Review: Dark Horse Presents #1


17843 Dark Horse Presents #1 is a Dark Horse Comics release (duh!), which was released on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011. The comic rings in at a massive 80 pages, for the low price of $7.99 an issue. The stories in the issue are written by Frank Miller, Harlan Ellison, Howard Chaykin, Neal Adams, Richard Corben, Carla Speed McNeil, Michael T. Gilbert, Randy Stradley, Paul Chadwick, David Chelsea, and Patrick Alexander; and illustrated by Frank Miller, Howard Chaykin, Neal Adams, Richard Corben, Carla Speed McNeil, Michael T. Gilbert, Paul Chadwick, Paul Galucy, David Chelsea, Leo & Diane Dillon, and Patrick Alexander.

This first issue opens with the return of everyone’s favourite rock creature, Concrete (sorry, ‘The Thing’). It’s a fitting way to open the first issue of the new Dark Horse Presents, because Concrete actually made his debut in the very first issue of Dark Horse Presents (volume 1), back in July 1986. The last time that we saw Paul Chadwick’s signature creation was in 2000, so how well has the character stood the test of time? Amazingly well actually! Paul Chadwick’s artwork is as fresh and vibrant today as it was 25 years ago, and his storytelling skills are just as fantastic. The story he delivers here is short but oh so sweet. On the surface, it’s a detective story, whereby Concrete stumbles upon the scene of a crime, which in turn leads him to uncover some much more heinous deeds. At it’s core though, it a strong character piece, which reintroduces the reader to the character, and brings us up to speed with what he’s been up to for all these years. Reading this story was like catching up with an old friend that you haven’t seen for many years. I hope Dark Horse and Chadwick have plans to bring us many more adventures.

Next up we have Howard Chakin’s Marked Man, which is probably best described as being a crime story with a twist. The twist here being that our protagonist is leading a double life. During the day, he’s a family man, whose work as a sales man often calls him away on business. During the night, he’s a hardened criminal, who commits armed robbery, and hangs out in sleazy strip clubs. It’s an interesting reversal of the classic secret spy tale, with the hero being swapped out for a villain. It’s a premise with definite potential, and I’m intrigued to see where Chaykin takes the story. The artwork is done in Chaykin’s trademark bold style, which really seems to divide fans. Personally, I love his style, but haters will likely find something to moan about.

Neal Adams’ Blood is… interesting?! Those familiar with his recent work on Batman: Odyssey will find Adams’ writing style on Blood very familiar. Characters ramble on ad nauseum, the plot jumps around, and there is so very much exposition. The story seems to concern a man called Blood, who may or may not be an the last of an extinct alien race, and may or may not be dead. Oh, and he’s going to kill some gangsters, for reasons that are never fully explained. Adams’ artwork is probably the best thing about the piece, but even that has a very uneven quality to it. Sadly, this is by far the weakest story in the collection.

Carla Speed McNeil’s contribution to the anthology is Finder: Third World, which seems to be a sort of side-story to her long-running Finder webcomic. In this tale, Jaeger, who is known in the ongoing series as a fighter/hired killer, craves an ordinary life, and so takes a job as a courier. However, he still manages to find an interesting use for his unique talents. I really loved this story, and it felt easily accessible for those who are unfamiliar with the Finder world, while at the same time being satisfying to seasoned fans. The story gives new readers a great introduction to one of the series’ main characters, while serving up a fun done-in-one tale with a clever ending. Also, it’s wonderful to see Finder coloured. More of this please!

Michael T. Gilbert contributes a new Doc Stearn… Mr Monster tale, which finds our heroes battling a giant tree man from outer-space. The story is a madcap adventure, packed with lots of laughs, as the two try more and more ludicrous ways to annihilate their enemy. This is all illustrated in a fun and colourful style that makes things seem even more wacky. You don’t tend to see a lot of fun comics these days, with everyone being so dark and gritty. It’s a real shame, because I’d like to see more like this.

The Frank Miller interview piece is a pretty interesting read, but to be honest doesn’t really reveal too much about Xerxes that we don’t already know. From what I gleaned from the interview, the story plans to play fast and loose with the historical facts, much like 300 did, so I can imagine that the story is going to divide both critics and fans. Far more interesting are the preview pages from Xerxes, which are guaranteed to make you drool on the page. Frank Miller may not be as good a writer as he used to be, but he’s still very much the artist he always was!

Following these preview pages, we get a prose piece by Harlan Ellison, called How Interesting a Tiny Man, which is illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Prose pieces in a comics anthology are always a risk, due to the change in pace, but this story is so enchanting and imaginative, that it’s over before you know it. Ellison is a grand master of imaginative literature, and this is a wonderful example of his fascinating work.

Richard Corben’s artwork on Murky Water is just breathtaking! When I turned to the first page of the story, I just sat staring at the artwork for a good few minutes, before even trying to process the story. His style is so raw and visceral, and so very unique! The story here is one of sword and sorcery, as our protagonist battles hordes of the undead that have been summoned by a necromancer. His quest at first is simple, he just wants to retrieve his stolen horse, but he soon find his fate intertwined with that of a strong-minded young woman and her undead sister. This one has epic written all over it!

The Star Wars story presented here is a bit of a strange choice, to be honest. Rather than being a standalone tale, we get a prelude to the third part of an ongoing story called The Crimson Empire. Having not read the first two parts, I must admit that I was a little lost to start with, but the tale was still very intriguing, and the artwork was really nice. Fans of the Star Wars expanded universe will find a lot to like here.

The issue closes with a strange little story by David Chelsea called Snow Angel. The plot concerns a young girl who is is granted super powers when she makes snow angels, and uses these powers to solve crimes and do good deeds. It’s a fun all-ages story with really enchanting and colourful artwork.

Well, that’s not quite the end, the last page is a one-page strip by Patrick Alexander called AAAAAAAH and Personally Quiz. I’m not quite sure what to say about it, except that it’s sick, twisted, and very funny. If you don’t laugh, you probably don’t have a sense of humour!


Dark Horse Presents #1 is an almost perfect debut for the return of this classic anthology series. I’ve always considered Dark Horse Presents to be to the US comic industry what 2000 AD is to the UK comic industry - an incubator for fresh new ideas! It’s fantastic to see the comic sitting on the shelves again, and quite frankly, I wish it never left! Here’s hoping that we get at least another 157 issues of the series this time! The comic industry needs books like this!

Related posts:

  1. There will be “Blood!”, as Neal Adams Joins Dark Horse Presents #1
  2. Dark Horse Reveals Covers and Creative Line-Up for Dark Horse Presents #2
  3. Dark Horse Presents Returns to Print in 2011!
  4. Concrete is back in Dark Horse Presents #1!
  5. Howard Chaykin Targets Dark Horse Presents #1!

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