Mark A. Nelson

Dark Horse Presents 24 (November 1988)

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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 art, once again, makes it impossible to easily discern the content. And a lot of the writing is just silly.

Arcudi and Miehm’s Homicide is a good police procedural. Arcudi is weak on the cop chatter, but the mystery is good. Nice inks.

Geary’s Police Beat‘s fine.

CREDITS

Aliens; story and art by Mark A. Nelson; script by Mark Verheiden. Race of Scorpions; story and art by Leopoldo Durañona; lettering by Tim Harkins. Homicide, A Whiff of Madness; story by John Arcudi; art and lettering by Grant Miehm. Police Beat; story, art and lettering by Rick Geary. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 14 (January 1988)

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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 one heck of a lovely downer.

Badger’s Mask story is just a filler, maybe announcing Badger’s leaving or maybe not. It’s hard to tell.

Nelson has a one page Dinosaur Tales, which is more design than anything else, but still nice.

That Mr. Monster story was really awful.

CREDITS

Concrete, Now is Now; writer and artist, Paul Chadwick; letterer, Bill Spicer. The Mask, Gone Fishing!; writer and artist, Mark Badger; letterer, David Jackson. Mr. Monster, His World; writer and artist, Michael T. Gilbert; letterer, Ken Bruzenak. Dinosaur Tales; writer and artist, Mark A. Nelson. Editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 12 (November 1987)

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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 done something akin to Chekhov’s Misery, but doesn’t because he’s got to keep the comic relatively upbeat. Nice art at the beginning though.

Nelson’s contribution is a five page time travel story. The plot’s decent if predictable and familiar, but the art is exquisite and beautiful.

CREDITS

Concrete, Next Best; writer and artist, Paul Chadwick; letterer, Bill Spicer. The Portheus Project; writer and artist, Mark A. Nelson. The Mask; writer and artist, Mark Badger; letterer, Tim Harkins. Editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 11 (October 1987)

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Is The Mask supposed to be understandable? Badger’s writing seems straightforward enough–two CIA agents are trying to find a Cuban priest who’s in New York City, but his art makes it completely incomprehensible. And it’s hard to imagine how the titular Mask (Masque) is going to figure into the priest’s story. I also can’t figure out if it’s supposed to be pro-Cuba or anti-Cuba.

West writes a little history lesson about the Battle of the Somme. Moiseiwitsch’s art is more like etchings and the text is set to them and somewhat related. It’s unsuccessful but not ambitious either.

Roma limps to its finish. Some nice art from Workman but the writing’s incredibly weak. He’s also basically only doing closeups now, which is odd since the story’s got a big finish.

The best thing in the issue–by far–are Nelson’s two Dinosaur Tales pages. Absolutely wondrous art.

CREDITS

The Mask; writer and artist, Mark Badger; letterer, Tim Harkins. Forgotten; writer, Ross Evan West; artist, Carel Moiseiwitsch. Roma; writer, artist and letterer, John Workman. Dinosaur Tales; writer, artist and letterer, Mark A. Nelson. Editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens 6 (July 1989)

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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 to read the second series but I think Verheiden wrote it too and he probably horrifically narrates it with Newt).

The series is a big let down from the first two or three issues. Verheiden had too much melodrama to fit into six issues.

Blah.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Verheiden; pencillers, Ron Randall and Mark A. Nelson; inker, Nelson; letterer, Willie Schubert; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens 5 (June 1989)

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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 a lot of really cool alien landscape designs here from Nelson. His art hasn’t gotten much better overall, but the design stuff is amazing. Haunting, even. I mean, I remember it from when I was a kid.

But it doesn’t make up for the narration.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Verheiden; artist, Mark A. Nelson; letterer, Willie Schubert; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens 4 (April 1989)

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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 finally has some of these evil corporation types running around, they seem really silly–just as fanatical as the religious fanatics… but he doesn’t seem aware of it.

Again, Newt and Hicks mostly get the shaft on page time. Verheiden’s dismissed them as the series’s protagonists.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Verheiden; artist, Mark A. Nelson; letterer, Willie Schubert; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens 3 (January 1989)

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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 possibly could. It kills the space part of it in a lot of ways.

And the space part is where Verheiden runs into trouble. He’s barely got time for the Hicks and Newt Marine expedition, only enough to reveal a traitor in their midst.

Still, very readable.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Verheiden; artist, Mark A. Nelson; letterer, Willie Schubert; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens 2 (September 1988)

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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 figures all seem too short, with their proportions off. Not exaggerated, just off.

There’s really no alien stuff in the comic until the last page or so (it’s a reveal), so it’s impressive Verheiden can keep it engaging.

The details are a tad contrived, but it works.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Verheiden; artist, Mark A. Nelson; letterer, Willie Schubert; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens 1 (May 1988)

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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 the movie events, which the reader easily sympathizes with. It makes the reader inclined to accept the comic book. I can’t believe Aliens didn’t have more crossover appeal.

Nelson’s art is okay. It’s not indie but not accomplished enough to be mainstream; but it’s not the draw either.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Verheiden; artist, Mark A. Nelson; letterer, Willie Schubert; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.