Posts tagged Dark Horse Comics

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Hellboy The First 20 Years

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Editor Scott Allie and his crew have created a grand tribute volume that will delight fans. Within this 137 page handiwork we encounter the superb art of the man that has been inventively drawing Hellboy for 20 years, Mike Mignola. This opus invites the fan to view the interiors of Hellboy evolution.

Among the exceptional pages are covers like Hellboy: Wake the Devil #2, The Goon #7 and Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever #4.  Mignola’s genius is displayed as we view sketches for an unfinished Hellboy painting and then the unfinished watercolor painting.  We are given an equal appreciation for the coloring of Dave Stewart, as we view his work, especially with the inclusion of the Trickster Print, and Hellboy in Hell front covers.

This is a welcome addition to the Hellboy body of work, but it is not a sequel to Art of Hellboy (released back in 2003). It is a tender tribute to the integral, unique work Mike Mignola has created over these 20 years.  Lighting struck the pencil, when Mignola created a downward shoulder, trench coat wearing colossus that we adore as he roughs his way through his world of monsters with humor and one massive fist.

This collection reminds us how fresh originality, can evolve and continue to inspire while entertaining the reader. Can’t wait to see what Mike Mignola has in store for the next 20 years. Hellboy The First Twenty Years is a must have for every shelf.  Happy 20th  Hellboy!

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The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #1-3 Review

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Writing: Gerard Way, Shaun Simon

Art: Becky Cloonan

Review by Melissa Megan

From Dark Horse Comics: “Years ago, the Killjoys fought against the tyrannical megacorporation Better Living Industries, costing them their lives, save for one—the mysterious Girl. Today, the followers of the original Killjoys languish in the Desert while BLI systematically strips citizens of their individuality. As the fight for freedom fades, it’s left to the Girl to take up the mantle and bring down the fearsome BLI or else join the mindless ranks of Bat City!”

16707That’s the first time I’ve copied a series description, word for word, from the publisher site. Please, forgive me. I’ve been holding off on reviewing The Killjoys because I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around how I feel about it. Part of the predicament has been because it’s just a confusing, overloaded story. I thought rather than waste time trying to clearly articulate the story synopsis for you, I’d prefer to use my brain cells on verbalizing my actual feelings about the experience of reading it. Thanks for your forgiveness.

I loved the Umbrella Academy and I love Becky Cloonan, so I figured The Killjoys had to be great, right? Well…sort of. There are some great, fun pieces here, but they do not connect in the most agreeable way. Let’s start with Girl, the main protagonist. She is the lonely prodigy of the long gone Killjoys, a band of glamorous rebels who lost their lives fighting the evil BLI corporation. These days, Girl roams the desert with her kitty, moping about her lost pals. When her old friend Cola discovers her, he tries to lead her in the right direction, away from the violent and unstable new teen rebel group, the Ultra V’s. The lure of anarchy and lip gloss may be too much for her and she becomes intrigued by the V’s.

There is nothing wrong with Girl, there just isn’t much anything with Girl. It’s hard to feel attached to her or even to give a damn what she chooses to do because she doesn’t offer much in the way of personality. Cola and his senior ham radio buddy feel a bit more deep as characters, but they speak in such silly, hyper stylized dj jabber it’s tough to hang in there to figure out what they’re talking about. Example: “The sodas gone flat, D. All the bubbles have popped. Carbonation is a thing of the past. The ghost of our childhood is staring us down in a rusted metal can” Uh, ok. preview-the-true-life-of-the-fabulous-killjoys-

The V’s are fun enough in a wild, teen spirit kind of way. My personal favorite characters (and story) here are the porn bots whose desperate fight to exist without fear of being deemed obsolete and trashed is tragic and dangerous. I’m not sure how much of a focal point they were meant to be, but I found myself more invested in their lives than any of the humans.

