Dark Horse Presents 100 2 (August 1995)

The opening Hellboy story has, just on the surface, one major problem. Hellboy wrote Abe a letter, the text of that letter is the story’s narration. Hellboy writes letters where he sounds like an expository narrator. How uninteresting. Then it turns out the story’s actually Hellboy’s secret origin (he’s the son of a demon and a nun). Should be interesting. Isn’t. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t have any dramatic oomph. Campbell’s got a sort of creepy, sort of not Alec story. It’s well-done if somewhat pointless. Apparently Dark Horse thought they needed some cartoonists in Presents so they get three. Pollock’s…

Dark Horse Presents 99 (June 1995)

Campbell finishes Doreen Grey here and it’s an awkward installment. It’s almost like he would have been better not resolving things. He’s got a lot of expositional dialogue here from the Eyeball Kid and it really just doesn’t work. It’s maybe his least successful Presents entry and story (the story gradually getting weaker over time). Delano and Oakley have a weird, very long supernatural story. It’s convoluted and Delano doesn’t have an ending, even though it initially starts really strong. Oakley tries a lot of stylish stuff, but he never really just sits down and draws a compelling page. Kabuki Kid finishes…

Dark Horse Presents 98 (June 1995)

I’m tempted to mention Cooper’s one page strip first because it’s a page and I don’t really have anything to say about it. Oops, there I went and did. Brubaker and Gaudiano finish up Here and Now. It’s got a bit of a surprise ending, which makes perfect sense, but for whatever reason (probably a combination of Gaudiano’s realistic illustrating and Brubaker’s occasional summary storytelling), it works perfectly. The story really deserves to be collected (though the private detective angle detracts in some ways). Rennie and Langridge’s Kabuki Kid features a story about Japanese products and their dismissal of the human worker.…

Dark Horse Presents 97 (May 1995)

I wonder what Rennie’s Kabuki Kid scripts look like. This installment has a setup, introduces some villains, then it just goes wild. Langridge has the Kabuki Kid and his sidekick fighting an army of adversaries (though it does get weeded through fast). It’s funny and fast, even better than the first installment. Schutz and Pander have three pages of filler set at a jazz club. Pander’s art’s good, but the entry’s pointless. Unless maybe it was a real place. Then Brubaker and Gaudiano continue their dysfunctional private investigator in Here and Now. It’s an exceptionally depressing piece. I also wonder if it…

Dark Horse Presents 96 (April 1995)

I’m not sure if Presents has ever had such a good issue. They may have… but this one’s rather excellent. Brubaker and Gaudiano’s Here and Now is a detective story, but one with an introspective, lost in his thoughts not his cases detective. Gaudiano’s artwork is fantastic–it’s basically a guy walking around most of the story, but he makes it compelling. Brubaker’s writing narration for the first half, then introduces a bunch of plot. It’s great. Rennie and Langridge’s Kabuki Kid is a strange sort of samurai comedy. I’m hesitant to say samurai because Rennie throws in some Chinese stereotypes too (but…

Dark Horse Presents 95 (March 1995)

LaBan finishes Eno and Plum better than he started but not as good as the second installment. I think this one is the first I laughed out loud reading, but the story’s predictable and LaBan still doesn’t do anything to turn Plum into a character. Worse, he gives her these moronic thoughts. I’d say it’s him giving her character, but they’re so bland, it’s clear he’s just trying to fill blank space. Campbell’s Picture of Doreen Grey continues–this time concentrating on a big battle scene and Joe Theseus and Ginny (an Amazon goddess, I think, much better character than Wonder Woman too)…

Dark Horse Presents 94 (February 1995)

Okay, so the issue opens with Eddie Campbell doing an action story. It’s not all action, but there’s a bunch of action. It’s crazy—there’s a big fight scene. Campbell keeps all the humor and a lot of the thoughtfulness (he tones down the thoughtfulness a little) and adds a regular fight scene. It’s crazy and great. Too Much Coffee Man also has a fight scene this issue, between the hero and an invader from Mars. Someone must have told Wheeler he’s funny and that someone was wrong. The installment even opens with Wheeler talking about his story being boring and pointless. Some…

