B.P.R.D. Vol. 8: Killing Ground

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Guy Davis
144 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

We’re all familiar with the hyperbole. "In this issue, everything changes!" It’s a promise that decades upon decades of comics have promised, with some huge status quo shattering event teased on the cover. More often than not, though, it’s a company-owned comic that for the purposes of trademark (or just a general unwillingness), things are back to normal within a year or two. All of that ran through my head when reading B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground, because despite the lack of a promise on the cover, this is a book where I’m willing to believe that everything does, indeed, change.

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Conan the Cimmerian #0

Written by Timothy Truman
Art by Tomás Giorello
24 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

When Dark Horse launched their Conan comic in 2003, the line kicked off with Conan #0, an introductory story that gave readers a taste of what Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord had in mind for their stories about the world’s most famous barbarian. Now, 50 issues later, the book has shifted to Timothy Truman and Tomás Giorello, and to draw attention to the book’s slight shift in direction, it’s being retitled Conan the Cimmerian. So what better way to celebrate than another bargain-priced #0 issue, right?

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Color of Rage

Written by Kazuo Koike
Art by Seisaku Kano
416 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

Kazuo Koike is probably best known in North America for Lone Wolf and Cub, his 28-volume epic that was one of the early comics translated from Japanese to English, and which was finally reprinted and completed in translation in 2003. The problem is, while Koike and Goseki Kojima’s collaboration was great—as well as other works from the duo like Path of the Assassin and Samurai Executioner—there are an awful lot of other works written by Koike that just don’t measure up. And to that list, I’m afraid I have to add Color of Rage.

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Dark Horse Heroes Omnibus Vol. 1

Written by Barbara Kesel, Jerry Prosser, Mike Richardson, Randy Stradley, Chris Warner
Art by various creators
488 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

In 1993, it seemed like every publisher was debuting a new superhero line. The Image Comics explosion of the previous year had multiple companies putting together their own response; some took existing properties and tied them together, others launched entire new characters and titles. Dark Horse’s approach was Comics’ Greatest World, which was renamed Dark Horse Heroes a little over a year later. Now, with both the original 16-part mini-series as well as the later 12-part Will to Power crossover collected into a single omnibus, it’s interesting to look back and see both the strengths and the weaknesses of the line brought together so succinctly—as well as the fact that in many ways, it looks like nothing has really changed when it comes to a publisher launching a new line.

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MPD-Psycho Vol. 1-2

Written by Eiji Otsuka
Art by Sho-u Tajima
184 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

I feel like I should open up this review with a note of congratulations to the creators and publishers of the book. So, to Sho-u Tajima, Eiji Otsuka, Kadokawa Soten, and Dark Horse, well done. You’ve done what very few other comics have managed; I was thoroughly disturbed by reading your comic, yet I’m dying to read more. I’m not sure what this says about you, me, or this comic—but for now I’m going to assume the comic. It’s going to help my peace-of-mind with the idea that a book about a series of disturbing and horrific murders and a multiple-personality-profiler helping solve them is not, in fact, a trope that would hook me regardless of quality.

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Lobster Johnson #1-3

Written by Mike Mignola
Art by Jason Armstrong
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

Maybe it has to do with Mike Mignola having more free time on his hands now that he’s not drawing new issues of Hellboy, but it certainly feels like there’s been a small explosion of Hellboy material as of lately. The B.P.R.D. spin-off series is chugging steadily along, the Hellboy: Darkness Calls mini-series is coming to a conclusion, the new Hellboy: The Troll Witch and Others collection just hit stores, and if that wasn’t enough now there’s the Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus mini-series, spun out of earlier Hellboy appearances. But is it possible for there to be too much of a good thing?

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Translucent Vol. 1

By Kazuhiro Okamoto
192 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

One thing I’ve noticed about a lot of manga is that the series can often begin with a chapter that feels like (to use a television term) a “pilot episode”—a single story that will be used to convince the publisher that you have what it takes to go to series. Often these comic book pilots are stand-alone stories, so even if it doesn’t get picked up for a series you can run the one-off story and call it a day. What surprised me about Dark Horse’s Translucent, then, is that after reading the first chapter I’d mentally written off the rest of the book as an idea that had already run its course, with nothing more to say. I was quite happy, though, to discover that I was absolutely wrong.

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Empowered Vol. 1

By Adam Warren
248 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

Adam Warren is a creator whom I’m almost embarrassed to admit I forget about. His comics are always really funny, he’s got a “good girl” art style that is attractive yet non-offensive, and he’s got an amazing sense of pacing. But maybe it’s because a both-written-and-drawn Warren project isn’t something that comes out on a regular basis that he seems to fall off my radar between books. Apparently Warren’s figured out the best way around this is to just pencil his books rather than ink them so he can release them faster. And if Empowered is any sign of things to come, well, I’m not going to be forgetting just how great Warren is any time soon.

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Hellboy: Darkness Calls #1-3

Written by Mike Mignola
Art by Duncan Fegredo
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

When Mike Mignola announced two years ago at the end of the Hellboy: The Island mini-series that he was handing over the art chores on his signature character, the news was a little worrisome. Half of the appeal of Hellboy has always been the creepy atmosphere that Mignola’s art creates, and with that gone, would the book have the same punch to it? Well, aside from a small half-by-Mignola, half-by-Richard-Corben mini-series from last year, Hellboy: Darkness Calls is the first major Hellboy project to have someone else drawing Mignola’s scripts—and having reached its halfway point, thankfully all of my worries appeared to be for naught.

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Mail Vol. 1

By Housui Yamazaki
208 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

When I first encountered Housui Yamazaki’s art in The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, I remember being impressed with not only Yamazaki’s art, but how well he worked with writer Eiji Otsuka. What I hadn’t realized was that Yamazaki is a writer as well, and that Dark Horse was also set to publish Yamazaki’s series Mail. Now that I’ve seen it as well, I’m glad I viewed them in this order, because as enjoyable Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service was, Mail is the book that’s truly entranced me.

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