MySpace Dark Horse Presents #31

Written by Mark Crilley, Jackie Kessler, Graham Annable, and Ananth Panagariya
Art by Mark Crilley, Paul Lee, Graham Annable, and Yuko Ota
26 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse Comics and MySpace

I’ve come to the grim conclusion over the past year that if your website doesn’t have an RSS feed, I am more than likely going to forget it exists. It’s nothing personal, I just have so many things going on in my life that sooner or later I’ll start forgetting to check for updates. That’s been the case as of late with MySpace Dark Horse Presents, the return of Dark Horse’s original anthology title now running monthly issues on MySpace. When a pair of cartoonists mentioned on their website that their new story had just gone live on MySpace DHP (something I heard through their RSS feed, of course), though, I decided it was time to sit down and catch up.

As it turns out, it’s a good thing I did. I had no idea, for starters, that Mark Crilley was creating a new series (Brody’s Ghost) for Dark Horse. I loved Crilley’s Miki Falls and Akiko, so a new Crilley comic is reason to celebrate. It’s also a change of pace for what I’m used to seeing from Crilley, featuring a male protagonist in a run down city being drawn to bad situations and accompanied by ghosts. While the credits list this as being "part 2" it’s merely the second Brody’s Ghost short story to run online; "The Scene of the Crime" can be read on its own without any past knowledge. In many ways "The Scene of the Crime" is just a story fragment, but this character piece gives the reader an understanding of what Brody’s about and how he operates, and it’s interesting enough that even without knowing it was a new series from Crilley I’d want to read more. It also helps that Crilley’s art looks great; his softer lines that he uses for characters are ever-present, but he also draws the city in such a way that feels grimmer and dirtier than what I’m sometimes used to seeing. Crilley’s an excellent artist and Brody’s Ghost looks to be no exception to that.

Starting this issue is a new serial, a Tales of the Vampires story. It ties directly into Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #21, where Harmony took vampirism public with a reality show and huge media attention. It’s actually a subplot that’s been forgotten in the main Buffy comic these days, and something that has been worthy of more exploration. I’m not familiar with Jackie Kessler, but for an introduction Kessler’s writing comes off well. Kessler shows the downside to vampires being outed, unable to get more than quick drinks off of (admittedly willing) people and forever surrounded by a fascinated public. Kessler’s annoyed protagonist Cyn treads the line between being amusing and dangerous, and I like the idea that Kessler appears to be going for about what happens when you try and defang a predator. Things look ready to explode, and it’s a good lead-in to next month’s chapter. Paul Lee’s an artist who’s familiar with vampires and the Buffy universe in general, and I’m always pleased to see his art. The outfits Cyn and Ash wear to the club are excellent, and the perpetually annoyed expression on Cyn’s face made me laugh on several occasions.

The only story in MySpace Dark Horse Presents #31 that didn’t ring true for me was Graham Annable’s two-page "Love Note." Normally I’m amused by his short pieces in anthologies like Papercutter and The Grickle, but his off-beat and warped sense of humor feels a little too compressed here. His take on an attempt to write a love note going horribly wrong hits its conclusion a little too quickly for my taste; even one more page, I think, would have made a huge difference.

The issue ends on an extremely strong note, though, with Ananth Panagariya and Yuko Ota’s "Callie Eats Feathers." It’s a disturbing story in which the titular character begins to eat feathers while her friend watches in confusion and fear. It’s a moody piece, one that’s hard to describe. Panagariya’s script is moody and clever, one that comes to a conclusion, then lingers just long enough for a final, extra jolt. I’m familiar with these creators through their webcomic Johnny Wander, but this is a new experience that I’m getting through this story. Ota’s art is in the same school of style with slightly blocky, iconic looking character. It’s always been a good look on their webcomic, but here I feel like my eyes are being opened to just how strong an artist Ota is when working on a full story. I absolutely want to see more comics from Panagariya and Ota down the line.

MySpace Dark Horse Presents #31 offers up a nice mix of stories, and it’s a good reminder that I need to try and stop by each month to see just what they’re serving up next. My only really big complaint is that I’m not a fan of their interface; at least on my monitor, having to click on the "next page" button and then scroll back up to the top of the screen gets slightly frustrating. I got more enjoyment out of MySpace Dark Horse Presents #31 than I have many comics I’ve paid for; it is definitely worth your time to check it out for yourself.

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