Dark Horse Comics 16 (December 1993)

I feel like I need to send Dan Jolley a thank you letter for making this issue of Dark Horse Comics tolerable. Well, for his Aliens story anyway. It’s got an unexpected conclusion. There’s not a lot of story—it’s a chase sequence and a resolution—but Jolley plays with expectations a little. Nadeau and Pallot do fine on art. Naifeh and inker Alex Nino, however, are even worse this issue than last on their Thing story. Not the mention Martin’s conclusion is mildly inexplicable. It’s too bad Dark Horse didn’t keep their creators on the Thing comics consistent. Martin really doesn’t cut it,…

Dark Horse Comics 15 (November 1993)

Well, when Naifeh’s art falls off, The Thing gets a lot less interesting. Martin falls into the same tropes the pervious series did (even though Martin ignores them)—repeating the plot points in the Thing movie, only in a new setting. But Naifeh’s the disappointment here. It doesn’t even look like his work. Barr and Rader finish up The Mark. Barr seems to let Rader just take over and create this homage to a film noir, only in color. It reminds a lot of M. The installment ends on a soft cliffhanger, preparing for a limited series, and it’s unnecessarily confusing. Dan Jolley,…

Dark Horse Comics 13 (September 1993)

So is Dark Horse Comics where Dark Horse stuck all their licensed properties once Presents’s sales dropped? The creative teams are mildly interesting. Jim Woodring writing Aliens—nothing happens, it’s an all action story—with Kilian Plunkett on the art? It looks good anyway. Ted Naifeh pencilling a Thing story? It’s more distinct because Edward Martin III’s script sort of ignores all the other Dark Horse Thing comics. It’s not a bad thing necessarily, but Martin’s a little less creative than one would like. Then it’s an Evan Dorkin Predator story. It’s kind of funny—a Predator crashes a paint ball competition. But the humor…

Dark Horse Presents 147 (October 1999)

I wanted to like Ragnok—not because Arcudi’s writing, but because Sook’s on the art. But it’s dark and indistinct. Lots and lots of black—very Mignola-lite. If Arcudi maybe had an interesting script, it would work. Unfortunately, the script seems to be going for something eccentric; Sook’s art doesn’t fit it. Maybe it’ll get better…. The last Ghost installment is a waste of time. Luke’s writing has gotten steadily worse as the installments went on (this time, when he tries to talk about sexism, it’s painful). Worse, Baker and Kolle’s art suffers from the script. There’s this waste of a full page panel.…

Dark Horse Presents 146 (September 1999)

I was really expecting more from Edginton here. His Aliens vs. Predator starts out as a rip of Alien—bickering crew, uncharted planet—only adding in aliens once the people land (they don’t have spacesuits either). But then it turns out to be a poorly conceived “thirty years in the future” sequel to the first Aliens vs. Predator series. Doesn’t help Thompson and O’Connell’s art is weak. Though I guess the spaceship looks all right. Shabrken continues with enthusiasm from artists Henry and Lieber (though the scale of the events gets out of control). It’s not terrible—Hartley’s writing is solidly mediocre—it’s just pointless. Arcudi…

Dark Horse Presents 140 (February 1999)

The art’s not terrible on the Aliens story—Leonardi and Wiacek do all right (they certainly get the art win for this issue)—but Schultz and Amara’s writing is atrocious. They don’t just feel the need for bad dialogue, they want lots of it too. There’s endless poorly written expository dialogue. And the story is some segue into Dark Horse’s next crappy Aliens series, it doesn’t bother focusing on the neat idea—the aliens home planet. Anyway, decent looking crap. Then it’s Usagi Yojimbo—my first time reading it ever. I thought the art would be better. Sakai seems to be doing a kids’ book, regardless…

Dark Horse Presents Annual 1997 (February 1998)

For a Presents annual (or oversized special), this one has a lot of solid work. Pearson’s Body Bags is a fun diversion. The art’s great and the story moves. It gets a little visually confusing, but it’s good. And Verheiden (with Marrinan) finally produces a decent installment of The American. It’s a thoughtful story, very well written. Arcudi and Musgrove’s The Oven Traveler is dumb. It’s a one page story dragged to four. Aliens (from Smith and Morrow) is atrocious. It’s Aliens meets Westworld. If it weren’t terrible, it’d be an interesting genre mix—plus, Morrow can’t draw the aliens. They look awkward…

