJs that I actually liked. I may not know the characters, but the writing felt real. In this, there’s a group of refugees landing on a planet with that the Empire is hunting. Vader catches wind and they prepare for a land assault. There’s a bit of anger at the war coming to this planet. The group sits down to what could be a final celebratory meal and prepare for war.
I think what I liked about this SW comic is the dialogue felt real. The dinner felt like it was a pre-war meal.
Vader was used well as an ominous villain as well. The art was pretty sweet and the characters felt believable. Like I said, since this is before the big battle that the entire run was built off of, I could only get glimpses into these characters and they all felt right. I may actually want to check this one out from the beginning if it gets a trade run. Not too shabby!
King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon #6
Script: Timothy Truman
Artist: Tom’as Giorello
In this issue of Conan, The King takes on a squadron of alien ships and the reanimated corpse of Ernest Borgnine. No… that’s not what happened. Conan roles into town, people bow to him. There’s people with scars. He leaves again, ALONE and comes into some city. They let him in because he’s a bad-ass fighter. Then he fights a corpse. Then more people want to fight Conan. Is there anything different in the world of Conan?
Totally lost on this one… The art is great. Not sure about the story as it just felt like a bunch of stuff happened that I’m not sure why or what the outcome was. But… it’s another Conan book. The art was neat though. For a cover featuring King Conan versus a horde of undead, there was only one pithy ghoul. I kind of hope they Game of Thrones Conan soon and end his reign.
Vincent’s Viewpoint I’ve never heard of such holy blasphemy. But yeah, there’s a lot of Conan comic books.
Everything: Shannon Wheeler
From the fantastic brain that brought us “Too Much Coffee Man” comes Astounding Villain House. This is a multi story issue like TMCM, which are all small self contained stories. There’s a story where the Squid and Pachyderm attempt to get out of prison, a first date with a gal that has dated super-villains, A villain tries to do right by getting out of parole early and how the Mole-King is trying to unionize the Mole-people and the Fantastic Family is poised to stop his brand of villainy… or communism. Each story has a wink and a nod to everyday comic book heroes, villains and cliches. Like Shannon Wheeler’s other works, the comedy is dry and witty. Each story brings a completely different feel and are fun to read.
I didn’t know this was Shannon Wheeler’s book until I started reading it. I’ve loved reading Too Much Coffee Man and most of Wheeler’s web-comics. His biting satire never gets too heavy handed and both sides of the aisle can end up cleaning the egg of their collective faces. If you enjoy the art styles of the old “Zap Comics” crowd, you will be into this book. I’m a huge fan of C-list villain and hero stories and this was right up my alley. If you like the Flaming Carrot, Mystery Men, Jeffery Brown’s Big Head, and the Tick, give this book a whirl. If you like this book, then go ahead and check out Wheeler’s Too much Coffee Man. If you enjoy that book, give yourself a high-five for being rad!
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist Eduardo Francisco
Huh… Okay, so usually before I start reading I go on to Dark Horse’s site and look up the upcoming comics. I saw this was on the way for the week. I judged the $#!+ out of this cover. In the same vain as Captain America, Cap Midnight disappears during WWII and comes back now. He’s a man out of time with a fanboy and a tough lady as assistants. There’s old tech that he came up with that are being used to do crime-stuff with and obviously it’s got to be the Nazis.. right? So this issue takes CM to New York where he’s not sure he likes what he sees. As seen from that judged cover, he meets Skyman and in true form, an uneasy alliance is formed. Without spoiling anything the Nazi’s still might be involved, but not in a way you’d expect.
I love fish-out-of-water/man-out-of-time stories like these. The writing is pretty dang keen along with the art. There are some pretty clever plot points, interesting social commentary and well written dialogue, all things needed for a story like this. Sure, many of the familiar feels are there from Cap. America, but there’s enough here that whole idea feels fresh. The assisting characters aren’t just set there as placeholders either. I’m very interested to see where this story gets to.
There’s idealism vs practicality, anachronism vs progressivism, and a healthy judgement of corporate greed that really turns this from being a family friendly romp like the Ol’ Cappy Flag-barer to a darker, more real side of the faded American Dream we all know. Let this be a lesson to me, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover and you can’t judge a super by it’s spandex.
Script: Gerard Way and Shaun Simon
Art Becky Cloonan
I’m still not sure what the hell was going on here. I’m not sure I can give it a proper review without knowing who the hell, what the hell, where the hell… how the hell… This was not a comic to jump in on. I’m not even sure I can sum up what I read. I know there’s people in white. Are they good? Bad? There’s people that look like they like anime. They might be good. There’s some rock n’ roll angst. And then it was over.
I’m not sure how much of this I’m supposed to get, but the story was SUPER confusing. Did you get that from the last paragraph? Does this tie into a My Chemical Romance album? I liked Umbrella Academy, that made sense. I guess if you just need things to happen check it out, but don’t start here. This made me feel like I was watching Japanese television.