*Review by contributor Lido Giovacchini
Dark Horse Presents #28 is an anthology comic in which Dark Horse Comics showcases a series of stories sometimes tying into other books but not necessarily doing so. There are a lot of stories in here so I’ll do my best to give a very brief summation to let you know where things stand on most of them. Now some of these stories tie-in to ongoing books while others have been told over several issues of Dark Horse Presents but sadly neither are given any real form of recap to them so new readers might be a little lost depending on the story. For instance the opening story is from the book Strain and focus on a retired Luchador in the face of Strain’s vampire apocalypse, it’s a pretty solid story helped by an early grounding in the form of a text recap at the start of the story.
The second story however is part 9 of an already being told tale with no recap whatsoever. The story is notably odd too jumping around from scenes very abruptly with some serious changes in art style, which is welcome considering the opening artwork is more then a little poor. The chapter of the story being told is mixed too with very little forward momentum till the end. The third chapter in Dark Horse Presents #28 is a bizarre sort of dark fantasy story and is actually an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story The Assignation it’s pretty good as far as these things go, Richard Corben is doing the artwork and he’s always a delight and the story itself is entertaining if a little on the brief side.
We follow it up with another story already in progress called Alabaster though from what I can tell Alabaster is an anthology within the anthology series focusing on a group of drifting were-people and their talking bird friend who tells the group stories as they ride the rails. The story is very Neil Gaiman-esc in the character personalities on display here though there isn’t very much action for what is part 9 of the series, it’s just a story where someone tells a story about meeting someone and talking to them. That kind of thing can be interesting and Alabaster does flirt with that interestingness but I’m not really sure anything being said here is as deep or meaningful as the characters make it out to be, the artwork is phenomenal though beautiful pastoral wheat fields and seriously amazing coloring work.
The next story is easily the highlight of the book called Mrs. Plopsworth’s Kitchen it’s told over two chapters within the comic and details what is essential a fractured fairy tale concerning the titular Mrs. Plopsworth and her well meaning if stupid son, it’s hilarious and well executed with a great visual style. It’s followed by another returning tale of Trekker, which is adequate at best, it’s just a very basic survival in the wilderness tale with a sort of heavy metal scifi setting. There’s not much to talk about with this one, a lot of monologuing and some mixed bear fighting action, as I’ve mentioned I’m not reading this book regularly so I don’t know anything about the story but if this is part of a bigger saga not much is accomplished in this installment.
Dark Horse Presents #28 also contains the third installment of something called Nosferatu Wars, which was legitimately metal; it’s sort of a French revolution Robespierre vampire type thing, which tells you everything you need to know. The artwork is mixed though; it’s all done with very pencilly line work and faded washed out colors, I know it’s for stylistic purposes but it comes off a little unfinished sometimes. This is followed by a seriously weak entry called Doc Stearn, Mr. Monster the fact that it needs two titles is sadly indicative of the stories lack of identity or focus. The whole story feels like several better ideas smushed together in a lame attempt at some kind of comedy, the modernized pulp hero of Tom Strong, split personality duplicates ala the original Star Trek series, cartoony artwork like some horrible news strip and worst of all the story isn’t funny and it’s painfully trying to be. All the humor is just too juvenile and lacking a punch line while constantly and violently ramming the humor into us, like upon losing his negative emotions the main character decides to start knitting and watching the food network…that’s the joke.
The next story’s basically just a very simple Goonies riff elevated by some above average writing, it ain’t bad. The final story is called The Sabertooth Swordsman and it’s a serious trip. It’s basically just a man vs. monster story except coated in insane psychedelic imagery and colors all filtered through a weird mash-up of visual aesthetics mainly rooted in Indian folklore.
Overall this Dark Horse Presents #28 is not bad but it’s not exactly good either, most of the stories come and go very quickly with far too little impact to be found. A few of the stories will have interesting artwork or some good writing to buoy them but overall they’re usually too brief to really let you sink your teeth into them and are visual too generic to help them stand out from being just another comic book story. Dark Horse presents has done good work in the past but I wouldn’t call this an example of their best stuff, overall I’d give it a miss unless you’ve been following some of these stories and want to see the conclusion, the good stuff here just doesn’t justify the price.