Dark Horse Presents 84 (April 1984)

Let me try to think of something nice to say about Buoy 77‘s finale. Lopez is back to the weak art, so no compliment there. Boyd’s conclusion is all about how the white man ruins native peoples (I’m shocked they didn’t put in a prose notice of it), so not there either. All in all, it’s a waste of time. I’m surprised Boyd went for a lame, common point. Barron and Barry have a humor strip–Judah–about a chili cook-off. Maybe it’s funny if you care about chili. I guess Barry’s art is fine for a way too long humor strip. Swan and…

Dark Horse Presents 83 (March 1994)

Lloyd’s got a very well-illustrated story here. It’s a thriller–con artist out to murder his rich wife–told after the fact (guess what, the husband gets busted through a very Hitchcockian twist). The art’s more important than the story. Lloyd gets the tone perfect. If it were a longer piece, with more characterization, it might be more significant. As is, it’s just a fantastic little exercise. Speaking of good art, Lopez finally improves on this installment of Buoy 77. It’s the same style, but he really gets more fluidity in his action here. It doesn’t hurt Boyd’s writing is stronger too. The writing…

Dark Horse Presents 82 (February 1994)

Well, Hermes’s slump continues. Campbell’s problem might be the villains—the Eye of Fate (or something… the skeleton head guy) is a lot more interesting than anyone else in the story than the Eyeball Kid. So we want the Eyeball Kid to win (even though Eye of Fate doesn’t) and Eye of Fate to win… but he’s a villain. He’s just a really amusing one. Though there’s an actual fight between Hermes and the Eyeball Kid this installment, it’s still not one of the stronger ones. Geary’s got a couple stories in here. Neither are good. Apparently he learned how to make his…

Dark Horse Presents 81 (January 1994)

I’m not sure what happens this installment of Hermes. It almost seems like a bridging installment. Hermes, who hasn’t really had a lot to do since the first installment, is preparing his attack and the supervillains are splintering. It’s a fine installment, but it’s the first one where Campbell didn’t “wow” me. The opening story, Buoy 77, from Boyd and Lopez, is good. Lopez’s art is a little unfinished, but the concept–a bunch of rural Brazilians trying to find a missing oil company buoy for the reward–is excellent. Boyd handles the Brazilians and their culture better than the oil company (I had…

Dark Horse Presents 80 (December 1993)

Are there Art Adams fans out there? He’s not bad, but his faces are awful. I’ve never seen someone vary his perspective of a face so much—it’s like he does these three dimensional faces, except the nose. The nose is 2D. I guess he drew the monsters well. Monkeyman & O’Brien is not terrible. It’s just mediocre. Then it turns out I read the last Hermes installment wrong—I didn’t notice Campbell had a visual framing for flashbacks—so we do get to see the supervillains in their costumes. It also turns out they’re responsible for the fight between Hermes and the Eyeball Kid.…

Dark Horse Presents 79 (November 1993)

Ever have a friend who could draw really well? Moeller’s art on Shadow Empires is like a friend who can draw well. He takes time with it, he works at it… but it’s still totally not ready for the big leagues. It’s somehow even rougher than some of the worse art Presents has published. The writing’s pretty lame too (it’s like Dune again). Campbell and company turn in another fine episode of Hermes here. While the Eyeball Kid is in hiding, Campbell concentrates on the supporting cast. It’s awesome how little the fight has to do with what Campbell does with the…

Dark Horse Presents 78 (October 1993)

