The Best Comics Anthology
Just Keeps Getting Better
Dark Horse Presents is the long-running anthology title from Dark Horse Comics, and probably one of the best values currently being published in the world of comic books. After all, an issue of Dark Horse Presents costs $7.99, but for that eight-dollars-less-a-penny, you get 80 pages of story and art, which is half the price per page compared to most other mainstream titles.
It is also easy to have some faith in the relative quality of the comic strips that are run in this anthology, since Dark Horse Presents has won both the Eisner Award and the Harvey Award for best anthology, two years running. And if we were to place a bet on it, it seems likely that DHP will end up making that three years running. As publisher Mike Richardson states in his introduction to this issue, fans "helped make 2013 the best year in our history," resulting in the addition of another award besides Eisner and Harvey, the prestigious Diamond Gem award.
And with stories like the following, it is not hard to see why Dark Horse Presents continues to be such a critical success...
By Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Nexus is by far the most classically stylish entry in this issue of Dark Horse Presents, so it seems right to call attention to it first. Simply put, even if this were the only comic strip worth buying DHP for, DHP would still be worth buying, thanks to the snappy yet alien dialogue of writer Mike Baron and the incredibly smooth renderings of artist Steve Rude.
Baron and Rude have actually been working on Nexus together since the 1980s, when they developed the character for publication by Capital Comics (one of the first issues even came with a 33 rpm record that featured dialogue and sound effects from that issue). The series is set 500 years in our future and features the title character, Nexus, also known as Horatio Hellpop, a mercenary with superpowers who has been tasked with the elimination of mass murderers by an alien being called the Merk. And that is exactly what Nexus has been doing for more than 100 issues.
In this DHP segment of Nexus, Hellpop is up against the cold-blooded killer Clayborn, who has kidnapped Nexus' son. Since this is the penultimate chapter of this time-traveling space opera, the action is coming to a head, and next month's conclusion is sure to be epic.
By Brendan McCarthy and Darrin Grimwood
"The Deleted" is a real fever-dream of a comic by writer/artist Brendan McCarthy, with some writing assistance from Darrin Grimwood. The colors on this strip really emphasize the ethereal quality of the setting, a dilapidated metropolis haunted by destructive computer programs. As it turns out, this city is real, but it's not physical: the protagonist of the story has gotten stuck in a Sim World (think The Matrix and you have got the basic idea).
The main character in "The Deleted" goes by the alias Dante, but that's not his real name. In this Sim World, everyone knows this character by his gamer alias, so it's like if you got sucked into a game world and had to go buy your XBox gamer tag or PSN ID. Anyway, Dante and the other players who have been trapped in this Sim World need to find a way out, and the ghosts in the machine will eventually find them and delete them.
This strip has a striking spooky ambiance, which again is really enhanced by the color choices of McCarthy. This issue features chapter two of the strip, and it is worth reading for the pervasive strangeness of the art and setting.
Crime Does Not Pay: City of Roses
By Phil Stanford and Patric Reynolds
Anyone who enjoys classic crime comics from publishers such as E.C. are sure to like the continuing serial Crime Does Not Pay, the 12th chapter of which is featured in this issue of Dark Horse Presents. With crooked cops, ruthless biker gangs, and even members of the narcotics squad on the take, you won't believe how deep the corruption goes in this thrilling serial from writer Phil Stanford and artist Patric Reynolds. Of course, even if you all read was the title, you would know that justice is ultimately going to be served. Right?
Saint George: Dragonslayer
By Fred Van Lente and Reilly Brown
In this, the fourth chapter of "Saint George: Dragonslayer," the unique reimagining of the original hagiography (now there is a word you don't get to use every day), a Roman Christian soldier continues his valiant stand against a wyrm of the Earth. In other words, Saint George is fighting a dragon. And why would he do that? Why, to save the girl, of course.
The story by Fred Van Lente and Reilly Brown is entertaining enough, but what makes this strip really stand out is Brown's kinetic art, which is reproduced in color with sketchy linework underneath that makes the entire strip seem even more expressive. And if you want to see more from this exciting artist, check out the following interview/art session that Brown did with fellow cartoonist Natalie Kim.
But Wait, There's More
Lots More In This Issue of DHP
If you can believe it, the stories reviewed here represent less than half of the total stories in this one comic. There are even more amazing comic strips packed into this issue of Dark Horse Presents, including "Mr. Monster vs. The Brain Bats of Venus," "Integer City," and "The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne." Dark Horse Comics has long been known for publishing critically-acclaimed titles such as Sin City, Martha Washington Goes to War, and Hard Boiled, and this anthology continues to provide some of the best comics month after month. And at this price point, not only are the comics themselves awesome, but their value is beyond reproach by even the stingiest of comic book readers.