Dark Horse Round Up 10/23 – Horror, Sci-Fi, and More!

Welcome back to another Dark Horse Comics Round Up, where we review comics by Dark Horse that are out this week! Digga D is back dropping his thought bombs on tons of cool comics, so read it. It’s good stuff! I promise!

Conan And the people of the Black Circle #1

Conan people of the black circle comic cover

Fred Van Lente
Ariel Olivetti

In last week’s thrilling edition of the Dark Horse Round up, it was revealed that I am not a huge Conan guy and that I can’t spell for Crom (I DID IT!). This start to a new Conan arc didn’t make me a believer, but it was better than the last. This story starts with a king that is in failing health. Is it from poison? The blackest of Magic? We’re not sure, but they have put the leaches on him in attempts to draw out what ails him. The king’s sister looks to find out the reason and hints to other groups show where this story may or may not go.

First of all, the art in this book is amazing. Each frame by Ariel Olivetti is, without a doubt, some of the finest in the biz. The story does a fine job of setting up the next journey of our bulky barbarian with black bangs. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to know who these non-Conan guys are, but so far I like the setting being Arabic in origin. It should be pointed out, that though set close to Iranistan or near the tribes of Afghulis, the characters are never caricatured in a xenophobic manor, but are given room to be culturally significant to give Conan some fun in the Arabian nights. Maybe this is nothing new for fans of Conan, but from my pretension before this book, I assumed the worst. I’m glad I was proven wrong. I’m not sure I can give this a recommendation as a full-on jumping on point for Conan initiates, but the art alone is definitely worth a look!

Dark Horse Presents #29

Dark Horse Presents Issue 29 Cover

Various artists and writers

So Dark Horse presents is essentially their showcase, short-story collections. These showcases are kind of neat because they offer a lot of different styles in theme, ideas and characters and offer the buyer a lot of bang for the buck. Want a story about a luchador that is trying to save a victim in a world consumed by vampires? Great! How about a more drama driven story about a girl talking to a bird? huh… ok! How about some sci-fi with lesbian overtones? Fine by me! These kinds of books offer a reader a chance to look at styles and maybe current runs of issues and see if you’d like to invest more time to it. This issue, for instance, had a small story set within the world of The Strain (Reviewed last week), that for me, made me appreciate the world that The Strain is set in a little more. There’s a mini-story of The Nexus, that has been around in Dark Horses publishing for as long as I can remember. There’s even an Edger Allen Poe retelling (perfect for that Halloween feeling).

So how does this issue stack up? Great! I mean, are all the stories in here compelling to me? No, but I found several to be really entertaining. The Strain story was really well written and gives me hope for the rest of that series. The second story in here about some stripper/beautician and a Disney flagship character rip-off vs a gang of animal planet wannabes was a blast to read. The Poe story had beautiful art to accompany it, Nexus, though I’ve never really read it before had great pacing. A couple weren’t my cup of tea, but they didn’t bring down the book from, in my opinion, being a great buy. Comics like this make for great single servings and harken back to old EC comics days (which Mike Richardson speaks to in the introduction). These also give new artists and writers a platform to shine and hopefully pursue writing and drawing other great titles in the future. So if you’re looking to look into what Dark Horse is about, start here. Some are crazy, left of center and whacky, while others are a bit more standard comic/sci-fi fare… which I think is pretty good example of Dark Horse comics.

Kiss Me Satan! #2

Kiss Me Satan issue 2 cover

Script: Victor Gischler
Art: Juan Ferreyra

You know that moment where you are reading a comic that you just aren’t sure if you like it takes a HUGE swing and pulls you 180º in the other direction… that happened here. The story opens in a seedy hotel with 3 scantily clad hotties and an old crone waiting for some muscle bound dude named Barnabus Black (yes, they make fun of the name) to come back with doughnuts and coffee. A sexy maid is about to enter this roomful of cliche’s when Barnabus stops her and low-and-behold… vampires. Combat ensues and as though we needed yet ANOTHER porno film set up, the vixens from the room come spilling out one in v-neck and panties, and another, obviously fresh from a shower. For all you dude-twi-hards that so far may be on board, there’s a pregnant vamp that is about to give birth, so this may be ringing your Belle (yes… I just did that). The fore-mentioned group of porno-ready stereotypes are on their way to safety in a black ’52 Chevy, when it happens… A big ol’ pick-um-up-truck full of skeletal ninjas. I don’t know if I missed the signs that everything is so over-the-top that this comic is hilarious, or if it plays it so close to the hip, readers need to get here and immediately this book takes off.

Kiss Me Satan reminds me quite a bit of the Goon for some reason (after my dawning realization mid-book). This book is so campy that fans of the Grindhouse series would probably get a kick out of it. There’s a fair amount of gore and the art has some pop to it that feels polished. I’m not sure what part the 3 sexy ladies are going to play, but I’m hoping it will be ridiculous. I don’t know why I remotely thought a book called “kiss me Satan” could be anything other than a dark-campy-comedy, but I’m hoping this kiss leads to a sweet dry-hu…. conclusion.

