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Geekonomicon 2012

Articles/Interviews/Reviews in chronological order of publishing top to bottom

Joseph Mallozzi - Through the Stargate into Dark Matter
Interviewed by Michael Meade on 12/28/11
Posted 1/2/12 9:55PM EST

Courtesy Joseph Mallozzi

TLR!: Thanks for chatting with me today Joe, it’s a pleasure to have you here at Tastes Like Rock’s Geekonomicon!

Joe: The pleasure's all mine. Thanks for taking the time to check out Dark Matter!

TLR!: Joe, you’re best known for your producing and writing on Stargate SG-1 and it’s spin-offs Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe. Why the transition from screen to page with Dark Matter? Also, it's a great story, I enjoyed reading it!

Joe: I've been a big comic book fan most of my life and, in recent years, a huge fan of creator-driven titles like The Walking Dead and Scalped. In terms of quality and scope, they're the comic book equivalent of cable shows like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. Jason Aaron and Robert Kirkman were permitted a certain creative freedom to tell the stories they wanted to tell and the results have been spectacular, so when a similar opportunity to do my own creator-driven title with Dark Horse presented itself, I didn't hesitate to take it.

TLR!: Joe even though both are forms of visual storytelling, how does writing a comic differ from writing a screenplay for you? Besides the obvious format differences of course.

Joe: Pacing was the biggest challenge. I was very particular about how I wanted the action to play out on the page in terms of building the scenes, paying them off and using them to segue into proceeding pages. I'm sure it comes automatically to seasoned comic book writers but in my case it was a learning process. Dark Matter initially existed as a detailed concept (in my head) and a one hour television pilot, so I made the early decision that every one hour script would break down into two issues. The script I had was the first part of a two-hour series premiere. That meant we would launch the comic book series with a four-issue opening arc. I looked over the script and broke it down into two issues, trimming scenes and dialogue to accommodate the 22 page format. I tried to keep it as clean as possible, the dialogue fairly tight, which I think fairly approximates the tone and sensibility of those first two issues. In issues #3 and #4, I was working without benefit of a detailed blueprint (aka television script) but nevertheless had a fairly good take on how I wanted to conclude the story. Again, the dialogue was fairly tight but, as the series progresses and these characters begin to open up to one another, I imagine that will change.

TLR!: This is perhaps a bit of a rough question, but which media do you prefer working in, film or comics?

Joe: I've built a career in television and have to admit I'm very comfortable both writing and show running. That being said, I really enjoyed my experience on these first four issues of Dark Matter and would definitely like to pursue further work in the field.

TLR!: Along the lines of the last two questions, what drew you to comic writing? Especially now with the industry redefining itself with the jump to include digital devices as a new window to fans, line wide continuity smashing shake ups and “soft” reboots, and a higher ratio of people being aware of characters that fell under the radar of mainstream knowledge thanks to more, and successful, movie adaptations.

Joe: Opportunity really - the opportunity to tell a story relatively free of the types of creative constraints one would normally encounter in film and television.

TLR!: How was it sharing writing duties with Paul Mullie again?

Joe: Paul and I have been working together for some 15 years and, in that time, our partnership has evolved. Gone are the days when we actually sit in a room together and physically co-write a script. Over time, we've gravitated toward our strengths and interests when it comes to production. Although we are still officially a writing team, we now tend to write our scripts solo and do passes on each other's drafts. In the case of Dark Matter, I took the lead on the scripts for the comic book.

Dark Matter # 1 Cover - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics - Artist: Garry Brown

TLR!: And working with artist Garry Brown?

Joe: Loved working with Garry. He's very talented and collaborative. Stylistically, a perfect fit for Dark Matter.

TLR!: Speaking of Garry, how did character, environment, and set designs go? Did you have detailed ideas you wanted from the start or concepts that you let Garry flesh out?

Joe: Although I felt it was mostly there in the scripts, I did offer Garry some detailed descriptions of the characters as I'd envisioned them. Other than that, I allowed him free reign to conceive the look of the series when it came to ship designs, costumes, etc., occasionally weighing in with my thoughts at the various stages of development.

TLR!: Same questions concerning colorist Ryan Hill. His work combined with Brown’s bring a sweeping outer space feeling an interstellar story should have with it’s visuals, but also make it very cramped and creepy when the story calls for it; much like the original Alien film.

Joe: Couldn't agree more. I loved Garry's artwork but was absolutely blown away when I saw it married to Ryan's colors.

TLR!: Joe, the solicits don’t have this in the info nor the advance copy Dark Horse sent over before our interview, but is Dark Matter going to be an ongoing series past part four of “Rebirth”?

