MySpace Dark Horse Presents Vol. 1

By Various Creators
176 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

When I first heard that Dark Horse was bringing back their old flagship title Dark Horse Presents as an online anthology, I was a little surprised. The original Dark Horse Presents was an ongoing anthology, the very first title published by Dark Horse and which ran over 150 issues before finally hitting cancellation. Over the years, comics like Sin City, Concrete, and Next Men all made their debuts in Dark Horse Presents, and at its height it was a prime example of what a good ongoing anthology comic should look like. But in this day and age, would an online revival be able to have the same punch?

Collecting the first six “issues” of MySpace Dark Horse Presents, some of this book’s best stories are the brand-new creations that are unveiled here (just like the original Dark Horse Presents was famous for doing back in the day). MySpace Dark Horse Presents‘s first headliner story was Joss Whedon and Fabio Moon’s “Sugarshock!” and it’s a smart way to kick off the collection here. It’s a great mixture of humor and space adventure, with the band Sugarshock getting entered in an Intergalactic Battle of the Bands even as non-sequiturs of comedy get thrown at the reader in a rapid fire manner. It’ll probably come across as a little too cute in places for some readers, but I thought it hit just the right mixture of goofy randomness and an actual plot, and Fabio Moon’s art is simply adorable. Ezra Claytan Daniels’s “A Circuit Closed” also struck me as one of the high points of this volume. The story of a girl using a strange helmet that promises to lead her to the person she’s connected to, it’s got elements of wistfulness and drama that really punch this story into greatness. I could see “A Circuit Closed” running in the original Dark Horse Presents at the peak of its game, and it really made me feel like there’s a good chance that MySpace Dark Horse Presents is actually worthy of bringing back the old name.

There are some other original-property stories as well that stand out as being good, mind you. “Tricks of the Trade” by Katie Cook and Brodie H. Brockie is short, to the point, and really clever. Cook’s old-fashioned style art is beautiful and atmospheric, bringing to mind an earlier time with its faded colors and classical costumes, and Brockie’s story hits the right moments for me to make me pleased with the end result. And while I certainly wouldn’t have expected Mike Mignola and Guy Davis to serve up an uplifting supernatural Christmas story, their “The Christmas Spirit” collaboration is the sort of piece that would fit well in Mignola’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comics with the strange mixture of mythologies and danger having come to life, but just as easily stands on its own.

There are also some stories that tie into existing properties, but those have a slightly more mixed track record. The Umbrella Academy and Empowered are best represented here; Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s short brings to mind the mood of the slightly off kilter superhero adventures of The Umbrella Academy mini-series in a way that will hopefully lure over even more readers, while Adam Warren’s Empowered piece serves more as an introduction to the series for people who have never heard of it. In terms of exposition, Warren’s method of bringing all the major pieces of Empowered and its bondage-fetish-meets-superheroes comedy tics to life really well. These “hi, these are the characters in my series” stories normally never work, but Warren shows that all you really need is the right writing chops to do so.

On the other hand, some entries just remind me why the original comics never grabbed me; Rick Remender and Kieron Dwyer’s The Fear Agent just felt curiously flat from start to finish, while Ron Marz and Luke Ross’s Samurai story felt like the absolute essence of predictability (although the art was awfully gorgeous). I was also really disappointed with The Goon‘s representation here being a four-part story written and drawn by a whole host of creators (where each new script was not generated until the previous writer finished theirs and then handed it off to the next team to try and continue), none of whom were The Goon‘s creator Eric Powell. What we got here lacked the subtlety and cleverness of Powell’s humor, this piece instead going for the punchlines with a sledgehammer and beating the idea into submission. (If there is anyone who actually didn’t see where the “Pecker” jokes were going, or who actually found them all funny, I will be amazed.)

With all of the stories available online at www.myspace.com/darkhorsepresents, a case could certainly be made that the market for a MySpace Dark Horse Presents collection is a little questionable. I think in the end it’s probably going to sell to fans of existing properties (like The Umbrella Academy) or creators (most notably Joss Whedon), but if that means they’ll then read other stories like Daniels’s or Cook’s & Brockie’s, well, I’d say that I hope we get more MySpace Dark Horse Presents collections down the line as well. Hopefully as the anthology continues we’ll get a slightly higher ratio of strong vs. weak stories, but for now it’s a good start.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

2 comments to MySpace Dark Horse Presents Vol. 1