The Massive #16

The Massive Issue 16 cover

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Garry Brown

This book is frickin’ smart. There’s no other way to put it. The concept is smart, the writing is smart, the dialogue is smart and I feel smarter for reading it.

I’m not sure what the other 15 issues looked like, but this new “Longship” story arc is absolutely riveting. Before reading this book, I would have NEVER thought I would use the term riveting to describe a book about a group of people tracking down illegal whalers. The story starts somewhere off the coasts of Scandinavia where a group of surly looking Norsemen are killing a Minke Whale. Back in the Village, our main protagonist meets with the captain of the vessels that speared and gunned down one of these whales. The type of whale is not an endangered whale and the are doing the whaling in old longships and in the ways of their Norse ancestors. The “villain” and the protagonist meet over whiskey and it is known to both of them, that they are going to have to go to war. The Scandinavian is never painted to the reader as a beast and the crew of the anti-whalers are split on the decision of how to handle the situation.

I’ve tried reading Moby Dick. I got about halfway. I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t finish it. Have you tried? Seriously… So a comic book about whaling I figured would be just as mind-numbing, but quite the opposite. This book presents so many sides to the issue that there is no clear cut answer. The protagonists (Ninth Wave is the group with Callum Isreal as the Captain) may be wrong or may be right in this issue. It’s so smartly written that I’m not sure what to think. For a liberal-as-hell, ex-vegan that’s pretty huge. You would think, whaling; vicious, barbaric, unneeded by today’s standards. But how the villain (Bors Bergsen) describes it, it seems PERFECTLY rational, and if not a necessity. I’m far from a moral-relativist, but when a story makes you question the very essence of right and wrong, it is far more than just another comic book. This book makes me glad to be an adult reading comic books. GO BUY IT!!!

Mass Effect Foundation #4

Mass Effect Foundation 4 Cover

Script: Mac Walters
Art: Tony Parker

I’ve never played Mass Effect. I know… charlatan. I do play the video games (as the kids are calling them) but I haven’t gotten around to that title yet. One of my best friends is into it… a lot… but I never got there. I was curious if this title would make sense and/or would send me to the closest used video game store to get my hands on the copy of the game… unfortunately, it seemed to make some sense, and I don’t have the temerity to blow money on the whole trilogy. This story feels more like Enders Game as it focuses on an academy rather than what I imagine the game is like. There’s shenanigans, a weak love story and teenage angst. Some big brutish alien drill sergeant rounds out the cast as the “crusty ol’ Dean” to make this feel more like an 80’s frat movie in space than an army academy.

I wasn’t impressed with this comic at all. I didn’t think the writing was all that great and the art was pretty standard. Some of the stuff was kind of confusing with obfuscating things where action was supposed to be happening. Maybe the main character in this series is going to become someone in the game and his actions, though rash and vastly unpunished for the degree of the crime (no spoilers here) left me underwhelmed. Unless law has truly broken down in the utopian-like future or it’s extremely racist. That’s as far as I’m getting… Maybe if you’re a fan you can open my mind to what is really happening here, but if you are like me, and have no idea what the game is about, leave it alone in the cold dark space.

Mind MGMT #16

Mind MGMT Cover 16

Everything: Matt Kindt

I had picked up the first couple issues at my local comic store when this comic first started coming out because I was drawn to it by the art, but I lost track of it for some reason. So coming on to issue 16, I have no idea where it’s gone or what’s happening. This issue in particular may be a great jumping on point. I’m sure I’m missing some things, but it was great to get introduced to one character and not have to focus on a lot of other stuff going on. This story focuses on a female who falls in love with a sci-fi writer and her edges of reality begin to fray. I’m imaging this is going to deal with psychic issues or people that can view the world differently (I may have get caught up with this title).

I am into this comic, if not just a tad confused, but I’m thinking that’s how Matt Kindt will treat you the entire journey of this comic. I love the art. It’s nostalgic, but contemporary. It feels like water color on every page. The art does a great deal to help the story telling. Since this is issue 16, I’m sure a dive into a couple trades would help this title make a bit more sense, but it was an enjoyable read none-the-less. If you are looking at jumping into another comic, maybe keep this one in MIND.

Star Wars Legacy #8

Star Wars Legacy 8

Script: Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Harman
Art: Brain Albert Thies

I totally know Star Wars, but like, Captain Spock wasn’t even in this one. Sorry, I had to. This issue is kind of confusing. I read the little synopsis and it says “Imperial Knight Jao Assam and Ania Solo…” so I’m not sure what the Imperial Knight business is all about, but I’m assuming this a descendant of our favorite, not-shooting-first-smuggler and Leia. These two escape some random aliens on spider-cows and end up on a smuggler ship with a dude that looks like he should’ve been the hero in the Oddworld video game (he’s a Calamarian you clod). There’s some fighting an some bad guys and an easy out finish for the writers.