Overall, the True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys just comes across like a cocky, indulgent, angsty song put to nice artwork. Becky Cloonan does her thing well, I only wish I could say the writing was as polished. Unfortunately, issue #3 may be the last one for me. I know some out there are loving this series, but after giving it some time to get under my skin I feel underwhelmed and ready to shower off all the glitter and dust.

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The Art of Bioshock Infinite Review

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Bioshock Infinite was released last week, bringing a new, exciting chapter of the hugely popular game series for fans to obsessively play for days at a time. I, myself, am a fan of the franchise and when I heard about a book release accompanying the game which would outline the artistic development involved, I was thrilled to have the chance to review it. The Bioshock games are known for their complex story lines and tormented characters, but I think the real core of these games is in the mind blowing art work. I still remember my first time watching the opening sequence for Bioshock. I felt real terror and fear living the experience of sinking on a huge ship, watching people and flames plummet in to the ocean around me as my character sank deeper and deeper. Then, the elation of discovering Rapture, the city under the sea, glowing and majestic, yet abandoned and incredibly eerie at the same time. Bioshock has never settled for less than ‘holy shit amazing’ in the visual department and by the looks of The Art of Bioshock Infinite, this latest installment is no different. songbird2

The introduction to the book is by creative director Ken Levine and he explains that the process of developing a video game on the level of Bioshock Infinite is far more complicated and time consuming than some may assume. “ the process of making anything—and certainly an Irrational game—is grueling and exhilarating, exciting and depressing, thrilling and scary as hell. For every idea that makes it into the game, a dozen are put against the wall and shot.” This book puts this process on display for you, showing the character and world development, sketch by sketch. Hundreds of pieces of art and ideas were thrown out in the editing machine, but no less impressive. It becomes obvious right away that the artists who created this new Bioshock universe toiled endlessly to achieve the perfect effects on every single detail of every puzzle piece that eventually became Bioshock Infinite.

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I found the notes explaining the process behind the art development as intriguing as the pictures themselves. To get a glimpse in to the great care and immense thought behind every detail in this game feels like peeking in to someone’s window and watching them create. Someone with more artistic chutzpah in their little finger than I could achieve in a lifetime. Watching the floating city of Columbia come to life in these paintings and sketches is so much fun, but for me the best part was being witness to the birth and growth of the enigmatic characters of Bioshock Infinite. Booker DeWitt, Elizabeth and Songbird are focused on heavily, their personality and story details being just as imperative as their styles and physical make up. Readers are invited to observe the ideas behind Sky-Hooks, airships and the menacing, powerful Heavy Hitters.

The Art of Bioshock Infinite is a beautiful, enlightening lesson in video game development. It’s not quick, easy, simple or lacking in sacrifice. At least not a game on this level of quality and brilliance. I haven’t actually played Bioshock Infinite yet, but reading this book makes me feel like I already have an intimate knowledge of the people and creatures (or machines) that make up the city of Columbia. Whether you’re a fan of the Bioshock franchise or just a lover of artwork, this book is definitely satisfying and worth having on your shelf. It’s been a real treat for me and has only increased my desire to experience Bioshock Infinite for myself.

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BuddyCops

Review: Buddy Cops

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BuddyCopsDark Horse is (kinda) proud to present Buddy Cops, the story of a demoted space cop and 1970s android that hate each other. The problem is that Uranus (the demoted space cop) gets drunk and wild while TAZER (the android) is more traditional and follows the law and procedures to the letter. Somehow they manage to work together despite their differences and immense hatred towards each other. Buddy Cops takes you through some of their adventures as they battle nuclear monkeys and equally ridiculous monsters (“ridiculous” used with the greatest sense of love and affection here). If you’re looking for a fun one-shot comic, look no further than Buddy Cops. Go pick up a copy from your local shop today!

