The Unwritten 31.5 (January 2012)

Carey–with plotting assistance from Gross–internally spins off Unwritten with these .5s. I’m guessing, anyway; this one is my first .5. Carey uses Wilson Taylor’s journals investigating the Cabal’s history. Michael Kaluta handles the art on the first story, regarding Pullman silencing some monks in ancient China. It’s a decent story with a good twist at the end, but it lacks any wow factor. The second story, however, has the wow. Rick Geary perfectly illustrates the tale of a newspaper cartoonist who has to face the realities of being a storyteller. It’s quietly frightening, especially the postscript. Carey again utilizes a twist. It’s…

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 107 (March 1996)

I’ll start with the worst—Devil Chef. Pollock threatens a second installment. He can draw, this story shows, he just choses not to. It’s an unfunny strip with a lot of details and zero charm. On the other hand, Purcell and Mignola’s Rusty Razorciam is quite a bit of fun. Mignola’s not a good fit for sci-fi (it’s hard to tell what he’s trying to convey, action-wise, at times), but Purcell’s got an amusing set of characters. The protagonist narrates an incomplete adventure. It’s really rather nice, even with the art problems. French’s Ninth Gland is weird and ominous. Not much happens this…

Dark Horse Presents 100 4 (August 1995)

I guess Dave Gibbons had no quibbles about Frank Miller ripping off Watchmen for their Martha Washington story this issue. Nice art, bad writing. Forney’s got an anecdote about meeting Tom Waits. It has some charm, but not enough to sustain it. Then Geary’s back with a one page strip, as are Pekar and Sacco. They’re both harmless (but thank goodness they’re short). Warner brings in a Black Cross piece. His writing has gotten a little better in terms of dialogue in the hundred issues since he introduced the character. The story’s useless though. Art’s not terrible, not good. Sendelbach’s Mr. Applehead…

Dark Horse Presents 92 (December 1994)

The issue opens with Wheeler’s Too Much Coffee Man, which is a cute enough story about a disaffected guy with a coffee pot for his head. Wheeler uses the character to generally rail against modern capitalist society. Wheeler’s got a good sense of design and some of the observations are funny (none are profound). It’s fine enough… but it gets old before this first installment is even done. Blackheart continues… revealing the villains to be costumed Tea Party members. Oh, wait, it’s a little early since Blackheart‘s set in the thirties. Maybe they’re just the well-to-do wing of the Klan. So, you…

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 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 60 (March 1992)

Oh, lucky me, Sin City isn’t over yet. Instead, Miller spends most of his pages with one image, a lot of white space and even more terrible narration. I think I hate this entry the most. Not sure if it’s because I’m subjected to more of Miller’s writing or if it’s because I thought I was actually done with Sin City for now. Geary has two different strips this issue. One’s two pages, the other is one. Neither is particularly good, but the second one is pretty bad, actually. Nice art, weak sentimental nonsense. The Creep starts its second story arc and…

Dark Horse Presents 59 (February 1992)

Wow, I really don’t know what’s the best thing in the issue. Geary’s one page entry is a failure. It’s his solid art, but the writing doesn’t work here. It’s just too much forced sentiment. Alien Fire seemingly comes to an end this issue–some very nice space frog art from Vincent–but Smith’s writing is just addlebrained. I can’t believe more attention would make it make any sense… I also can’t imagine giving it any more attention. It’s been one of the biggest wastes of time in Dark Horse Presents in a while. I think Sin City‘s first arc ends here. It’s twenty-one…

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 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 54 (September 1991)

The big surprise this issue is Byrne’s Next Men. It’s actually pretty solid (though I think it features all four Byrne faces). The art’s great–nice flow of action–and the story’s intriguing. I think it’s the strongest narrative structure I’ve ever read from Byrne (though it might just be because it’s a prologue). Geary’s got a few Transgression Hotline strips. They’re solid, amusing and unremarkable. Geary’s a professional though and they’re well-produced. The Homicide closer from Morrow and Arcudi is fabulous. Morrow transforms the strip from Arcudi’s regular bore to something out of a film noir. During this installment, Arcudi even manages to…

Dark Horse Presents 53 (August 1991)

It turns out all I need to like Homicide is a good artist. I think Arcudi fashioned the story to fit Morrow’s sensibilities, but it’s easily the best dialogue Arcudi’s written on the series. Morrow really shows how important an artist is in making a mediocre (at best) script work. Geary’s got a single page again. It’s a little more profound than usual and not entirely successful. Paley’s got a crazy cat strip and it’s simply lovely. She breaks the comic strips panels and lets loose this swash of ink. Even with Morrow in the issue, it’s the best art, just because…

Dark Horse Presents 48 (February 1991)

Between Gaudiano and Pugh, this issue is just an art feast. Csutoras’s writing on the Gaudiano story, Harlequin, is decent, concerning a European living in the States, his loony acquaintances and some intrigue. Gaudiano makes the protagonist’s monologues atmospheric and the regular action somewhat continental in feel. The narrative is intentionally confusing, which may get annoying. But for now, it’s a very solid entry. Pugh and Edginton do Downtown, which is seemingly a British reprint. It’s hard to gauge as a series, since it’s not the first installment. It’s deals a little with the fourth wall and is very funny. They open…

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 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…

Dark Horse Presents 23 (October 1988)

Here’s a somewhat strange issue… it opens with Stout’s history piece about Americans massacring Filipinos in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s even more relevant today (those massacred were Muslim and the whole thing has been brushed under the history carpet). It’s better as a history lesson than a comic. Race of Scorpions is a practically unintelligible new serial. Duranona’s artwork is nearly impossible to comprehend. He’s got all this perspective but almost no shadows, so it all just jumbles together. He appears to have borrowed from Star Wars to set up his story of the young man who loses his…

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 19 (July 1988)

Finally; it only took eighteen issues, but this one is essential reading. It’s not as simple as there not being a weak story… every single one of them is good. I suppose, in this company, the weakest is Badger’s Mask. It’s starting to get old, with no real plot progression. He’s also doing the ink washes every other page, making it feel formulaic. Those complaints made, it’s still fine work. Though I notice the CIA’s no longer after a Cuban priest, just a South American one. Rice’s Bob the Alien extended strip is really funny this time, not just amusing. I’m now…