Yolen and Vess have an absolutely fantastic fairy tale story here. It’s not technically a fairy tale (it’s layered, a nursemaid tells the story to a child, who it directly concerns) but it’s just wonderful. Vess’s art here is superior–he’s able to convey action, antiquity and fear. There’s one moment where it confuses, then it all becomes quite clear. Yolen comes up with a great narrative though. Her writing is the real boon. Paleolove continues. Davis is on the second of a third part story and there’s no reason for a third part if this one is any indication. Not because it’s…

Dark Horse Presents 77 (August 1993)

Oh, I finally get it. Paleolove means love in the Paleolithic era. To pay Davis a complement (my first?), he’s never tried so deliberately to tug on the heartstrings until now so I never really gave the title a thought. What amazes me is the artwork. He hasn’t gotten any better with figures since his first Paleolove story, sixty or so issues ago in Presents. At least he’s not getting worse. Campbell and company don’t explain everything this installment of Hermes and Eyeball. I fact, I don’t think they explain anything other than the Eyeball Kid and the false oracle are in…

Dark Horse Presents 76 (August 1993)

Madwoman sort of whimpers off to its end. Jordorowsky tries to do way too much–he introduces two new characters and kind of changes up the point of the story. He also introduces the possibility its all about getting a drug princess out of jail. It doesn’t even have a solid ending, instead making a joke about the protagonist’s sexual promiscuity. It’s a weak finish… but the art from Moebius is good. The Chairman finishes up too. Moore introduces more characters and major plot point. It’s exceptionally poorly written. All I can think is the editor knew Moore personally. Robinson’s art continues to…

Dark Horse Presents 71 (March 1993)

The Bacchus makes up for any other possible deficiencies this issue. Campbell (and Bacchus) retell the story of the Minotaur and it’s simply wonderful. I’m not sure it’s historically accurate, though I don’t know. I’ve never read such an in-depth Minotaur story. The other two stories aren’t bad, but they really don’t even come close to Bacchus. The Dominique story is pretty dumb. I didn’t even realize it was Jim Balent and I don’t think I’ve ever read a story he’s drawn before. The art’s fine. It’s better than the writing. The Moores have an ex-CIA agent called back in to deal…

Dark Horse Presents 70 (February 1993)

I didn’t know it was possible for me to care about Paleolove and I’m not entirely sure I really do. But I am mad at Davis for the way he ends this story. It seems like the last Paleolove (yay!) but he kills off a side character in the exposition and it’s a really weak move. He’s doing it for effect, to make the story seem poignant… while it would have been poignant if he’d just left it alone. The story from Jordorowsky and Moebius is all right, nothing more. It’s an academic comedy, with a popular philosophy professor being cuckolded in…

Dark Horse Presents 69 (February 1993)

The Predator story keeps getting worse (it turns out it’s just a prologue to some limited series, I love it when Dark Horse uses Presents to advertise their licensed properties). Given Raskin’s worsening artwork and Stradley’s bad writing–he uses a government report as the narrative exposition, he’s used similar devices in the past successfully… here he fails. It’s an awful story; very happy it’s the last installment. Duffy and Sakamoto have another Nestrobber installment. It’s mean-spirited and lacking in charm. I think it’s supposed to be funny, but I’m completely perplexed with Duffy’s intent. It’s supposed to be manga, but I can’t…

Dark Horse Presents 68 (December 1992)

The Predator story continues and its problems become real clear. Stradley’s trying to take a “real” approach to certain elements–gang members, serial killers–and it just comes off as silly with the Predator running around. Raskin’s art suggests he’s unprepared for such a big assignment (and Wiacek seems to have been brought in to correct things via the inks). Then there’s the inexplicable cliffhanger. So far, very unimpressive. Campbell’s got two Alec strips. One is really cute, the other is just a nice example of a one page narrative. Davis is back with Paleolove. The story is longwinded and the art is still…

Dark Horse Presents 67 (November 1992)

