Dark Horse Presents 21 (August 1988)

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I hate to say it, but Ron Randall’s gotten better. Not as a writer, of course; Trekker has actually gotten to be worse written since Dark Horse Presents started. The story this issue is practically unintelligible. On the other hand, Randall’s inking has gotten a lot better. The art’s still not so great, but the inking… inking’s improved.

The Mask finishes up here with Badger killing a CIA agent. His second or fourth. Overall, the series has been sometimes decent, sometimes good–usually the best thing in the issue (this one has a lot of misspellings for some reason). Anyway, it’d probably work better in color as a single sitting read. The pace gets lost, especially given how weird it gets.

Delia & Celia either ends with the protagonists in some magical inner earth or with them stuck in a canyon. It’s impossible to tell from Davis’s art. But who cares?

CREDITS

The Mask; story and art by Mark Badger; lettering by Tim Harkins. Trekker, Vincent’s Share, Part Two; story and art by Ron Randall; lettering by Ken Bruzenak. Delia & Celia, Under Tiltannon; story, art and lettering by Gary Davis. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 20 (August 1988)

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This issue is a sixty-four page giant–only most of the extra is filler. They could have gotten away with a lot less pages.

The Mr. Monster story is real short (and lame). Gary Davis has a short space alien story showing he’s read some Arthur C. Clarke (it’s long, wordless filler).

Rick Geary’s got a nice two page story, which is filler but really excellent filler.

Then there’s the start of a Trekker serial. It’s incomprehensible if you haven’t read the Trekker series and probably even if you have.

Doug Potter has an excellent story about homelessness.

Oh, I missed Bob Burden’s Mystery Men and Flaming Carrot two page filler.

Then a real Mask story, which seems to be wrapping up. The narrative’s a little pat dramatically, but I’m not sure Badger cared.

Bob the Alien and Mindwalk have stories. Bob‘s hilarious, Mindwalk‘s weak.

Finally, even more filler.

CREDITS

Mr. Monster, The Thing in Stiff Alley!; story by Chuck Gamble and Michael T. Gilbert; pencils by Gamble, Gilbert and Chuck Wacome; inks by Gilbert; lettering by Ken Bruzenak. Anomaly; story, art and lettering by Gary Davis. A Mother’s Tragedy; story, art and lettering by Rick Geary. Trekker, Vincent’s Share; story and art by Ron Randall; lettering by Ken Bruzenak. The Mystery Men!; story and art by Bob Burden; lettering by Roxanne Starr. The Visit; story, art and lettering by Douglas C. Potter. The Mask; story and art by Mark Badger; lettering by David Jackson. Concrete, Watching a Sunset; story and art by Paul Chadwick; lettering by Bill Spicer. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien, Goes Birddogging; story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. Mindwalk; story by Randy Stradley; art by Randy Emberlin; lettering by Willie Schubert. Wacky Squirrel, Mixed Results; story, art and lettering by Jim Bradrick. Black Cross; story and art by Chris Warner. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 19 (July 1988)

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Finally; it only took eighteen issues, but this one is essential reading.

It’s not as simple as there not being a weak story… every single one of them is good.

I suppose, in this company, the weakest is Badger’s Mask. It’s starting to get old, with no real plot progression. He’s also doing the ink washes every other page, making it feel formulaic. Those complaints made, it’s still fine work. Though I notice the CIA’s no longer after a Cuban priest, just a South American one.

Rice’s Bob the Alien extended strip is really funny this time, not just amusing. I’m now looking forward to future entries.

But it’s all about Darrow and Geary.

Darrow’s Bourbon Thret is also an extended strip–sort of a Little Nemo without the bookends. The artwork is simply exquisite, seeing Darrow’s lines in black and white… breathtaking.

Then Geary has a great little mystery.

CREDITS

The Mask; story and art by Mark Badger; lettering by Tim Harkins. Bourbon Thret, Sead; story and art by Geof Darrow. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien, Rides the Subway (and then gets off); story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. The Sack Murder of 1954; story, art and lettering by Rick Geary. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 18 (June 1988)

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Badger’s ink washes on The Mask are real nice, but they’re so much easier to comprehend than his regular art, I almost wish he’d done the whole thing with that process. It’d be worth the wait. With the ink washes, when he does something crazy, it just works better. Maybe because it feels realer when the Mask appears and reality splits.

Chadwick uses his Concrete spot for some more old stuff–in the letter column, the editor reveals these “Sky of Heads” stories are nothing but old Chadwick material from a drawer, which I said the first time. The story in the story in the story is all right. Chadwick’s a lot meaner than usual. It’s not as sappy as Concrete.

Bob the Alien is kind of funny. Rice’s art is a little rough even for a strip, but it’s consistently amusing.

It’s an okay issue, nothing terrible, which helps.

CREDITS

Concrete’s Sky of Heads, Quality Time; story and art by Paul Chadwick; lettering by Bill Spicer. The Mask; story and art by Mark Badger; lettering by Tim Harkins. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien’s, First College Party; story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 15 (February 1988)

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I’m so glad they put The Mask in the middle. I’m not sure the issue would have been tolerable if it hadn’t been at the center.

The issue opens with another bad episode of Captain Crusader. The only nice thing I have to say about the story is Martin draws brick walls well. Not people, not figures, not regular backgrounds, just brick walls. The real world superhero gets beat up again.

