Dark Horse Presents #122

Comic book, 1997

Man, so Dark Horse Presents was hitting it pretty hard around this time. Regular work from Paul Pope and Renee French, plus DH proper putting out all the Legend stuff. A great, substantial place for short, one-off stores. (A valuable thing that no medium seems to be able to sustain.) This issue alone has John Arcudi and Troy Nixey. And the stories in here are good, something branded as Lords of Misrule although nothing about it suggests that it’s a continuing serial. A western drawn by someone named Jack Zero who looks halfway between Troy Nixey and Peter Chung. Then you’ve got Troy Nixey himself, a wonderful and strongly distinct voice in comics for a time who just dropped off the map. Is he working on something, or did I hear that he left comics for movies? Man, movies suck.

Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil

Comic book, 2010

Here’s the latest Mignola/ Corben Hellboy book. The second Hellboy book they did together, The Crooked Man, was the most personally effective horror comic I’ve ever read and every time they have a new book out together I’m hoping they’ll hit those same heights. But they haven’t. In fact, while writing this review I had to go through my longbox just to see if they even had released anything since then. They have, a couple of pretty forgettable one-shots (although the Mexico one had some nice moments) and this is another of those. It’s a collection of short stories, of which the framing sequence is my favorite part. But, you know, a par Mignola/ Corben comic is still a pretty good comic, and there are some great images sprinkled throughout. 3.5

Hellboy/ Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice

Comic Book, 2010

As a “dog lover” Beasts of Burden is a really hard comic for me to read. Seeing the realistically rendered little guys with human personalities get put in real danger is gut wrenching, but that’s one of the series main points, I think. Otherwise, the writing is great and the tone of the art is good but it seems a little stiff to me sometimes. In this one they meet up with Hellboy. He hasn’t done that in a while. The unpleasantness of the main animal’s peril almost has me not picking up new issues of Beasts when it comes out, but then I remember that it’s one of the very few pretty good comics that deserve to be supported. But I’m also at a point where I don’t really want to start a new series. It gives me a feeling of “Here we go again” that’s kind of a turn-off. But I’m probably just being a grouchy old man and should continue plunking down the three or four bucks whenever it comes out. 3.5

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: New World #3

Comic book, 2010

I love B.P.R.D. I love waiting for it, I love looking at it, I love buying it, I love reading it, and I love thinking about it. And when I’m done with the issue I think “Man, that sure was another issue of B.P.R.D.!” And then I get to do it all over again. Comics people, comics. This is them. Some cool stuff happens in this issue, Abe and Ben fight a giant monster with a truck full of guns, and that ol’ knucklehead Johann is up to something wacky. My only complaint is that I wish some of it would last longer. This series is always on the move, and I’m constantly wishing they would stop and focus on one of the many awesome things they are doing for a while. But hey, maybe that’s a part of why it works so damn well. 4.5

Neonomicon #2

Comic book, 2010

Hey, so, Alan Moore’s got a new comic book out and it’s really good and no one’s really talking about it. Not hard to see why though. It’s a low class horror book from a low class horror publisher. But not even that would get people to ignore a new Alan Moore comic. This thing is being ignored because it’s raw. I really, really liked the first issue of Neonomicon. The story and art weren’t perfect, but it had an atmosphere of impending dread unmatched in maybe any comic I’ve ever read. In this issue some of that dread came to pass and… well, it certainly delivered on it’s threats. I don’t think I’ve ever seen rape depicted so sternly and straightforwardly in any media. It’s rough stuff, and I didn’t enjoy it. It would be fine, if there was, like, a reason for it. If it was there for any reason other than to be horrible. But to me there’s not, and it just made me feel awful. (Yes, I’ve heard that there’s some crazy meta gag to this thing, but that type of thing has never really interested me.) There’s still no denying that this is a well put together comic; there’s some successfully effective storytelling tricks, Burrow’s art is nice (even though it crumbles under it’s own weight fairly often), the colors are a little livelier than the last issue, and it even has a genuinely erotic scene so that when the sexual horror show starts up it really gets under your skin. Nicely done. But geez, guys. Why? If the horrors left dangling (literally) at the end of this issue are followed through on the next, I don’t know how I’m going to feel about Neonomicon. I’ll give it this though; if Neonomicon‘s goal is to make you feel like you’re reading something awful and evil that never should have been made, and it might well be setting out to do just that, then it’s succeeded. 3.5