The issue opens with an idiotic story about an annoying character called Zoo-Lou. Hedden and McWeeney usually do great work. The art here’s excellent, but the writing is an absolute nightmare. Dark Horse really loves poking fun at themselves… and usually it comes out awful, like Zoo-Lou. An Accidental Death comes to its conclusion here. No one does this kind of angst and suffering like Brubaker. Everything he does these days is a waste compared to what he could be doing. Brilliant work from Shanower too. Duffy and Sakamoto have an awful story called Nestrobber. It’s just atrocious. The Predator story is…

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 57 (December 1991)

Not much to recommend Next Men this time. Byrne handles his violent action sequence well, but he’s also selling a U.S. senator killing a federal agent. Who knows, maybe it’s all a Tea Party thing. Regardless, no longer interested in the series. The Creep is, again, excellent. I can’t believe Arcudi’s writing it. And Eaglesham’s artwork is great. He’s doing this unfinished finished look, hard to explain. Geary does one page. It’s fine. His longer work’s better. Alien Fire is this excellent sixties piece about a Vietnam vet. It’s very quiet, lovely writing from Smith. Vincent’s artwork is good, with some caveats.…

Dark Horse Presents 52 (July 1991)

The Bacchus story is a really upsetting story of Simpson, Bacchus’s sidekick, and his journey through hell. I’m not up on my Dante, but it seems like it follows Inferno a little bit. It’s a good story, but it’s a real downer and very different from the other Bacchus entries so far. The Heartbreakers story features some really dumb plot developments. But Bennett may have gotten the narrative to a good starting point. Finally. Then there’s Sin City—two installments in and I’m really sick of it. Half the story looks like Miller’s drew Batman then replaced him with Marv (trench coat as…

Dark Horse Presents 46 (November 1990)

You know, the Aliens stories in Dark Horse Presents, for whatever reason, never bugged me. However, this Predator standalone… it’s really out of place. Maybe it’s because Arcudi’s writing is so lame (he does have a good twist, but Walton’s art makes it hard to appreciate as everyone looks the same). It’s not so much bad, just really lame. Harris’s Crash Ryan is just getting better. He does a bunch of action (and gets two story slots in this issue) and then has a fantastic reveal. He mixes the awkward politics–it’s pro-worker, but anti-Soviet and anti-Nazi. Awesome conclusion has American big business…

Dark Horse Presents 44 (September 1990)

Harris’s Crash Ryan takes place in some kind of alternate 1930s, where America is under attack from some homegrown sky pirate organization called Doom. It’d competently done, but sort of too soon to tell how it’s going to work out. It’s not, you know, guys in tights, but it’s traditional mainstream fare. Then it’s Geary’s nice little story about some guy’s family and their ailments. Geary has a nice way of doing little stories; this type of story is often attempted in Dark Horse Presents and they usually fail. Geary doesn’t. The Bacchus entry is about an unknown Greek god. It’s the…

Dark Horse Presents 40 (May 1990)

You know, I think Matt Wagner’s Aerialist is homophobic. Every man is forced to be gay. Anyway, it’s not at all impressive, a Rollerball knockoff. When his characters aren’t in costume, Wagner’s art is rather weak. I guess the hot air balloons look good. Bob the Alien is absolutely amazing as a) Bob moves to a black neighborhood in Brooklyn and b) discovers God. It might be the funniest installment so far. I can’t believe this comic isn’t more appreciated. The Argosy is a really wordy retelling of Jason and the Argonauts. It’s fantasy, introduces about forty character names in eight pages.…

Dark Horse Presents 37 (March 1990)

Thank goodness there’s a Bacchus in here because otherwise it’d be a complete loss. Guinan’s art continues to be acceptable on Heartbreakers, while he and Bennett’s writing just gets worse and worse. Some of the issue is with them trying to do too much in such a short amount of pages… But mostly they just can’t write it. They can’t make their characters matter, so they try to make their ideas matter. Except it’s a bunch of theoretical ideas, so… as usual… who cares? Speaking of bad, Davis is now changing the hairstyles for the protagonists between panels on Celia & Delia.…

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…