|It’s times like this, when man’s insignificant efforts fail, that we must look beyond ourselves to a greater power, a higher power, atomic power!!
This is the start of the third incarnation of the anthology comic Dark Horse Presents. The first volume ran from 1986 to 2000 and featured the first appearances of some of Dark Horse’s iconic characters before they had their own books – such as Concrete, Next Men and Sin City. In its second incarnation (from 2007 -2010) it was brought back as a MySpace page but again featured the same mix of one-off and episodic stories. The strips from this period were collected in five trade paperbacks. It is now back as a bi-monthly print comic again. It has been upgraded since its first incarnation 25 years ago – it is 80 pages long, in colour and has no ads.
The line up for the first issue is:
Concrete by Paul Chadwick
Marked Man Chapter 1 by Howard Chaykin
Blood Chapter 1 by Neal Adams
Finder: Third World Chapter 1 by Carla Speed McNeil
Mr. Monster vs Oooak! by Michael T. Gilbert
A 2 page interview with Frank Miller followed by a 4 page sneak peak of the 300 prequel Xerxes
A five page short story by Harlan Ellison
Murky World Chapter 1 by Richard Corben
A prequel to Star Wars: Crimson Empire III by Randy Stradley and Paul Gulacy
Snow Angel by David Chelsea
And finally 2 one page strips by Patrick Alexander
So like most anthology titles a mix of stories and genres with something for everyone but unlikely to hit the mark with every story. There is also a mix of the old and new – both in terms of the characters and the creators. Unfortunately I have to say I was slightly disappointed by the first issue. Concrete was never a comic that I saw the appeal of and the story here is fine enough but has some references in the dialogue that will only make sense to long term fans so they may get more of a thrill out of it than I did. I am absolutely not a Star Wars fan so I was left pretty cold after reading a story that was a prequel to the third volume of an existing storyline. Of the one-off stories, Mr. Monster was the one I enjoyed reading the most as it was funny and the most accessible to people who had not read many of his previous adventures.
The episodic stories were also disappointing as they did not seem to be written with the episodic model in mind – with the exception of Blood and perhaps Murky World – they did not immediately draw me into their respective worlds and did not particularly leave me wanting to read more. Only the fact that Howard Chaykin usually writes something worth reading in the long run will draw me back to his story.
In Mike Richardson’s introduction to the issue he says, “Twenty-five years ago we set out to bring you the best comics creators in the world, and today our goal remains the same.” So it is a bit disappointing to find that all the creators in this issue are American (with the exception of Patrick Alexander). It would have been nice if they could have mixed it up a bit more – perhaps with a touch of manga or some non-American artists. I was also hoping for a cross fertilisation with the Cheval Noir – a companion title to volume one of Dark Horse Presents that featured a lot of European comics. So a mixed bag but I will probably stick with it through its first year to see how the title develops.