Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Tonci Zonjic
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse Comics

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Lobster Johnson comic. The pulp-inspired character first appeared as a ghost in Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comics, before getting stories of his own set back in the 1930s. With 2012 gearing up to be a big year for Mike Mignola’s various properties, it feels as good a time as any to see the return of Lobster Johnson. This time, though, the comic has the perfect addition of Tonci Zonjic on art.

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Dark Horse Presents #7

By Mike Mignola, Andi Watson, Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, M.J. Butler & Mark Wheatley, Stan Sakai, Tony Puryear, Brandon Graham, Filipe Melo & Juan Cavia, Carla Speed McNeil
80 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Here’s a New Year’s Resolution for all you comic readers out there: support titles that reflect what you want the industry to look like.

One of the most common wishes I’ve heard about the North American comics industry is for there to be more anthology titles out there. A regularly published, ongoing series that runs a number of one-offs and serials that gives you a lot of bang for your buck. (Japan’s ongoing anthologies like Shonen Jump are often held up by way of comparison.) To that, I’d like to hold up Dark Horse Presents, the revitalization of Dark Horse Comics’ premiere title. Every month it’s offering up 80 pages of creator-owned comics, and while not every story in it is perfect (it’s hard to find an anthology where that is the case), there’s enough bang for your buck that this is a series that more people should be reading.

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Brody’s Ghost Vol. 1-2

By Mark Crilley
96 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

New comics from Mark Crilley are always a reason to celebrate, as anyone who’s read Akiko or Miki Falls well knows. So ever since we got some teaser stories in MySpace Dark Horse Presents, I was looking forward to his new series Brody’s Ghost. And right off the bat, I found that this series was a little different from Crilley’s previous works; not just in terms of having a male protagonist, but its overall feel and its pacing. It’s an interesting shift for Crilley, and after two volumes I feel safe to say that it works well for him.

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Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish

Written by Mike Mignola
Art by Kevin Nowlan
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

One of the many things I’ve always appreciated about Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is that he’s not afraid to shift its tone from one story to the next. So right now, the "main" arc running in Hellboy: The Storm (and the upcoming Hellboy: The Fury) is a dark and serious story, with great portent for what’s still to happen to the world. But then, in-between those two mini-series, we get something like Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish, which is one of the stranger and funnier Hellboy stories to date.

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Finder: Voice

By Carla Speed McNeil
216 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

Oh Finder, how I’ve missed you. It’s been a few years, but Carla Speed McNeil’s Eisner Award-winning series is back, with a brand-new graphic novel as well as a brand-new publisher (Dark Horse Comics). This is actually the second indy comic darling that they’ve picked up in the last year or two, the other being Larry Marder’s Beanworld. Like Beanworld, Dark Horse is both reprinting the previous run of Finder (in two big collections) as well as bringing us new books. And in typical Finder tradition, McNeil has avoided an easy path when it comes to Finder: Voice.

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Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Peter Snejbjerg
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

One of the things I’ve grown to like about Mike Mignola’s Hellboy family of comics is that every now and then, a strange little story pops up in place of a longer mini-series or huge saga. That’s the case with Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain, which is over and done in just two issues. When it’s all said and done, I have to give Mignola and John Arcudi credit: it’s not only just the right length, but it manages to feel both light and serious at the same time.

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Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites

Written by Evan Dorkin
Art by Jill Thompson
184 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites is a book that might trick you at a glance. You might see an image or two and think, "Oooh, Jill Thompson is painting dogs and cats! I’ll get this book for my favorite pet-loving friend!" It’s an honest mistake to make. But if you take a look a little closer at Beasts of Burden, you’ll quickly realize that while Thompson is indeed painting some adorable animals, the scripts by Evan Dorkin are ones that start a little sad and dark and depressing, and then rapidly grow horrific. I say this as a complement, mind you. But Beasts of Burden is not for the faint-hearted.

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Free Comic Book Day: Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom/Magnus, Robot Fighter

Written by Jim Shooter
Art by Dennis Calero and Bill Reinhold
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

If you were reading comics in the early ’90s, you almost certainly knew about the last time Jim Shooter revamped Magnus, Robot Fighter and Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom. The first two titles at the now-defunct Valiant Comics, Shooter had bought publishing rights for the old Gold Key characters from the ’60s and turned them into the cornerstone of the Valiant Comics line. After Shooter left, the characters got revised several times at Valiant and then new-owners Acclaim, but soon after Acclaim’s publishing division folded the rights reverted back to Random House. Dark Horse has now signed up for publishing rights for the characters, and has brought Jim Shooter back to take another crack at the characters. But can lightning really strike twice a second time? So far, I’d have to say no.

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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.

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Beanworld Vol. 3: Remember Here When You Are There!

By Larry Marder
224 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

Beanworld has always been billed as, "A most peculiar comic book experience" and I’ve found it to be the perfect tag line to the series. When the series went on hiatus back in 1993 (after 21 issues), it was a sad day in comics. There’s nothing quite like Beanworld in comics, a mixture of adventure, fantasy, and tribal roles. Last year, though, Dark Horse announced two hardcovers collecting the entire series, plus a holiday one-shot and a brand-new graphic novel to come. The last of those has finally shown up in the form of Beanworld Vol. 3: Remember Here When You Are There! and it really did turn out to be worth the wait.

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