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Review: Final Night #4 of 4

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Writing: Steve Niles

Art:  Christopher Mitten

Review by Melissa Megan

Cal McDonald and Eben Olemaun have been battling it out in the middle of Los Angeles. Eben is out for revenge after the murder of his wife, Stella, by creating an army of vampires and feasting on the human race. He sells this plan to his followers by convincing them that vampires should no longer hide in the shadows of night but become the superior race on earth, knocking humans down on the food chain. Cal is now among the world of ghouls, walking and fighting but not necessarily living. He’s been tormented by a black vomit illness since his ‘change’ and struggles to maintain the strength needed to defeat the vampire leader and save the human race.

Final Night is the final issue of the Criminal Macabre/ 30 Days of Night crossover and writer Steve Niles has declared that only one of the series will survive when it’s over. I’m not a spoiler type, but I will tell you that I’m very happy about the outcome.

Cal pulls himself out of the rubble, entrails and organs on the floor, ready to keep kicking ass. That is what the man does best, at the sacrifice of his own physical and mental well being. It’s obvious to his best ghoul buddy, Mo’Lock, that he won’t be sticking around for much longer in his current condition and Mo’Lock is determined to do anything he can to save Cal. Blood is required to heal his already dead body, but who’s blood? And how much?

Meanwhile, Eben has released his army upon the Los Angeles night, beginning with the busy party strip. They feast, tear and demolish their way through the crowds, hungry for destruction and blood. Eben has Detective Alice Blood, Cal’s love interest, and knows that Cal will come for her. The two leaders will soon come face to face with their armies; ghouls versus vampires. Only one side can win this fight and there’s no doubt blood will be shed.

I’ve been reading Criminal Macabre for years, it’s one of my top favorite series. 30 Days of Night is also quality work, just not as much of a draw for me as the big, rag tag personality of Cal McDonald. Steve Niles has pulled off this crossover with skill, managing to let the two main characters meet and go to war without diminishing the power of either. These are two bad ass dudes, each with their own personal agendas and commitments to their cause. Christopher Mitten’s art has been a treat and a perfect companion to this story. I’ve very much enjoyed seeing the two clash and I think the conclusion of Final Night will satisfy readers, regardless of who you were hoping to see come out on top.

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The Massive Vol 1

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TheMassive_cover“The Massive gives us a different, and essentially unique, take on the story of the end of the world. It doesn’t revel in destruction; when scenes describing the planetary crisis show up, they make clear that this was a true disaster, not a disaster movie. Millions have died, in dirty, tragic, and decidedly noncinematic ways. Instead, The Massive is a story of the necessity of resilience. While it leads us through the catastrophic aftermath of the Crash, we soon see that survival here is not the purpose in and of itself—it’s survival with the hope of making things better, even while recognizing that the old world’s legacies (in materials and ideolo-gies) yet remain.”

 

This introduction to Volume 1 of “The Massive,” mirrors the thoughts I shared in my review of Issue #1 back in June (although decidedly with a gift for language I can only hope to one day touch). The only thing I added was how fantastic the artwork was. The superb attention to detail in both art and story continue with the rest of this first collection.

 

One thing I loved about the first issue of “The Massive” was how the action starts immediately and the reader is thrown into a world where it doesn’t know the rules, but quickly learns. Never confusing, always intriguing, “The Massive” does a fantastic job of taking the reader on a journey through a post-apocalyptic world where two sister ships must find their way back together while also discovering the cause of the event known to us as “The Crash”. The story gets richer with each page, making the reader dive into a world that’s falling apart, bit by bit. As we learn about this world and the destruction it has already seen, we also slowly get to know the cast of characters and how they ended up in the situations we see them face from the beginning of our story. The transition back and forth from past to present keeps the story moving in ways much more interesting than if the author had simply said “this is what has happened, now to continue…” It not only helps with the steady flow of the story, it also engages the reader better than a straight timeline would.

“The Massive: Vol 1″ is a brilliant collection of stories that introduces you to a world of chaos and disorder. It gives you plenty to drag you into this world, while still leaving you wanting more. Just a little more…

 

The Massive: Volume 1 is available now, so go ask about it at your local comic shop. Volume 2 will be available Dec 2013, and Volume 3 June 2014. Keep with it, because from what I’ve seen so far it promises to be a continuously good read.

