Dark Horse Presents #13

by Doug Zawisza, Reviewer |

Wed, June 20th, 2012 at 9:33AM (PDT)


Anthologies such as "Dark Horse Presents" #13 can be a difficult sell, especially when introducing characters or stories with a specific target audience. Such is the case with Ghost, a character first introduced in Dark Horse's attempt to expand their publishing line with the "Comics' Greatest World" promotion back in 1993.

Gracing the cover of this issue and already associated with an upcoming miniseries, Ghost gets a new spin from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Noto as the leadoff story. Updating the concept under the framework of a reality TV show, DeConnick uses characters Vaughan Barnes and Tommy Byers to introduce the Ghost. This first story is much less about the Ghost of 1993 and more about setting up the world she finds herself in. There's not much to go on here as both of the lead characters, partners on the show "Phantom Finders," leave a lot to be desired. The saving grace is the two panels Noto's rendition of Ghost appears in. I'd like to see more, but this story by itself is not enough for the pricetag on the cover.

Up next is "The Creep" by John Arcudi with art by Jonathan Case. Despite the subject matter and the situations the characters find themselves, I found this story to be enjoyable and quite engaging. It reminded me a bit of Arcudi's "Doom Patrol," but with fewer freaks. Case's art and the amorphous setting of the 1970s-1980s make this story a nice addition to the compilation. I'm unsure if this is an installment of this tale or the entire story, but I certainly would put this in the positive column for "Dark Horse Presents" #13.

"Finder: Third World Part 11" with story and art by Carla Speed McNeil and colors by the duo of Jenn Manley Lee and Bill Mudron is quite an odd duck. This story is centered around three friends trying to place the artwork of one of their number into a gallery and finding consternation in doing so. Not sure where this one is going, but I clearly have missed a bit of the "Finder" story and could stand to find (no pun intended) more.

"Criminal Macabre: They Fight by Night" Part 4 written by Steve Niles with art by Christopher Mitten is an odd point in the continuing story to break in, but nonetheless this installment packs enough adventure to sweep the reader up and move forward. Mitten's art is reminiscent of Cully Hamner and every bit as energetic. The scene of the werewolves descending upon Cal McDonald and his allies is electrifying and tense.

John Layman and Sam Kieth follow that up with the story of Jean DuPaul, a "socialization specialist" at an artificial humanoid facility that produces ADMs and EVs among other models. There's very little "Alien" in this chapter and a whole lot of talking heads. Recognizing that, Layman and Kieth tease the reader by bringing in the hideous beasties just in time for the last page. Naturally.

Part 3 of "The Occultist" written by Tim Seeley with art by Victor Drujiniu is filled with heavily-photo-referenced people, bright colors and drawn out confrontations. Drujiniu's art is heavily detailed, but in some spots the focus on the detail of the characters and the employment of photo-referencing muddies up the storytelling. A prime example of this is in the scene where Detective Melendez is attacked, tackled and straddled by her attacker. It's not until five panels later that this become obvious as the attackers eyes dance around and the panel construction leave significant ambiguity to the spatial relationship between characters.

After that comes the conclusion of Francesco Francavilla's Black Beetle story. Francavilla delivers the pulp noir that suits his style perfectly. I've seen drawings of the Black Beetle from Francavilla for what seems like years, so this story is a nice payoff, especially with its new reader-friendly "Previously. . ." summary panel.

The most startling installment in "Dark Horse Presents" #13 is " Profile: A Cross Story" by Andrew Vachss with spot illustrations by Geof Darrow. This is a text piece and seems oddly positioned in this collection, almost in the relative spot for a letters' page. Once I got past the oddity of it all, I found the story to be compelling and now look forward to more of Cross from Vachss.

Mike Baron and Steve Rude provide a "Nexus" story that, to me, is prototypical of everything I've ever read with the character, including that it's rather dense to try to break through. There's whimsically psychedelic cosmic adventure accentuated by Rude's heavily shadowed characters and minimal backgrounds. I can understand interest in the character even though I do not share it.

Closing out this collection, Dean Motter's "Mister X" slides between noir and nouveau, with elements of each and adventure to match. This story is a throwback in many ways and extremely entertaining. My exposure to Mister X has been non-existent to this point, but going forward, I'd certainly be open to more.

While I tend to be more of a fan of tights and capes in my comics, I do enjoy variety in what I read. Make no doubt; "Dark Horse Presents" #13 has plenty of variety. It's up to you whether or not that variety offers a sound return on investment. If you're looking to get caught up on the adventures of Ghost as she is reintroduced to the comic book public, then you might want to wait for the miniseries. If you've got the coin to spare and are looking to sample some other interesting stories or already have interest and/or familiarity with the tales mentioned above, then you're all set. Me? I'll be flipping through "Dark Horse Presents" #14, which is certainly more than I've done up to this point.

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