If you’ve only got eight bucks to spend on comics, this is where you put it. The industry’s premier anthology series, Dark Horse Presents always promises to show you something new. It is THE best place to discover new creators. Issue #27 brings us the conclusions to three different stories. Here’s the official description from Dark Horse:
David Lapham’s Juice Squeezers take on an army of giant bugs! Peter Bagge takes a comical look at American history in Founding Father Funnies! City of Roses returns with another grim crime tale from the mean streets of Portland! Read the dramatic conclusion to Billy the vampire slayer’s tale in a Jane Espenson–penned, Karl Moline–illustrated Buffy story!
On top of all that, this issue also has: the second chapter of Nosferatu Wars, written by Steve Niles, with art by Menton3; Mr. Monster: Dark Stearn, by Michael T. Gilbert and Janet Gilbert; Trekker: The Train to Avalon Bay, by Ron Randall; the (apparent) conclusion of Alabaster: Boxcar Tales, written by Caitlin R. Kiernan, with art (and lettering) by Steve Lieber; Underground, by Andrew Vachss and Mike Richardson, with art by Dominic Reardon; and a new Hunter Quaid story, “The Only Things We Have to Fear…,” written by Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal, with art by Melissa Curtin. City of Roses is written by Phil Stanford and drawn by Patric Reynolds.
That’s a lot of stories, but to keep things under control I’ll only focus on three:
After devoting most of it’s first installment to character work, Lapham’s second Juice Squeezers chapter is all about killing giant insects. It’s a modern take on the innumerable monster movies of the 1950’s that featured enormous bugs (Them!, Earth vs. the Spider, and The Deadly Mantis, to name a few). The character dynamics are still in play, even as the group contends with maggots the size of Corgis. It’s initially difficult to keep track of the characters, as they’re all similarly dressed, but Lapham does amazing things with the faces, either because or in spite of his somewhat simple style. He also does a brilliant job when picking which moments of action to draw. It’s as if the characters are pausing in the optimum position for the scantest instant.
Steve Niles wisely minimizes his writing to put Menton3’s artwork at the forefront in Nosferatu Wars. Menton3 gives Andrea Sorrentino‘s work on I, Vampire a run for its money when it comes to the award for Best Vampire Art in Comics. Truth be told, it’s some of the most spellbinding art I’ve seen, period. He takes a less-is-more approach, using a murky atmosphere to leave a lot to our imaginations. Some panels and characters are little more than sketches, while strong gradients make other elements seem hyper real, especially by comparison. Arcane diagrams and a largely monochromatic color scheme reinforce the setting and tone.
Last, there’s Hunter Quaid, by Cates, Rahal, and Curtin. In the past, I’ve had issues with this character, but here he won me over. I’m not someone who outright laughs a very much, but one pair of panels literally made me lol (and I don’t mean “literally” in the stupid, new, non-literal sense) right in the middle of Starbucks. This installment is ridiculous in every sense of the word and I especially enjoy the frame story, established in the beginning as a dire situation, but blithely left off at the end. Lauren Affe yields some stellar colors, particularly on the last page.
As always, I can’t recommend Dark Horse Presents enough.
If Zac Boone blinks, his eyes will bond irrevocably with the insides of his eyelids. Follow him on the twitter.
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