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Twenty five years ago, yeah... that is right, twenty five freaking years ago! Dark Horse began their brand with Dark Horse Comics Presents! It was an anthology book in black and white that showcased different short stories, plugs to upcoming series and comic strips among other things. The range of stories could cover action stories, sci-fi, drama, comedy, the absurd and pretty much everything in-between! This was a book that anyone could find a story for their taste. But unlike other anthologies, this book almost instantly gave birth to what we called comic masterpieces. Books like Concrete, Sin City, Hellboy and The Goon were given their start or were featured in this book with major success. But time came and made us forget about this book, all its glory days and fun it offered to us comic fans. Thankfully like the phoenix that rises from the ashes Dark Horse Comic Presents is back and in full color!
This eighty page anthology is back and with a vengeance! Like a good music album it opens with a straight rock track. No pun intended it opens with a new Concrete short story. Strolling around Concrete, manages to solve a murder case by coincidence. This book reminded me of movies like Death of a Cyclist as the tone of the book deals in the noir or maybe because the culprits were a couple. Whatever it was the story is great. Concrete as the opener of the anthology was great way to start the book, you know...with a safe already established character. Paul Chadwick's art and writing is at the top of his game. Its like he never stopped writing/drawing Concrete. We don't get to explore all of Concrete's universe, like I said its a straight forward story that happens to feature Concrete as our main hero. The cool thing is that is a self contained tale and there is no need for backstory.
Next is a nice tune by Mr. Howard Chaykin's. Marked Man the story of a lowlife criminal with wife problems, especially since his wife doesn't know he is a criminal. This is not a self contained story. Here we get introduce to the world of Mark Man, we see him in his criminal life and later we see him interact with his naive wife. The dialog is not bad, the art has changed a bit, the colors don't seem to blend well with the art. It would have been better if they tried a more traditional style of coloring. The story has potential but is to early to tell, especially since Chaykin has a way of keeping things interesting.
The next track of this motley album is Blood. Neal Adams first book with Dark Horse. This is not a self contain story either, its a weird first episode. The fact is we only see blood in the first panel of the story. The rest of the story is the bad guys beating the crap out of Blood's mentally challenged friend and we get a glimpse that maybe Blood is part alien. Art is great, Neal is a master story teller and the writing goes smoothly with the art. Like the previous short there is not much shown about Blood's world. We have to wait for the next installment for a better grasp of the story.
The next hit single is Finder by Carla Speed McNeil. Is the story of a lowlife criminal looking for a new job no, not another kill but another way to make a living. So he becomes a courier and delivers a hard to deliver parcel. The art is retro cool. Good story telling, Finder is a nice sweet open ended self contain story.
The return of Mr. Monster is a nice self contain funny story dealing with Mr. Monster trying to stop an oak monster that will not die! The book has a 50's tone and at times it might remind readers of the Tick. Over all is a nice change of pace for the book.The album throws a skit! with an interview of Frank Miller and a sneak peek of Xerxes the prequel to 300 is the only part of the book that is black and white.
Next a change of pace with an experimental track if you will. Harlan Ellison's How Interesting: A Tiny Man. A short prose story of this scientist who invents a tiny man and people get freaked because this was a perversion to God's work. An interesting short that could have run better in a longer format.
Another "experimental single", named Murky World. This is more Mad Max meets, Waterworld in a zombie apocalypse. The story is a rescue mission as Guno goes to save her sister from a old pervert who's captured her. The dialog is weak and the story is not accessible to new readers. The readers must catch up to the story as the first entry doesn't offer any of the origin. But the art is great, Richard Corben's art style is very unique and the black and white brings out the best of his work.
Our next "track" is a back to the classic straight rock formula, this time another established franchise Star Wars. This one is a short story about a bounty hunter bringing a criminal to justice alive but at the end he changes his mind about the "alive" part. This story serves as a sneak peek to Crimson Empire 3. And from the looks of it is goin to be fantastic. With great art and solid story.
Next we get a sweet melodic tune with Snow Angel by David Chelsea. This is just a simple story of a girl turning into an angel to return a bike to the rightful owner. Its a nice indie feel to the book. This is a good self contained you-can-almost-read-this-book-without-words comic strip. Its a solid tale, that feels like it should have been in a another type of book.
Lastly a cynical, hilarious one page strip by Patrick Alexander. Funny, weird, simple and awesome.
A lot of new stuff in this resurrected anthology. Its a good thing that a couple of established franchised like Star Wars and Concrete are here to welcome old fans and new ones alike. Some of the new books delivered the goods but others we just have to wait and see for the next installment. This is the risk every Anthology book faces every month, wether or not it will deliver the goods. For Dark Horse it should be a piece of cake as the previous incarnation showed us, they know what they are doing. It also helps Dark Horse to gather new readers for their new monthlies. I'm glad Dark Horse decided on bringing this book back. It sure is nice change of pace to the regular monthly, but to wait a month for the next chapter of a very short story might be a bit munch for new readers that are accustom to a full 22 page story. The book needs to put more self contain stories so that the readers can leave with a sense of fulfillment after the purchase of this book. If this is a music album, this would be an album that you might skip a couple of the songs just to get to the good ones.
Overall Score - 7.0/10