Star Wars isn’t going to lose readers by me saying this comic was “Meh.” The art was cool in spots, but I bet even knowing all the backstory leading up to this, I would’ve had the same conclusion. It just seemed like in this issue everything happened to get to another scene, to get to another location, to get to another bit of action, to get another location and on and on and on. The characters didn’t seem to care about anything going on. Even when the big bad guy shows up, they’re both like “totes what-ev’s brah!” Yes, the writing feels to me, a lot like the last couple movies. There, I said it. You can call me names for jumping on pooping-on-the-last-star-wars-trilogy-train. However, if you liked the unfeeling, no-chemistry interaction between characters of the last movies, you may really like this! Even on paper you can hear the ennui in their dialogue bubbles. If you’re a fan, you’ll buy it. If you’re like me, and go to a comic shop and look at all the Star Wars books and go “Huh… I wonder if these are any good” and want to start here… don’t. Pick up SW Dark Empire. You’ll thank me later.

Vincent’s Viewpoint: Digga D is wrong. Don’t pick up Dark Empire. Pick up the original Star Wars Legacy.

Book Reviews!!

Last of Us – American Dreams

The Last of Us American Dreams Trade cover

Written buy Neil Druckmann and Faith Erin Hicks
Art: Faith Erin Hicks

I loved me some The Last of Us video game. It’s an amazing game, so I was pretty stoked to read some more in the world of The Last of Us. For anyone looking to play the game, I won’t spoil the comic, nor the video game. The story focuses on Ellie before meeting up with Joel. She’s picked on and she’s coming of age in the ravaged world where most of society is dead and rotting and broken. There’s still bullies and cliques on top of clickers and other fungi infected dead-beats. She seems to meet a friend, who like her, is restless and looking to get out of the confines of living life in a gated community… but not like the rich and snobby kind we know. She’s seen the regulators killing people wantonly and she wants to meet a firefly (who for those of you yet to play such a fantastic games, what are you doing with your life, a firefly is a group of people who want to expose how things got to be this way and are anti-government). Ellie and her friend sneak out to find out life outside the gate isn’t so fantastic.

The story was pretty good and the art may be a little jarring for fans of the super-realistic video game. The art style felt closer to Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim) than what I expected. However, since this focusing on Ellie’s past, it felt somehow right. Had this been a Joel story line, it would be ridiculous, but with the writing, it fit. Story wasn’t bad. It’s not going to win any awards, but it was a quick read and I never wanted to stop reading. This book would be worth reading if you want more Ellie time, as I did. For anyone that hasn’t played The Last of Us… GO PLAY IT!!! Then come back and read this. I don’t think it will be as impactful to you unless you’ve played it. That said, X-box can suck it.

Vincent’s Viewpoint: Digga D is wrong. Both the PS3 and the XBox 360 both have their strong points and their weak points. Both are great systems.

Tales From the Crypt #4

Tales from the Crypt Hardcover 4

Various Artists and writers

At the end of this I’m going to spoil EVERYTHING for you and give a link to the torrent so you can ILLEGALLY DOWNLOAD THIS ENTIRE BOOK AND THUS SHUTTING DOWN THIS WEBSITE AND MAKING ME RICH!!! MWAHAHAHAA!!!

Tales From the Crypt has such a crazy history. From EC comics rise of horror comics which then Max Gaines went on to form Mad Magazine and then finally TFTC went on to the amazing HBO show in the 90’s. It’s because of EC comics that the whole backlash of “Seduction of the Innocent happened and making comics “kid friendly” for years to come. So excitement wasn’t even close to an emotion when I saw that I got to review the 4th volume in a collection of old TFTC comics in this beautiful new edition.

For those of you that haven’t read these, they are campy, they usually tell a moral lesson and they are amazing. The quick single serving size of each issue is bound wonderfully with old EC comics adverts and publishers notes. Maybe it was the anachronist in me… or maybe the completionist in me that was a little bummed that they recolored the comics… but that was just a base reaction. After reading the issues it really brought out the AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL artwork here-in. Each frame is meticulously detailed and a sight to behold. This may be a little pricey to drop on, but it’s worth it.

For any fan of horror, this is a great Christmas present, if YOU are a fan of horror, this is a perfect Halloween read. I can’t say enough good things about the presentation of this set. Now to send you all that link that I was talking about… let me see, it’s just here in… where’s the file? When did my monitor grow teeth? THE CABLES… ARE… WRAPPING AROUND MY… NE…. *CHOKE*

About Digga D

Dark Horse comics has always meant cutting edge adult comics to me. From when I was in fifth grade, rifling through the “mature readers” sections of comic stores and finding Geof Darrow and Frank Miller’s “Hard Boiled” comics I realized that this is what comic books could be. Bringing home issues of Grendel and Aliens and jumping right into a story that I may not get, I knew I loved the concepts and to this day, I think Dark Horse is still pushing the boundaries in the comic book field. With one of my favorite contemporary comics like The Goon, Dark Horse still gives me pause in local comic shops and at least take a look at what they’re doing, just like I did many years ago. I am super excited to read and review this publisher’s comics for Robots Pajamas!