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Series Review: Orchid

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Writing: Tom Morello

Art: Scott Hepburn

Cover Art: Massimo Carnevale

 

Orchid comes to a close this week after 12 issues of great art and an inspirational story of rebellion and loyalty.

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This series began back in October of 2011 with an introduction to a new world ravaged by flooding and chemical waste. The people who managed to survive fall in to two classes: rich and powerful or poor and oppressed. The folks on top literally claim the highest points of land, comfortably out of reach of the ‘wild’, where genetically mutated creatures ferociously rule. ‘When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed.’ General China lit the fire of rebellion for the “bridge people” and although he ultimately failed to free them from oppression, he succeeded in planting doubt in the mind of one ruthless ruler.

Orchid is a teenage prostitute who finds herself thrown in to the path of one of General China’s last rebel followers and is begrudgingly swept up in a rescue mission that will mean heartbreaking loss and soul shaking transformations for her. The path to sainthood and freedom is a bloody one, full of terrifying places, mysterious allies and power hungry enemies.

Written by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Orchid is a grand adventure that has a tender heart and well meaning intentions but a no-holds-barred approach to the grim reality of life in an oppressed society. It touches the question of our place in the world as humans once we are forced to answer for the careless abuse of the planet we inhabit and the creatures we share it with. It presents a vision of a world in which nothing is left to fight over except survival. Orchid is not a light read but it is fun and it’s just intellectually challenging enough to grab a more discerning comic book reader.

 

The art of Orchid is colorful and lush, each issue graced with a really impressive cover by Massimo Carnevale. Orchid has a flaw here and there, it stutters a bit, but the package of stimulating, smart story and well developed artwork make up for it by far. I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning and wish it had gotten more positive talk time than it has. Sad to see it come to an end, but really looking forward to collecting all three trades on my shelf.

 

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Spirit

Review: Criminal Macabre- The Iron Spirit

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Cal McDonald is back, sort of, and ready to take on a new job of ghoul, monster and or spirit hunting. He’s a little worse for wear, a little more ‘living dead’, and struggling to find his old self in this new situation. The old routine of drink and drugs doesn’t seem to have the same effect anymore, he can’t sleep and everything just feels weird. Good thing the world never runs out of creepy bad guys for him to chase around.

When Air Force Captain Richard Clayton shows up at Cal’s door, looking old, tired and beat up, Cal is happy to get back to the grind and hopefully make a few bucks. Clayton is war torn, but what really weighs on his soul are the bitter spirits that have him fearing for his life and desperate. He takes Cal to a secret underground bunker where what appears to be a horribly failed government weapons project left several very angry spirits behind, looking for some level of pay back for their pain, suffering and death. Angry spirits are Cal McDonald’s specialty, but these ones have a heartbreaking story and Cpt. Clayton requests that they be handled with care. Cal also finds himself faced with the guilt and sadness of the old man, which lends a heavy air of melancholy to this particular story.

Steve Niles teams up with artist Scott Morse (comic artist & Pixar designer) and it works beautifully. Criminal Macabre has always been one of my favorite series from Niles, but this one has a real touch of emotion to it that I found gave it real depth. Cal McDonald is a gruff, rough edged character with many personal flaws and The Iron Spirit really touched on those while at the same time shining light on his empathetic, softer side.

Criminal Macabre, The Iron Spirit is a must have addition to your collection if you’re an established fan and a great starter story if you’re curious to dip your toes in to the adventures of Cal McDonald. Steve Niles is a fantastic, creative writer who never puts out something less than top quality and his Criminal Macabre books have utilized the talents of several artists over the years, this one being no exception. I definitely recommend picking up The Iron Spirit, which is available now, from Dark Horse Comics.

