Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review: "Dark Horse Presents" #8--B.P.R.D., Beasts of Burden, Concrete Park, and MORE!

Fresh this week is a brand new collection of comic shorts titled Dark Horse Presents, issue 8. From famed comic publisher Dark Horse Comics, this first collection in the new year gives readers a wide sampling of what Dark Horse comics is all about. Writers include Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Evan Dorkin, Tony Puryear, Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, Alan Gordon, Brian Wood, Martin Conaghan, Rich Johnston, and M.J. Butler. Art is provided by Duncan Fegredo, Jill Thompson, Tony Puryear, Howard Chaykin, Thomas Yeats, Kristian Donaldson, Jimmy Broxton, Simon Rohrmuller, and Mark Wheatley.

 DHP, #8 Duncan Fegredo (left), DHP, #8 Kristian Donaldson (right)

Considering this 80 page comic contains ten stories by different writers and artists, making the content extremely diverse, allow me to begin my assessment by offering my favorite portions. The first three comics were my absolute favorite of the group. The first is the B.P.R.D. epilogue of Hellboy's death, titled "An Unmarked Grave." This story gives audiences their first glimpse on the aftermath of the apocalypse and B.P.R.D. characters reconciling and coming to terms with the loss of the big red guy. Although not much action takes place in this 8-page-er, fans of the series will appreciate the respectful service of a beloved character. Unlike most creators, the team working on Hellboy and company give a delicate and respectful adieu and send off Hellboy in a gracious style which will be most cherished by the series fans. 

Dark Horse Presents, issue 8 "B.P.R.D.: An Unmarked Grave"

"The View from the Hill"--one heck of a read!
My next favorite was Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's newest tale in their Beasts of Burden series, titled "The View from the Hill." Honestly, the only reason I jumped aboard these DHP collections was for this series, and other than the first story back in issue 4, I was a bit unimpressed with Dorkin and Thompson's return to Burden Hill. Fortunately issue 8 of DHP offers a great new story for our four footed friend and the best about it is it's self-contained. I won't spoil your appetite with this sugary treat but I highly recommend reading this one, even if you don't want to shell out the cash for the issue, thumb through it at your shop and READ this little 8-page-er. I tell all my friends how dear and sweet Beasts of Burden is yet how awfully disturbing and dreadful it is too. If ever there were a better example of showing that odd yet perfect ballance "The View from the Hill" is it. 

The next surprise favorite is the continuation of Tony Puryear's Concrete Park, titled "Chapter 2." In the last issue of DHP we were given the first chapter to this new series. My expectations were not dramatically high but as I read onward my curiosity got the better of me and I wanted more and more. The story so far is awfully hard to describe, yet from what I can uncover we are in a future, dystopian world set in the urban decay of a gangland LA (or someplace very much like it). Surprisingly, most of the characters are American racial-minorities which creators rarely use in the comic medium. But this Tony Puryear is a clever one. Concrete Park could easily be mistaken for a generic Spike Lee urban tale. However, Puryear goes the route of literary master Octavia E. Butler and transcends that urban struggle with the captivating blend of a dystopian struggle. I believe most readers will grasp onto the science-fiction aspects of this new series more so then they would notice the race-class-urban challenges. This is a series to keep your eye out for. 

Dude, Tarzan, seriously? A gun?
The next selection of comics are the ones I deem passable. 

Al Gordon and Thomas Yeates' The Once and Future Tarzan is stunning and baffling all in one sitting. Yeates' art is to the eyes what a rose is to the nose. Gorgeous. Classic. Talented. Many more words come to mind in this ageless style of art. My only problem with the story is just that--the story. It's only 8 pages and I'm already confused. Supposedly Tarzan is kind of immortal and lives in our world, yet it's not our world. It's a world filled with normal people and also mutants. He lives not only in a secret underground safe-house in the middle of the jungle, but in a secret underground safe-house beneath the first underground safe-house. Yeah, it's that confusing. There are also beautiful and ugly primitive women attacking him for questionable reasons (why are some of them attractive and others hideous? I have no clue). And also (as pictured to the left in next month's issue), since when does Tarzan carry a freaking gun? As beautifully rendered this comic is, questions abound by the page. Hopefully the second installment offers some answers.

Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson's first part in their new comic The Massive is interesting. Within the 8 pages not many details are told except that rogue waves are extremely gigantic waves. Ask me just what this comic is about and I can't tell you more than guys with guns in a chopper fly out to a huge compound in the middle of the ocean and then one of the guys goes outside to find a wall of water headed for them while the other men take people hostage. Yup, that's about it. Donaldson's art is neatly done. A wee bit realistic for me, slightly unflavored. A big thanks goes to Dave Stewart for working on the colors. Beautiful as always.
Not that massive compared to a rogue wave...

Another interesting read is the first chapter of The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne, by Rich Johnston (founder and editor-in-chief at Bleeding Cool) and Simon Rohrmuller. Meet Miss Cranbourne, comics very own Dexter rip-off. With a twist! She's pushing 80 years and kills people she deems worthy of killing. Is she psychotic or is she doing the world a favor? The comic is a bit tongue-in-cheek. I'm still not sure how I like it. It seems too much like a stolen idea. However, the art has an incredibly indie feel to it that may appeal to some readers. It's a little too early in the game to say whether it's good or not. Until next issue.

Other stories in this collection of Dark Horse Presents include the continuations of Neal Adam's Blood and Howard Chaykins Marked Man, (not quite worth reading since they're in their 7th and 8th chapters) the boring and dismissive Skultar, chapter 2, by M.J. Butler and Mark Wheatley and the limp-dick, waste of 8-pages, Time To Live by Martin Conaghan and Jimmy Broxton. It's okay Jimmy, I don't blame you for the crappy ending to that horrible story. But I will blame you on agreeing to illustrate it.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Ryan,
    Thanks for the write-up of Concrete Park! As an African-American screenwriter specializing in sci-fi (I wrote Eraser and adapted Fahrenheit 451 and Buck Rogers, both now in development) it is very gratifying to be mentioned in the same breath as Octavia Butler. She was a big inspiration to us in creating Concrete Park. I'm so glad you get it about our book. I'm at Send me your email and we'll put you on our list for upcoming news and events (including signings in the Bay area). Thanks again, T.