Dark Horse Presents 150 (January 2000)

The issue opens with Petrie, Richards and Pimentel on Buffy. Petrie’s writing is awful (Buffy explains the story to herself through expositional dialogue) and the art is fairly weak. Even the resolution is lame. Chadwick’s Concrete is bad, but in interesting ways. Chadwick avoids the usual humanity of his stories (good or bad) and concentrates on the action. His art’s odd too—he outlines Concrete in thick inks. The Devil Chef has a single good joke at the end. Maybe Pollock’s first good joke…. Amara and Davis finish The Nevermen. As usual, great art, bad writing. Here we find out the Presents three-part story is just a pointless…

Dark Horse Presents Annual 1999 (August 1999)

It’s a “theme” annual—characters in their youths. It opens with Wagner, Chin and Wong on Xena. The art’s a little rough, but Wagner’s writing is solid. Mignola’s Hellboy is adorable (as young Hellboy stories tend to be). It’s a cute couple pages. Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo drags. It’s way too didactic. Sakai’s art some okay moments and some not okay ones. Shockingly, the Ghost story is good. Zanier and Mariano’s artwork is excellent and Kennedy’s writing isn’t bad. It’s confusing for a new reader, but quite decent. This issue also has the first Groo I’ve read. Though Aragones’s art sometimes gets a little…

Dark Horse Presents 100 3 (August 1995)

The Concrete story goes on forever, but it’s actually pretty funny how it turns out. Not funny enough to laugh at, but Chadwick definitely comes up with something amusing. Oh, I’ll just spoil it–a mom and son pull a long con on Concrete for something he did back in his first appearance. Decent art, nothing spectacular. Concrete’s just such a miserable character, he’s hard to read sometimes. Pekar and Sacco have a little story. I still don’t get the appeal. It’s too affected to be real life, so…. Brunetti does a page of funnies, some of which I’ve read. They’re still awesome.…

Dark Horse Presents 100 0 (July 1995)

This teaser for Dark Horse Presents 100 has some great stuff in it… but it also has some unbearably long entries. Chadwick’s Concrete—though it’s always fun to read Concrete assuming the worst about humanity—goes on forever and turns out to be a prologue. It’s a little lame, though Chadwick’s art is decent. LaBan’s Emo and Plum is relatively painless. It’s short, anyway. However Musgrove’s Fat Dog Mendoza is awful. Paul Pope’s got a couple pages and it’s lovely (kind of an interactive discussion of Picasso). Some great figure work. Brubaker and McEown tease their entry in 100, as does French. The Brubaker…

Dark Horse Presents 87 (July 1994)

This issue is fairly weak. The Eighth Wonder finishes. Plunkett’s art is good and Janes’s scenic writing–his dialogue, for example–is fine, but the story lacks any real heft. It feels like they hurried or ran out of pages. It ends with a great unanswered questions–why no boats? They’re building a bridge from Europe to Colombia. What happened to boats? It’s disappointing, after the first installment, but not terrible. Geary’s got a bunch of single page contributions. Like most of his work, some are good, some are not so good. They feel like filler. Chadwick turns in an utterly useless summary of Concrete’s…

Dark Horse Presents 66 (September 1992)

Obviously, the major attraction is the second chapter of An Accidental Death. The pace changes throughout; it opens with the body being hidden, then Brubaker moves to summary, then to scene again. The final scene–the discovery–comes after the two boys (the protagonist and the murderer) start to discover where they really live. Reality, in more ways than one, rushes in on them. But Brubaker’s writing is nuanced, never obvious. It’s just lovely. Then Dr. Giggles, hopefully, finishes up. I don’t think I’ve mentioned how inept Coto is at plotting this narrative. The plot developments get stupider and stupider. At least it’s over.…

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 38 (April 1990)

Chadwick’s Concrete isn’t so interesting this issue for what he does say, but for what he doesn’t. Concrete’s sidekicks get lost in the ghetto and a bunch of black guys attack the car–presumably to beat the guy and “gang rape,” Chadwick’s words, the woman. When Concrete and the guy are sitting around calmly discussing it later, Concrete basically says it’s just how men act and isn’t it awful and shouldn’t women run things. But Chadwick made it pretty clear earlier these men are, specifically, black men. I think it’s supposed to be well-intentioned, but…. Prosser and Pollock contribute the Mary: The Elephant…

Dark Horse Presents 32 (August 1989)