Dark Horse Presents 121 (May 1997)

The issue opens with Zero Boy and Pander’s Jack Zero, which starts out a little awkwardly… but then quickly establishes itself as a good Western. Pander’s art looks fantastic, bringing a lot of energy to the setting and Zero Boy’s script is thoughtful. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about Nixey’s Trout installment this issue. He changes up styles here for effect (a dream sequence) and it loses the charm the previous entries had. It’s confounding and almost adversarial. Nixey doesn’t give a point of entry for the reader here. Macan and Edwards’s Aliens story is kind of interesting, without being noteworthy…

Dark Horse Presents 117 (January 1997)

Okay, Dr. Spin and Trypto come around a little here. First, Rennie finally finds some kind of narrative for his characters (reassembling a disbanded team) to go along with all the comic book jokes. Though he does coin the title, “Infinite Crisis,” here. A shame he couldn’t sue DC. Langridge’s art is excellent, but the composition doesn’t allow for one to easily notice all his details. Mumy and Ferrer find a story on Trypto too. The kid finds out his dog is some kind of space dog (Leialoha’s terrible about illustrating the bad aliens as cats though—it’s sort of incredible). The story’s…

Dark Horse Presents 102 (October 1995)

Shockingly, the Niles story story this issue–one of his Cal McDonald ones–is mildly inoffensive. It’s poorly written detective narration, but at least he’s work in a recognized genre (badly written detective narration). It’s stupid and Casey Jones’s art isn’t any good… but it’s not intolerable. Oh, the Marz and Wrightson Aliens story ends this issue too. It’s not as predictable as I thought it was going to be, but it’s still pointless. Maybe it’s setup for a series or something. Shaw’s Alan Bland, about a floundering painter, is all right. Shaw’s art isn’t quite finished enough for the cartoon look, which he…

Dark Horse Presents 101 (September 1995)

Wow, has Steve Niles ever been able to write? He has a story in this issue and it’s the worst written police procedural I think I’ve ever read. A hundred issues or no, if Dark Horse was publishing Niles… imagine what made the reject pile. The Paul Lee art on the story is bad, but much better than the writing. Musgrove’s The Alienator is more bad writing. At least the art is good. Musgrove’s drawing a bunch of ugly stuff, but he does it well. His writing is… well, it’s almost as bad as Niles’s. There’s some inexplicable Aliens story from Marz…

Dark Horse Presents 56 (November 1991)

This oversized issue opens and closes with an Aliens two-parter. Loose art from Guinan and Akins doesn’t help Arcudi’s script. It’s absolutely incomprehensible if you don’t read the Aliens series. Byrne finally produces a Next Men I’m not interested in. It’s two government guys revealing all. The art’s really, really mediocre. It’s like even Byrne doesn’t have any interest in this part of the story, which really makes one wonder why he’s bothering tell it. Duffy and Geary both have nice stories. Duffy (with Chacon art) has an amusing fantasy story, Fancies about a tavern fight, while Geary does the history of…

Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special (April 1991)

This special is far from an accurate representation of Dark Horse Presents. Everything looks very professional. The Aerialist and Heartbreakers installments are both long needed establishments of the series’ ground situation. I even liked the Heartbreakers one (Bennett’s writing is far stronger from the clones’ perspective, versus their creator). There’s also lots of disposable stuff–Concrete, The American and Black Cross are all weak, though Warner’s art is better on Cross than I’ve ever seen it. Chadwick and Verheiden use their stories to blather about American culture. Of the two Miller’s–Give Me Liberty and Sin City–I almost prefer Sin City. Liberty‘s a little…

Dark Horse Presents 43 (August 1990)

Guinan’s Aliens finish is incredibly weak, featuring not just an Alien reference but some guy in the future running around in an Indiana Jones outfit. The plotting is so weak, it might be construed as a spoof… But I think Guinan’s serious. He’s got some very profound-sounding exposition. Davis does a one page riff on 2001. It’s the best work of his I’ve seen. Inabinet has a great retelling of a fable. The writing and art are fantastic. But even better is his opening, where he does a bunch of humor in a traditional–very traditional–setting. Inabinet makes the issue, him and that…

