A great anthology is worth its weight in gold, largely because any anthology is going to be a certain amount of hit and miss. With creators like Mike Mignola, Brian Wood, Evan Dorkin, Jill Thompson, Duncan Fegredo, Kristian Donaldson, and Dave Stewart involved in "Dark Horse Presents" #8, it's no surprise that this is issue is far more hit than miss.
It is especially notable as it marks the much-anticipated debut of Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson's "The Massive." We're treated to the first eight pages of the story, and it has a great opening hook, one that dares a reader not to continue. Donaldson's art is potent and nicely atmospheric, and Wood is doing what Wood does best: setting a decisive tone and creating compelling ideas that will undoubtedly pay off in unexpected ways.
Mike Mignola and John Arcudi's Hellboy tale, "An Unmarked Grave," is surprisingly effective, even if you haven't been following along with Hellboy's adventures. I dare say it might make a reader hugely curious about the character and world even if they hadn't been reading anything of Hellboy, which is impressive for a short story. The art by Duncan Fegredo and Dave Stewart is expectedly gorgeous.
The other standout of the book is Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's "A View From The Hill," starring their "Beasts of Burden" characters in an excellent eight-page standalone tale. The simple story has a fantastic bite to it, made all the more powerful for Jill Thompson's happy and almost sweet illustration work. The ultimately dark story contrasts so nicely with Thompson's light art that the reveal honestly took me by surprise, which is always a good thing in comics.
The obvious weak links are Neal Adam's "Blood" and Howard Chaykin's "Marked Man," which tonally seem a bit out of synch with much of the book, leaning heavily on cliches. Chaykin's story is ending in this issue, and Adam's is hopefully drawing to a close since it's currently on its seventh chapter.
The rest of the tales fall somewhere in-between strong and weak, with Martin Conaghan's time travel standalone "Time To Live," Alan Gordon and Thomas Yeates "The Once & Future Tarzan," and Tony Puryear's "Concrete Park" at the top of that group. The visuals on "Concrete Park" are a highly graphic style that is incredibly appealing, but the storytelling is a bit confusing, and it's not as easy as it should be to jump into this second chapter without having read the first.
Mignola, Wood, and Dorkin's stories make this issue of "Dark Horse Presents" well worth the money. Though anthologies are risky, they also offer an opportunity for every reader to find something that resonates. By picking such quality creative teams, Dark Horse is going about this anthology smartly and they've absolutely converted this reader.