Hellboy: The Storm #3 & B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: New World #2

Comic book, 2010

Man, I can’t imagine dark serial genre comics being done better than the Hellboy line of comics that Mike Mignola and friends are putting out at Dark Horse right now. To be able to walk into a comics shop and pick up two issues as good as this off the new release wall is really exciting. It’s only too bad that I don’t see anything else on the shelves that looks like it has even a shot at being as good.
The story of Hellboy is coming to the end of it’s second act, typically the part in the story when everything is at it’s worst. (Although, in these comics, smart money says nothing gets better, ever.) Accordingly, a couple of game changers happen in this issue that, if you’ve been reading the series for years, hit pretty hard. Even though it was itself hard to imagine when it was first announced, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Duncan Fredrigo on art. He’s got a couple hiccups here and there, but 95% of the time his work here is absolutely perfect. Dave Stewert, the only guy who can make computer coloring totally work, colors the back third of this issue bright green, which seems like it must be a first for Hellboy. And on the writing side, Mignola’s actually managing to sell the Hellboy-has-a-girlfriend thing without it tasting bad. He’s always complained about his own lack of ability to craft emotional stories, and he appears to be slowly overcoming that. Even if the only emotion on display here is “Holy crap”, it’s a larger, more resonant “Holy crap” than in his previous work.
B.PR.D., a Hellboy spinoff with a flavor of it’s own thanks to top notch writing and art overseen by Mignola himself, is hitting it equally as hard. There was a while there, during it’s Garden of Lost Souls and Killing Ground story arcs, that I thought B.P.R.D. was better than Hellboy. I’m a fan of Arcudi, the writer, and his character work was on full display at that time. But they kind of lost me during the last three continuity heavy story arcs. The book became about plot, a plot so large that it allowed for very few of the small, human moments that made this book so great. But that’s all over now, and we’re back to basics. I couldn’t be happier.

What’s strange about me for these books is that even though there are massive, status-quo changing events transpiring seemingly monthly, I always have a feeling in the back of my head as if they’re kind of at a constant plateau. It’s possible that this is a side effect of a book that’s released monthly but conceptualized for trade, but I also feel that amidst all of the world changing events that Hellboy and B.P.R.D go through, time is never taken to reflect and take toll. They always keep chugging along from one horror to the next. A little more variety in tone and pace might be nice. 4

Monster Parade #1

Comic book, 2007

Holy crap, this is what comics are for, folks. Their ability to let an artist scoop out their imagination and smear it all over the page, unfiltered. (That’s not ALL comics are for, but it’s a big one.) Monster Parade #1 is not too far off of what it’s title suggests, and boy there’s some beauties in here. The literal parade of monsters bookends a story that’s more of a situational horror, but it’s just as effective humor and all. The momentum builds and builds, with wilder monsters coming and going faster and faster. Then at the end, we’re left with the thought “Oh shit, but don’t go in woods. That’s where the real bad stuff is.” 4


Comic book, 2007

I had been hearing about this being a great example of modern comic book horror for a while now. I think it’s reputation, along with the cover, led me to expect something other than what it actually is. The cover is a painting inside an old house that is being explored by a bunch of young people who all get mangled. That makes it sound like a classic “cabin in the woods” type deal, and maybe it’s a play on that, but it’s not really. Nothing too weird happens, they just fall down some stairs and get mad and punch some walls and stuff. There’s no dialogue, which usually I would like but didn’t really do anything for me here. What that did for me instead of ratcheting up the atmosphere was encourage me to read it much more quickly than I should have (my bad). To be fair, I think I’ll like it a lot more the next time I read it. 3