“Dark Horse Presents” #1 is the welcome return of one of the best anthology titles published this decade. At 56 pages, it’s crammed with some great stories — some one off, some continuous — but the real star of the book is the art. Each tale is beautifully rendered and does a good-to-spectacular job of creating a quality reading experience while still using economically laid out pages to deliver the most bang for your buck. It’s easily the best value on the stands this week.
The layout of the stories is smart: two heavy hitters doing a one off each, then several solid ongoing stories thereafter. Hook the readers early with the marquis attractions then keep them interested with quality follow-up.
Geof Darrow returns to “Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot” and serves up a fun Fourth of July monster tale that highlights his jaw-dropping attention to detail. This story alone is worth the full cover price because Darrow crams so much in to every panel, it’s like viewing a topographical map of the City of Awesome. After pouring over these nine pages for over a half an hour I was still finding fun trinkets scattered about the beach, and interesting new boozes that I need to try.
David Mack’s new “Kabuki” offering tells a half origin story in his dreamlike pastiche style. The various media he uses to create a whole are fascinating and created a whole new type of detail, along with depth of texture that enhances the lyrical qualities of the script. It’s a great jumping-on point for anyone unfamiliar with the character and a great introduction to Mack’s unique storytelling gifts.
Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse deliver what felt like the first half of the first half of “Resident Alien.” It’s intriguing, but I didn’t feel like I had enough there to really engage me in the story as of yet. Parkhouse’s art is the most mainstream-leaning in the book and is clean and enjoyable. I just felt like the story paused rather than finding a natural ending point.
Brendan McCarthy adds his engaging surrealism with “Dream Gang,” a fever dream of a tale that is gorgeous in it’s roughness and, like real dreams, leaves the reader guessing as to what the next step is in the story being told. McCarthy washes the art in vibrant colors that show create the idea that what happens in our hero’s mind is far more engaging than the dull gray real world in which he is ensconced day to day.
“Wrestling With Demons” is a promising start to what I pray will be a story about a father literally wrestling demons for the fate of his daughter. We only get to the arena, so it remains to be seen, but a writer can dream! Andy Kuhn animated style is both bouncy and gritty, reminiscent of Bruce Timm and Michael Avon Oeming’s best work.
We close with a hilarious story by Damon Gentry and Aaron Conley about Sabertooth Swordsman. Told mostly silently, this had me smiling with pictographic mayhem and a freight-train pacing that takes on a ride where our titular character needs to get his pants back from a cadre of weird bugs. Conley’s rich illustrations give the story life and a lot of wacky character.
Surprise, surprise, “Dark Horse Presents” delivers yet again. Mike Richardson is continuing the award-winning work that readers have come to expect from this property. If the teases for next month are any indication, this trend will continue for a while.