As I was purchasing my copy of Dark Horse Presents #1 today, my retailer and I had a talk about whether or not this book’s business model could sustain itself. There’s a reason DHP was published on MySpace for three years, after all. What once was a regularly priced black-and-white monthly comic now has now taken the form of a bi-monthly full-color anthology book with a $7.99 price tag. Paying $8 for a comic hurts, especially at a time when the big two companies are making moves towards returning most of their books to a $2.99 price point. Dan the retailer and I agreed that, if DHP was to survive again, it’d have to deliver some seriously awesome stories.
I’m not sure DHP #1 succeeds at that goal. There are a couple great reads in here, to be sure. The majority of these tales, though, left me scratching my head or, worse, filled with apathy. A built-in factor of anthology books is that most readers won’t enjoy every single story. But I’m looking at a ratio of about 25% here, and that’s not good.
DHP has assembled a solid core of contributors. Names like Frank Miller, Paul Chadwick and Neal Adams convinced me this book would be worth owning. That’s probably what Dark Horse was counting on by bringing them on board. However, I wasn’t too wowed with any of their contributions. Adams’ story, chapter one of something called “Blood,” is as violent and incomprehensible as his “this can’t be real can it?” work on Batman Odyssey. Paul Chadwick’s art is solid, but I must confess I don’t quite get Concrete. I feel like there’s some bizarre and brilliant sense of humor hidden within the story, but it just didn’t work for me. Frank Miller, meanwhile, gives the book a really poorly edited interview with choice quotes that illustrate why he’s not an author I enjoy. For instance:
“Now, when I did 300, they made a movie out of it, which caused a great deal of trouble in Iran. And for me that was hilarious….”
“Poseidon is a very important character. And he also will be disguised and won’t be named.”
“My statue of Athena is a lot more interesting than the ones they actually built…. She has a very, let me say, nicely placed snake on her!”
“The error that a lot of people have made with historical work has been to be too faithful, to be too trapped in a time that has nothing to do with us.”
I do have to say, Miller’s preview artwork for Xerxes is tremendous; it looks like a book I’d really enjoy. But he is, after all, a writer who once told Wizard magazine he believed that all his male protagonists, from Leonidas to Dwight to Batman, are really the same character. This is not what I want to hear from my writers.
Not all of DHP is a waste. Cartoonist Carla Speed McNeil turns in an awesome Finder short. Famed sci-fi author Harlan Ellison contributes a three-page prose piece entitled “How Interesting: A Tiny Man” that, despite being a little heavy-handed in its cultural critique, fascinates. Cartoonist Patrick Alexander adds a few page-long comic strips to the back of the book which, while very derivative of Matt Groening and Cyanide & Happiness, elicit the best actual laughs found in DHP.
A few bright spots, though, don’t save this anthology from mediocrity. I love the idea of DHP; I’m less sold on its execution. I realize Dark Horse wants to pay tribute to comic legends and its flagship creators, but perhaps a little more of an independent presence would really make this book shine. Regardless, I probably won’t be back for round two in June, although a reported contribution from Fabio Moon makes me think otherwise…
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more