Ugh, another “annual.” Sixty-four pages of Dark Horse Presents tends to be a little much. The American is a little long here–it’s very passive and not at all dramatic. On the other hand, Peterson shows he used to be a lot more interesting of an artist. The Wacky Squirrel strip from publisher Richardson is dumb. Davis’s Delia & Celia is a complete bore, big shock. He manages to make a pterodactyl boring. The longer than usual Bob the Alien just shows with more space Rice does an even better story. It’s funny and touching The Concrete story is better than usual–Concrete’s jealous…

Dark Horse Presents 28 (March 1989)

The Concrete story goes on forever. It has some of Chadwick’s better art in a while, but also some Liefeldian body mechanics. It’s metaphysical nonsense about the environment. These Concrete stories are best as time capsules–things haven’t gotten any better in the last twenty years. Zone debuts this issue; Kraiger’s illustrating is fine. The story’s harmless and uninteresting. It seems like it’s going to follow in Concrete‘s footsteps in terms of passivity. Hedden and McWeeney do a wordless Roachmill. Great art, mildly amusing story. The art’s what’s important here. Gilbert and Beatty do a Mr. Monster story all about EC Comics and…

Dark Horse Presents 22 (September 1988)

Seriously, a short story? I guess Andrew Murphy provides his own illustrations, but his story is a prose future story about cloning. Not a very logical one either (how do the clones age, for example). I guess it’s not the worst prose story I’ve ever read in a comic, but am I making a compliment? No. Concrete is a thoughtful story of a young village kid in Asia getting ready for Concrete’s walking tour. Chadwick has probably never written a better story. Too bad the illustration is mediocre. He’s barely got any detail to his faces and I can’t remember a single…

Dark Horse Presents 20 (August 1988)

This issue is a sixty-four page giant–only most of the extra is filler. They could have gotten away with a lot less pages. The Mr. Monster story is real short (and lame). Gary Davis has a short space alien story showing he’s read some Arthur C. Clarke (it’s long, wordless filler). Rick Geary’s got a nice two page story, which is filler but really excellent filler. Then there’s the start of a Trekker serial. It’s incomprehensible if you haven’t read the Trekker series and probably even if you have. Doug Potter has an excellent story about homelessness. Oh, I missed Bob Burden’s…

Dark Horse Presents 18 (June 1988)

Badger’s ink washes on The Mask are real nice, but they’re so much easier to comprehend than his regular art, I almost wish he’d done the whole thing with that process. It’d be worth the wait. With the ink washes, when he does something crazy, it just works better. Maybe because it feels realer when the Mask appears and reality splits. Chadwick uses his Concrete spot for some more old stuff–in the letter column, the editor reveals these “Sky of Heads” stories are nothing but old Chadwick material from a drawer, which I said the first time. The story in the story…

Dark Horse Presents 16 (March 1988)

Wow, what an issue. Chadwick uses Concrete to bookend a short story. Or he uses double bookends to frame a story. It’s kind of pointless, so it fits with the other Concrete stories… At least the story’s mostly about people, so Chadwick’s art is strong. Strong enough. It really feels like something he had in the drawer and threw Concrete in to get it printed. Captain Crusader limps to the finish. There are some art issues, but Martin’s idiotic writing is the problem. I think he wanted people to talk about how the story ends. I can’t imagine anyone talking about anything…

Dark Horse Presents 14 (January 1988)

Reading Mr. Monster, I thought a lot about how much I love Will Eisner’s Spirit in black and white. Not because Gilbert’s art in any way reminds of Eisner, but because it doesn’t. Because instead of publishing wonderful black and white comics, Dark Horse Presents is publishing Gilbert’s Mr. Monster and it looks like pencils run through the photocopier to darken it. Art aside, it’s still atrocious. The Concrete story is completely depressing. While visiting his parents’ grave, Concrete contemplates his future. It’s bleak. Chadwick’s art isn’t particularly special here (why is Concrete the one thing he doesn’t draw well), but it’s…

Dark Horse Presents 12 (November 1987)

Okay, The Mask is supposed to be incomprehensible. Badger’s first line in the story is about it being incomprehensible. In a lot of ways, it’s the best continuing serial in Dark Horse Presents so far. I can’t understand it, not with Badger’s art purposely intended to confuse, but at least the writing is ambitious. It’s ambitious in a really, really small way–this issue it’s showing realistic dialogue at a party–but Badger’s definitely trying something. On the other hand, this issue’s Concrete is pretty tired. Chadwick’s showing how lonely it is when you’re stuck in an enormous alien, stone body. He could have…

Dark Horse Presents 10 (September 1987)