Dark Horse Presents 42 (July 1990)

So Guinan’s approach to the Aliens mythology is astonishingly unenthusiastic. By some accounts his Heartbreakers collaborator Anina Bennett assisted on the writing, so maybe some of it is her fault. Guinan sets the story on a planet full of pyramids, with zero wonderment about this awesome alien civilization. Then he does some silly stuff with androids and cyborgs. I suppose to art is decent, but I’m still not sure if the protagonist is supposed to be male or female. Vance and Burr’s Kings in Disguise is a very solid Depression-era story. Burr’s art is good and Vance manages to tell the story…

Dark Horse Presents 36 (February 1990)

The Aliens vs. Predator story is most impressive for Norwood’s illustration… but not of aliens or Predators. The story opens on some alien world and it’s just breathtaking. Once the actual story starts (Stradley’s two conversationalists talking about hunting experiences while Predators hunt aliens), it can’t compete with those visuals. Still, for what amounts to shameless self-promotion, these prologues are very successful. Davis’s Delia & Celia features a number of young women “playing” the two leads. Davis can’t maintain faces for them to the point he must have been photo-referencing. Each panel, they get a new, distinct face. The writing is nearly…

Dark Horse Presents 34 (November 1989)

Race of Scorpions gets even more amazing this issue… Duranona tells the reader what happens to the story’s protagonists in a little text paragraph at the end of the story. The actual story was spent on some supporting cast members. It’s sort of amazing how poorly plotted this story gets. Dark Horse really just didn’t care what they printed. Lots of perspective failures here. Just a dreadful read. Zone is getting more dramatic–this issue the reporter gets hurt near a fire and Zone saves him, so all the threads are coming together. Unfortunately, Kraiger’s art, which was no great shakes to begin…

Dark Horse Presents 24 (November 1988)

And here debuts the licensed property… Aliens. Luckily, it’s a really decent eight pages. Nelson and Verheiden almost make it feel like it’s just a comic book, not a movie tie-in. What’s really interesting is the aliens. Nelson’s able to draw so much fluidity into his own creatures, when he’s got to draw the movie alien, it feels awkward. The shape is defined by being able to be a costume worn by a person, a hampering Nelson doesn’t have with his own creations. Duranona’s Race of Scorpions continues to be unimpressive. Some more Star Wars homage and a lot of details. The…

Aliens vs. Predator 4 (December 1990)

It’s a weak close, partially because Stradley probably needed another issue to fully develop the relationship between the protagonist and the friendly Predator (he also needed space to give it a proper ending), but mostly because Chris Warner is no replacement for Norwood. Warner kills that beautiful design sense Norwood brings to the book. Instead of the panels being so well-composed it can distract from the narrative, they’re rote. Aliens vs. Predator, between Warner and Campanella, becomes a boring movie tie-in. Norwood made it special. Even with the action pacing and the lack of narration, Stradley’s able to keep his protagonist strong.…

Aliens vs. Predator 3 (October 1990)

The change in inkers makes Aliens vs. Predator look exactly as drab and boring as I’d expected the first few issues to look. Campanella can’t do much to Stradley’s figures, but he rounds out the faces–not all the time, which makes the art disjointed–but definitely in close ups. Everyone looks like they’ve had the definition erased. The issue’s a solid effort. Stradley is fully into the action part of the story now, so it’s nowhere near as good as the previous two. He’s strengthening his protagonist (while taking away most of her narration), but measuring her arc. She’s not acting out of…

Aliens vs. Predator 2 (August 1990)

The issue opens with some weak dream exposition. It doesn’t fit the narrator’s voice–Stradley never establishes why he’s using it (I think it’s a callback to the Aliens series where people have nightmares around the aliens)–and it’s a weak opening. But then Stradley recovers beautifully. Until the end of this issue, Aliens vs. Predator is more a Western than a sci-fi thriller. The sci-fi elements are all well-done, but the narrative tone is straight out of Rio Bravo. He continues strengthening his characters as he introduces the titular elements–lots of aliens and Predator money shots this issue, but it doesn’t feel forced.…

Aliens vs. Predator 1 (June 1990)