The issue ends with Babes ‘n Arms, which is slightly better than before thanks to Stradley’s writing. Unfortunately, it’s still completely awful. I can’t believe Dark Horse took the time to have this story illustrated.

The Mask story is confusing and Badger hints at revealing things, but never really does. Badger opens the story with a big discussion of art, but continues using his regular Mask style for the story. It works. The opening is almost cute, but not.

CREDITS

Captain Crusader; writer and artist, Gary Martin; letterer, David Jackson. The Mask; writer and artist, Mark Badger; letterer, Tim Harkins. Babes ‘n Arms; writer, Randy Stradley; artist, Michael Ebert; letterer, David Jackson. Editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 14 (January 1988)

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Reading Mr. Monster, I thought a lot about how much I love Will Eisner’s Spirit in black and white. Not because Gilbert’s art in any way reminds of Eisner, but because it doesn’t. Because instead of publishing wonderful black and white comics, Dark Horse Presents is publishing Gilbert’s Mr. Monster and it looks like pencils run through the photocopier to darken it. Art aside, it’s still atrocious.

The Concrete story is completely depressing. While visiting his parents’ grave, Concrete contemplates his future. It’s bleak. Chadwick’s art isn’t particularly special here (why is Concrete the one thing he doesn’t draw well), but it’s one heck of a lovely downer.

Badger’s Mask story is just a filler, maybe announcing Badger’s leaving or maybe not. It’s hard to tell.

Nelson has a one page Dinosaur Tales, which is more design than anything else, but still nice.

That Mr. Monster story was really awful.

CREDITS

Concrete, Now is Now; writer and artist, Paul Chadwick; letterer, Bill Spicer. The Mask, Gone Fishing!; writer and artist, Mark Badger; letterer, David Jackson. Mr. Monster, His World; writer and artist, Michael T. Gilbert; letterer, Ken Bruzenak. Dinosaur Tales; writer and artist, Mark A. Nelson. Editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 13 (December 1987)

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At least there’s a Mask story this issue because the rest of it is just atrocious. Since I’ve already started with The Mask, I’ll finish it up. Badger doesn’t write as strongly here and his meta approaches to the storytelling, bookending the story, don’t help. But it’s still compelling and solid.

However, I don’t even know where to start with Babes ‘n Arms, which appears to be Dark Horse’s attempt to do an unfunny manga with girls in bikinis. Sure, they seem stupid, but they’re the only ones who can take down a rampaging giant robot. Dark Horse owns the property–according to the indicia–which I found interesting.

Captain Crusader finishes the issue. It’s this painfully mediocre “real life” superhero thing. Guy runs around New York in lycra as a publicity stunt, ends up getting beat up. All “reality” goes out the window when it opens with him hopping roof tops.

CREDITS

Babes ‘n Arms; writer, Jon Lee; penciller, Michael Ebert; inker, Robert Caracol; letterer, Pat Brosseau. The Mask; writer and artist, Mark Badger; letterer, Tim Harkins. Captain Crusader; writer and artist, Gary Martin; letterer, David Jackson. Editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 12 (November 1987)

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Okay, The Mask is supposed to be incomprehensible. Badger’s first line in the story is about it being incomprehensible. In a lot of ways, it’s the best continuing serial in Dark Horse Presents so far. I can’t understand it, not with Badger’s art purposely intended to confuse, but at least the writing is ambitious. It’s ambitious in a really, really small way–this issue it’s showing realistic dialogue at a party–but Badger’s definitely trying something.

On the other hand, this issue’s Concrete is pretty tired. Chadwick’s showing how lonely it is when you’re stuck in an enormous alien, stone body. He could have done something akin to Chekhov’s Misery, but doesn’t because he’s got to keep the comic relatively upbeat. Nice art at the beginning though.

Nelson’s contribution is a five page time travel story. The plot’s decent if predictable and familiar, but the art is exquisite and beautiful.

CREDITS

Concrete, Next Best; writer and artist, Paul Chadwick; letterer, Bill Spicer. The Portheus Project; writer and artist, Mark A. Nelson. The Mask; writer and artist, Mark Badger; letterer, Tim Harkins. Editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 11 (October 1987)

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Is The Mask supposed to be understandable? Badger’s writing seems straightforward enough–two CIA agents are trying to find a Cuban priest who’s in New York City, but his art makes it completely incomprehensible. And it’s hard to imagine how the titular Mask (Masque) is going to figure into the priest’s story. I also can’t figure out if it’s supposed to be pro-Cuba or anti-Cuba.

West writes a little history lesson about the Battle of the Somme. Moiseiwitsch’s art is more like etchings and the text is set to them and somewhat related. It’s unsuccessful but not ambitious either.

Roma limps to its finish. Some nice art from Workman but the writing’s incredibly weak. He’s also basically only doing closeups now, which is odd since the story’s got a big finish.

The best thing in the issue–by far–are Nelson’s two Dinosaur Tales pages. Absolutely wondrous art.

CREDITS

The Mask; writer and artist, Mark Badger; letterer, Tim Harkins. Forgotten; writer, Ross Evan West; artist, Carel Moiseiwitsch. Roma; writer, artist and letterer, John Workman. Dinosaur Tales; writer, artist and letterer, Mark A. Nelson. Editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

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