This issue Concrete gets into a fight with a bear and nearly loses. In some ways, since Chadwick isn’t going for the saccharine, it works better than any other Concrete story so far. Except it’s basically a reluctant superhero story, so it’s not the traditional Concrete story. Again, somewhat weak art from Chadwick. It’s hard to judge Badger’s art on The Mask (spelled Masque here) since it’s supposed to be nuts. The story is only somewhat successful, since nothing happens. It’s an action scene where the bad guys we just met get killed. I guess it’s interesting the bad guys are federal…

Dark Horse Presents 8 (June 1987)

I can’t believe I missed Concrete–well, actually, I can, given Vitruvian Man is in here, but I can’t believe I was “looking forward” to it. This issue’s story is… it’s hard to describe. Chadwick’s writing is kind of like if you took “Seinfeld” and made the characters care about other people’s feelings. This time, Concrete mouths off to some crappy little kids then gets so upset he has to apologize. Big whoop. Chadwick’s art’s a little lazy here, so there’s not even that benefit. Vitruvian Man is about an annoying jerk becoming superhuman. It’s of some note because the protagonist’s sister is…

Dark Horse Presents 6 (April 1987)

This issue drags. It opens with Trekker‘s story line ending. Hopefully Dark Horse just gave Randall his own series so I don’t have to read any more of it. The story nearly gets okay on the last page, but it’s still got Randall’s awful writing to bring it back down. The art’s real lazy too. Workman’s Roma continues to be a Love and Rockets knock-off, but at least this issue it’s a little more engaging. The strong design sense comes through a lot, creating a nice looking story, but not a particularly good one. I’d like to say Concrete‘s back on track…

Dark Horse Presents 5 (February 1987)

There’s very little to say about this issue’s Concrete story. It’s not a bad story, just another waste of time–though I guess the art is nowhere near as strong as usual. The story’s about this young woman who wants to be an artist and wants Concrete to be her subject. When she meets him, does she overcome her urban withdrawal and talk to him? No. Then there’s John Workman’s Roma. Workman–who’s lettered just about everything at one time or another–initially gives the impression of being a really good artist. Then it becomes clear he’s way too design oriented. As far as the…

Dark Horse Presents 4 (January 1987)

It’s a real toss-up this issue for worst writing. Randall’s script for Trekker is laughably bad, but there’s something almost confrontational about Stradley’s Mindwalk script. It’s like he’s punishing the reader for taking the time to read the story, as though he or she isn’t being punished enough by Emberlin’s artwork. Randall’s Trekker art, on the other hand, isn’t terrible. He’s got some issues with proportions and perspective, but his enthusiasm and persistence are clear. He worked hard illustrating his derivative, atrocious sci-fi story. The rest of the issue is similarly unimpressive. Sure, Chadwick’s Concrete artwork is amazing, but the story is…

Dark Horse Presents 3 (November 1986)

Yay, Warner’s back with Black Cross–featuring a bunch of expository dialogue recapping the first story. With all that useless exposition, one might think Warner would explain the ground situation to the reader. But he doesn’t. It’s confusing and a lot of work thinking about something so dumb sounding. Stradley and Emberlin’s Mindwalk has its weakest entry so far, with Stradley inexplicably using two narrators here. A mediocre first person narrator is one thing, but then he brings in a female narrator who sounds like a six-year-old. Emberlin’s art is similarly problematic, though he draws Kirby-esque monsters well. The Concrete story is charming.…

Dark Horse Presents 2 (September 1986)

Wow, does Chadwick ever try hard to be cute. His Concrete story this issue is a completely useless, inconsequential diversion… Maybe I’m missing the point. Maybe it’s supposed to be charming, but it just seems like he wastes a lot of energy. The art’s okay, Concrete being a really boring looking character but the desert setting is fine. I certainly wish Chadwick was on Mindwalk, just because Emberlin is so weak. He’s got the occasionally well-designed panel, but the art tends to be broad or ugly. The broad stuff is fine, it just doesn’t look like he put in work. The ugly…

Dark Horse Presents 1 (July 1986)

You know, I really didn’t expect Dark Horse Presents to open its first issue with a male overcompensation piece like Black Cross. Warner’s art’s amateurish and I guess it shows movie optioning is a comic book tradition (the character looks like Sylvester Stallone). It’s a dismal story. Chadwick’s two contributions are all right. The Concrete one is charming and at least hints at some kind of social consciousness for the comic (which Black Cross feigns). More impressive, as far as the art goes, is Brighter!, a Vertigo ready story about some young woman who can produce optical illusions. So she’s a mutant…