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Nexus, Mr. Monster, and S.H.O.O.T. First
This issue of Dark Horse Presents features a slew of strong serials, including the final chapter for Mike Baron and Steve Rude's "Nexus." At 80 pages of story and art for one penny under eight dollars, DHP is one of the best deals in mainstream comics. This issue also has a gorgeous secret goblin owl fairy coven cover by Michael Kaluta. Unfortunately, Kaluta does not do any interior sequential work in this issue, but hopefully that will change in the future, and the audience will get a narrative for this single forest snapshot.
Luckily, DHP has its fair share of excellent comic serials even without a goblin/fairy/owl story. In addition to Nexus, this issue features the continuing adventures of Michael T. Gilbert's Mr. Monster, as well as the first chapter of the sci-fi adventure S.H.O.O.T. First by Justin Aclin and Nicolás Daniel Selma.
Nexus in "The Conclusion"
Created in 1981 by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Nexus' long-running DHP serial comes to a thrilling conclusion in part 10 of "Into The Past." Battle-weary and beleaguered, Nexus begins this chapter in dire straits, as his son has been kidnapped by a serial killer from the distant past (our present). Normally, in situations such as these, Nexus would ask his friendly neighborhood demagogue The Merk for help, but this time it appears that is impossible. Meanwhile, Nexus' daughter, the martial arts practitioner Origami, keeps the peace in a society overrun with fear. But who or what is really pulling the strings, and does Nexus have any agency in the final fate of his loved ones?
This final chapter of "Into the Past" has it all: A David Letterman parody, Sherlock Holmes, and a ghost cat in a dress. If you only purchased this issue of Dark Horse Presents because of this one story, it would still be worth it, thanks to the snappy dialogue of writer Mike Baron and the tripped-out imagery of artist Steve Rude. And it looks as though Rude's next comic book work now that Nexus has wrapped up is going to be a Superman adventure, so that will be something excellent to look forward to as well.
Mr. Monster in "Mr. Monster Vs. The Brain Bats of Venus!" (Chapter 2)
By Michael T. Gilbert
Like Nexus, Mr. Monster is a comic book character that was first published in the 1980s. Also like Nexus, Mr. Monster's adventures are still written and drawn by his creator, and Mr. Monster's singular writer/artist is Michael T. Gilbert, who has decades of experience to perfect the Mr. Monster formula. And what exactly is that formula? Mr. Monster Vs. MONSTERS. The monsters in the last several chapters of the ongoing Mr. Monster serial in Dark Horse Presents have been the Brain Bats of Venus. These dastardly telepathic ghouls are the brainchild (delicious) of comic book legend Basil Wolverton, who first used these cruel alien villains in the 1952 comic Mr. Mystery issue no. 7.
So what do these nasty brain bats want with our hero, Mr. Monster, also known as the courageous Doc Stearn? Why, they want to feed on his brain, of course. And while they're at it, they would also like to destroy Doc Steel (Mr. Monster's robotic assistant) and pit Doc Stearn against his darker half, Dark Stearn. You may have noticed the bitter bent of dark humor at work in the Mr. Monster universe. If it sounds like something that's up your alley, then this issue of DHP is definitely for you.
S.H.O.O.T. First: Bett and Byron
By Justin Aclin and Nicolás Daniel Selma
Normally in a situation like this, we would tell you to ask questions later (and shoot first), but the title of this serial surely has you asking the question, "What does the acronym S.H.O.O.T. stand for?" As anyone who read the original miniseries by the same creative team of Justin Aclin and Nicolás Daniel Selma (lately the artist for the new Tomb Raider comic book from publisher Dark Horse) can tell you, S.H.O.O.T. stands for Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce. So it only stands to reason that this crew of protagonists has much the same mission plan as Mr. Monster, and that is to blast some monsters into kingdom come.
The twist with these guys, though, is that all the supernatural creatures they run into are in reality extra-dimensional beings that the organization refers to as "outside actors." Sounds plausible. The outside actor in this particular adventure is a giant demon snake, and everyone knows there's only one way to deal with a giant demon snake. That's right. You shoot it first, and then you ask questions later.
Even More Terrific Tales in this Issue of DHP
For most comic anthologies, the preceding three serials would be more than enough for a single publication. But not an issue of Dark Horse Presents! This issue also features a staggering seven other stories, ranging the gamut from murder mystery ("The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne: The Library in the Body Chapter 3" by Rich Johnston and Simon Rohrmüller), to historical comedy ("Across the Channel" by Kel McDonald and Kate Ashwin), to the cyberpunk adventure ("The Deleted Chapter 3" by Brendan McCarthy and Darrin Grimwood).
As if that wasn't enough, there's also the war comic "Cruel Biology Chapter 2" by Christopher Sebela and Brian Churilla, the sci-fi tinged "Mister X: Frozen Assets Chapter 2" by Dean Motter, "Davey Jones and the Mystery of the Monocle Men Chapter 1" by Dennis Culver and Shane Leong, and "Integer City Chapter 5" by Jamie S. Rich and Brent Schoonover. Again, it is difficult to go wrong with an anthology title that features so much variety of quality comics at a bargain price per page.