Norwood’s very design-oriented–he’s a Hollywood storyboard guy–and the art suffers for it. The setting, the designs of the human settlement on an alien planet, is great. The panel composition is stunning. The figures are awkward and bad. Everyone’s proportions are off a little bit. They’re too stout for their height. Stradley’s writing here is really strong–he has a female narrator, but makes distance part of her character (I’m not sure if she’s Japanese because it’s a comic from 1990 about the future of corporations or if Stradley used it to add even more distance, this time cultural). But his establishing of the…

Aliens vs. Predator 0 (July 1990)

Stradley’s issue is two bored cargo spaceship having a conversation while Norwood’s art shows us all about the Predators getting ready for the Aliens vs. Predator series. First it’s showing the alien eggs, then it’s a bunch of fighting for dominance. The off panel dialogue back and forth constantly relates to the dialogue-less action going on. The issue is reprints of prologue stories from Dark Horse Presents, which explains why it’s always a surprise when the story continues following a climax in the conversation, but it works. I’m not particularly familiar with Norwood but he does a fine job here. A lot…

Aliens 6 (July 1989)

The whole series collapses here, thanks to Verheiden’s absurd sense of self-importance. In six issues, he destroys the planet Earth. Wait, no, he doesn’t. In one issue he destroys the planet Earth. He didn’t really hint at that plan until this issue either. He uses Newt as a narrator again and it’s just as bad as the previous issue. The problem is with the plot. He’s back in summary mode, but he’s just fitting too much into it–and Newt’s not the right narrator of the events he’s showing. It’s a downbeat conclusion (and not a sequel-ready one, which is almost encouraging me…

Aliens 5 (June 1989)

Yuck. Verheiden writes the majority of the issue–maybe all of it, I can’t remember, my brain is on strike–from Newt’s perspective. He narrates the issue with her. It’s awful female narration by a male comic book writer. Probably not the worst ever, but it’s hideous. The plotting isn’t bad–though I’m not sure why Hicks is even in the comic anymore. He’s practically a villain at this point. Verheiden never bothered establishing a relationship between Newt and Hicks and it didn’t matter when he was telling the story in summary. But now he’s telling it in scenes and the omission is disastrous. There’s…

Aliens 4 (April 1989)

Almost the entire issue is told in summary–it’s not bad, actually, since Verheiden is using a layered narrative (he’s gone on to write crappy Superman/Batman comics, hasn’t he? That’s unfortunate). He resolves the whole thing with the aliens on earth, which is both good and bad. It’s nice he was able to resolve it in a quick amount of time (basically last issue and this one), but it’s hurried in an unexpected way. There’s the whole evil corporation angle here (like in the movie), but Verheiden doesn’t spend a lot of time dealing with it in scenes. So this issue, when he…

Aliens 3 (January 1989)

Has Warren Ellis read this issue? Because it reminds me a lot of his first issue for Ultimate Nightmare. It’s better than that comic, but very similar. Verheiden opens the issue with a bunch of psychological reports of people freaking out because of the alien–just being near it. It’s a cool idea, the aliens driving people crazy; it’s where Aliens is at its strongest… the stuff the movies never had the time or inclination to explore. Unfortunately, the future Verheiden and Nelson come up with isn’t particularly interesting. The Alien movies wisely stayed as mum about earth in the future as they…

Aliens 2 (September 1988)

The second issue is, generally, fine. Verheiden tries to fit way too much in and his use of Hicks as a narrator is problematic (Hicks is very well-spoken for someone who didn’t talk in the movie much… maybe he just read a lot and kept to himself). The art becomes a bit of an issue, however. Nelson is great at the alien art. He’s great at showing these disgusting nightmare images with the aliens and not having it by revolting. It’s just creepy and gross and he does it very well. It’s a shame he doesn’t draw human figures particularly well. His…

Aliens 1 (May 1988)

Here’s why I trust Dark Horse on licensed properties. It’s a misplaced trust, I’ve learned as I’ve gone back to read their comics as an adult, but Aliens still holds up. It’s an earnest attempt to make a sequel to the movie, but it also adapts for the comic form. There are dream sequences and flashbacks–stuff a movie wouldn’t have been able to show seriously. As far as the writing, Verheiden does a good job. He reintroduces Newt and Hicks from the movie, puts them both in terrible situations, and then brings the aliens back in. The characters are dysfunctional because of…