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Review: Freaks of the Heartland

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Back in 2005 Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre) and Greg Ruth (The Matrix, Conan) introduced us to an endearing and damaged young boy named Trevor. He’s a simple kid, living in a small Midwestern town with his farming family. Trevor’s problems seem at first to stem from his father’s drinking problem and a nasty temperament but we soon discover that there is much more on Trevor’s mind and in his heart. His family hides a secret, a younger brother to Trevor, who is quite different and hidden away in the dark. Trevor loves his brother dearly and looks out for him as best he can, while under the cruel control of his father.

Freaks of the Heartland is a touching and painful story of a town embarrassed of their blemishes,  and what happens when one brave boy makes the choice to stand up for what he knows is right, no matter what sacrifices he must make in the process. The story is not complex, rather quite simplistic and all the more raw for it. It’s the kind of book you can’t put down until you’re finished, largely because you’re rooting for the good guys to win and just can’t stop until you know that they do. Steve Niles does a beautiful job of building of Trevor’s story with layers of sadness, loyalty and triumph.

I can not underestimate the quality and aesthetic importance of Greg Ruth’s art to this book. Freaks of the Heartland would not have the depth and edge that it depends on without the perfect style he brings. Most panels play out more like individual paintings, each made up of heavy brush strokes and gorgeous landscapes of blended color. 

The collected hard cover edition of this book was released July 04 by Dark Horse comics. It also includes some great notes and sketches from Greg Ruth on the character development, along with each individual cover for the original issues.

If you haven’t read Freaks of the Heartland before, I highly recommend it. I am a big fan of hard cover collections, especially for unique comics like this one, which I believe will be a classic to return to again and again.

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Channel Zero, The Complete Collection

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Back in 1997, an art school student named Brian Wood (Generation X, DMZ, Demo) published a 5 issue series called Channel Zero, intended to be part of his final project for graduation. He was angry about New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani enforcing his freedom restrictive ‘Clean Act’.  As Brian Wood will tell you himself in one of many footnotes included “ I feel a strong sense of pride that Channel Zero still exists in print today. I’ll never be able to recapture that same creative moment I had working on this book.” He admits it’s a relic of the times, but not completely irrelevant in today’s atmosphere of conservative backlash against media, art, film and video games.

In addition to getting a gem of a look at the roots of Brian Wood’s future comic success, Channel Zero The Complete Collection also includes a prequel story illustrated by Becky Cloonan (Demo, East Coast Rising, Wolves) and represents the pair’s first time working together. The artwork all throughout this collection is raw and sharp. It’s minimalist, no fancy scrollwork or elaborate shading, no colors. What it lacks in fancy it makes up for in texture and heavy mood. The setting of Channel Zero relies on the reader feeling restricted, contained, a little on edge watching all the freedoms of America being washed away under power hungry political sewage. 

Channel Zero is about the loss of rights in a future America drowning in mindless consumerism. It’s also the story of Jennie 2.5, an art student who embarks on a commitment to fight the repression through hacking, cutting-edge media manipulation, and eventually befriending international rebels and supporters. This series presents a super unique view of the comic genre through heavy graphic arts techniques and touches on real world fears of politics, police aggression and commercial absorption of self expression.

The Channel Zero Complete Collection  includes the original series, the prequel graphic novel Jennie One, the best of Public Domain design books, years worth of extras, rarities, short stories and unused art. Throw in a great introduction by Warren Ellis and you’ve got a must-own collection. 

“For all its black and white somber mien, Channel Zero is, to me, one of the most uplifting comics of the nineties. Channel Zero is about winning. It’s about learning how to give a shit again, about finding ways to make things better. It’s about anger as a positive force of creation. It’s about your right to not have to live in the world they’ve built for you.” -Warren Ellis

If you’ve enjoyed Channel Zero in the past, this collection is a fantastic way to display it and share it with someone who hasn’t been there yet. If you’re new to Channel Zero , take my word for it and pick this collection up, as it’s best enjoyed in it’s entirety. And collected editions are pretty on the bookshelf.

Available now from Dark Horse Comics.

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