Review: Dark Horse Presents #26

22732As usual, Dark Horse provides tales of intrigue, terror, fear, fun, and excitement in the latest edition of the everything-and-anything anthology Dark Horse Presents #26. This series is a keystone in Dark Horse’s publishing career, as it draws together all of the elements that have made Dark Horse a fantastic company highly deserving of its spot as the third largest comic book seller in America. More so, it was Dark Horse’s main title starting in 1986, cancelled in 2000, and then revived on MySpace (of all places) between 2007 and 2010, with the current volume restarting in print in April 2011.

This month’s issue features eleven stories, some of them in on-going series that have been featured previously in DHP (e.g. the Trekker, Underground, Nexus, Alabaster), some that are debuts for new DHP series (Nosferatu Wars, Juice Squeezers), others that are one-shots, and a Buffy tie-in by television series writer Espenson. Plus, it continues the “Crime Does not Pay” series, which was the title of a famous 1950s comics series.

There’s just too much to review, so I’m only going to focus on my two favorite picks from Dark Horse Presents #26, “Nosferatu Wars” and “Steggy Wilmot and Spimps,” though my rating reflects the book as a whole. And don’t let my selections deter you from thinking there’s other incredible stories in this volume, because believe me, there are.

“Nosferatu Wars” was my favorite of the stories, a tale of vampires during the Black Plague which had my mind turning to Boccaccio’s Decameron (sorry, obscure), and which has a rather limited narrative. It’s written by Steve Niles, a horror master and current writer of Dark Horse’s Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem (not a horror story), and I was surprised to find that “Nosferatu Wars” reads like a hastily put together, cheesy tale of haute societe vampires, despite its definite narrative hook.

The highly realistic art of mMnton3 reminds one of the trompe-l’oeil style popularized in comics by Neal Adams in the 1960s, and has the ring of the fantastic work by Philip S. Tan on the early Savage Hawkman New 52 books (before that run got pretty bad and waned into nonexistence). But comparisons of Menton3’s art to others don’t do Menton3 any justice, as “Nosferatu Wars” has a nature all its own, unique and complex and lively and dead all at the same time.

Just as appealing, but much weirder…significantly so, is Patrick Alexander’s “Steggy Wilmot and Spimps,” which is a pointlessly hilarious and absurd day in the life of an extremely rich billionaire with a sad pig, an ugly butler, and a desire to write a newspaper. In just four pages, Alexander manages to astound and confuse with his out-of-this-world potato-head cast. I really don’t have a clue what’s going on with this story, and I imagine it’s like a rich British man on LSD, but I certainly hope we get more of Alexander’s “Steggy Wilmot and Spimps” weirdness. It’s just gotta happen, right?

Despite being an anthology—and one might fear that some bad eggs could slip in—editor Mike Richardson has ensured a batch of high-quality comics, which run the gamut of realistic horror to funny strip to classic sci-fi. While Dark Horse Presents #26 isn’t for everyone, I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in sampling the diverse possibilities of graphic narratives, as well as those who are fans of the genres or writers/artists featured in this issue. DHP certainly delivers.

Story: Ron Randall, Steve Niles, Andrew Vachss, Mike Richardson, David Lapham, Mike Baron, Patrick Alexander, Jane Espenson, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Frank Bariere, Dara Naraghi  Art: Ron Randall, Menton3, Dominic Reardon, David Lapham, Steve Rude, Patrick Alexander, Patric Reynolds, Karl Moline, Andy Owens, Steve Lieber, Micah Kaneshiro, Tom Williams
Story: 8  Art: 8  Overall: 8  Recommendation: Read

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