ADVANCE REVIEW! Dark Horse Presents #2 will come out on June 22, 2011.
While I’m thrilled in theory that Dark Horse is giving anthology another try, and restarting their flagship title Dark Horse Presents, I have to be honest that the results are a little “Meh.” All the stories are solid, with a nice blend of classic professionals and new names, but there is no real show-stopper, nothing that left me hanging and anticipating the next issue.
Dark Horse Presents #2 has 10 stories in total, each running about eight pages for a classic 80-page Spectacular. There are two new stories debuting this issue: Number 13 by Robert Love and David Walker, and Rotten Apple by Sanford Green and Chuck Brown. The other eight stories are continued from #1. There are no standalone stories, and each story ends with the familiar “To Be Continued.”
Some of the stories, like Paul Chadwick’s Concrete are excellent without being exciting. Chadwick’s work is relaxed and confident, and enjoyable but without any real hook. Just another cool Concrete story. Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder story was the same — comfortable, welcome, fun to read, but with no real urgency of wanting to find out what happens next. Michael T. Gilbert’s Mr. Monster was a bit more engaging, which is easy to do when you have the simplicity of Mr. Monster battling outer-space plate monsters.
One of the big pulls for me was Neal Adams. Once the greatest comic book artist alive, he has sunk to the punchline of a joke due to his self-published garbage like CyberRad and his maniacal support of the Hollow Earth Theory (for which he was once parodied in an issue of Fantastic Four.) His DHP story, Blood shows that time has not damaged his pencil hand no matter how weird Neal has gotten. The guy can draw a hell of a funnybook. Unfortunately, he can’t write them as well as he can draw them, and the story — some esoteric biblical sci-fi tale involving the Knights Templar — doesn’t live up to the pretty pictures.
My two favorite pieces were Howard Chaykin’s Marked Man and Richard Corben’s Murky World. Unlike Neal Adams, both Chaykin and Corben can write and draw, and had me wanting to read a few more pages of their stories. Chaykin’s story, involving a career criminal and his hidden life with his normal wife and kids, as the most emotionally engaging. Corben’s story, involving little men in carts being carried around by giant women, was weird in that special Corben way.
Most of the other stories fall solidly into the “good but not great” category. Patrick Alexander does a comic-strip style piece called The Wraith about a guy in a Batman costume running around doing bad deeds. Not a lot of depth, but a fun diversion. Stanford Green and Chuck Brown have a religious/zombie apocalypse piece called Rotten Apple that has potential. David Chelsea’s Snow Angel was a charming fairy tale. Love and Walker’s Number 13 is more a teaser than a first chapter, but it was an effective intro of robot boy vs. flesh-eating ogres, combining folklore with sci-fi.
I really want Dark Horse to succeed with this new series, but I feel like they are going to have to up their game and bring in some of the big guns. The revamped Dark Horse Presents needs something like Sin City or Hellboy as an anchor-piece like the old series had. I would also love to see a greater mix of one-shots and continuing stories; at least one or two complete stories per issue would do wonders for hooking new readers. Maybe include a greater variety, bringing in some of Dark Horse’s Japanese talents to truly make this a Dark Horse Presents title that showcases all the wonders of the Dark Horse line.