I suppose that depends on a number of things, the chiefest being how well the comic sells. I have a fairly detailed sense of where the series will go - the twists and turns and eventual ending I'd like to work towards. The plan is to use the comic book as a springboard to a television series (or mini-series). Ideally, I'd like to be doing both concurrently, producing the t.v. series and the comic book series.

TLR!: How has it been working with Dark Horse Comics leading up to the publishing of Dark Matter?

Joe: It's been a phenomenal experience. My editor at Dark Horse, Patrick Thorpe, has been terrific - informative, supportive, and delightfully easy to work with.

TLR!: What led you to seek publication with Dark Horse?

Joe: My agent mentioned he'd been in conversation with Dark Horse and I immediately saw a huge opportunity from both a business and creative perspective. As I expected, Dark Horse has turned out to be a great home for the series. I consider myself fortunate to have them in our corner as we work toward making the Dark Matter t.v. series a reality as well.

TLR!: A bit off topic, but I read that you’re a fan of Japanese anime, out of personal curiosity and as a fellow anime fan; what are some of your favorite titles?

Joe: Hmmmm. Off the top of my head: Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Berserk, Last Exile, Black Lagoon, Trigun, GTO, Beck, Kino's Journey, Now and Then Here and There, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, Gintama. Eventually, I'd love to pursue the live action rights to some anime titles. Suggestions?

TLR!: A live action Samurai Champloo would be very cool if stylized the same way. Black Lagoon and Last Exile too. But getting back to Dark Matter, we’ve already got a mystery in the barrens of intergalactic space; sci-fi, mystery, suspense in fathomless isolation, and the security system of the ship trying to kill it’s amnesiac crew… your comic had my full attention at the preview description! What else can expect down the line?

Joe: Oh, plenty of action, explosions, humor, loyalty, duplicity, surprises, surprises, and surprises.

TLR!: As 2012 kicks off Joe, anything coming down the pike that you can share with us yet?

Joe: Dark Matter is my main focus for now. I do have a few super-secret projects in the works but, well, they're super-secret. Oh, okay. One of them involves sitting down to a marathon viewing of the entire 1967 animated Spider-Man series. You in?

TLR!: Super-secret you say? It's the suspense that gets me. And as for the Spidey marathon, count me in!

For more on Dark Matter check out it on Dark Horse Comics' webpage www.darkhorse.com, and check out Joseph Mallozzi's blog at http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com.

Michael Avon Oeming's The Victories # 1 - "Touched"
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 8/15/12 11:45PM EST

Cover Artist: Michael Avon Oeming - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer:Michael Avon Oeming
Artist:Michael Avon Oeming
Colorist:Nick Filardi
Cover Artist:Michael Avon Oeming
Release date: 8/15/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "Not long from now, all that will stand between you and evil are the Victories—six heroes sworn to protect us from crime, corruption, and the dark. As one member cracks down on the violence, he discovers himself touched by a painful past through the psychic powers of Link. Will this trauma cause him to self-destruct or continue the fight?"

Oeming's The Victories with only one issue out is poised to stand above the latest crop of superhero comics coming out right now. With a style and street level grit reminiscent of The Dark Knight Returns in both the story's tone and artwork that finds a balance point between the Paul Dini style of Batman: The Animated Series and John Arcudi (The Mask, B.P.R.D., Major Bummer), The Victories with one issue already has this reviewer waiting for the next issue with baited breath. Set in the near future, looking like a decade maybe less, where the current economic atmosphere has gotten worse and corruption in all levels of authority has progressed far beyond what the American public is aware of even in the present of the real world. The heroes, or at least the first we meet in Faustus, are not perfect; they are human, flawed and struggling internally with their past and present courses in life, in and out of the mask.

The Victories is not for young fans, more an adult title than even teenagers. The subject matter will continue to be heavy with life and death moral dilemmas and failures, extreme violence (as seen on page 11 of this issue) that is just abstract enough in the artwork for Dark Horse and Oeming not to be made the subjects of a witch hunt by rabid parent groups the continental United States over. That said, the story is compelling, even with the lack of reveals on character identity, motivation, and backstory. Faustus is a relatable character, perhaps not (*SLIGHT SPOILER*) in the depths of his inner monologue at the end of the issue, but in the end he is a character we can all understand without being flawed saints like many of the older characters in superherodom. The villain met in this issue is called the Jackal, a zealot vigilante with a ditchotomous view on right and wrong, life and death, that is at the same time understandable and deplorable in light of the world he lives in and we may unfortunately be headed for without benefit of superheroes; flawed or otherwise.

Michael Avon Oeming's The Victories gets a 4.5 out of 5 and is a highly recommended read. This title has earned stand out title of the week for my money. For more on The Victories check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

Angel & Faith # 13 - "Family Reunion" Pt. 3
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 9/1/12 9:26PM EST

Steve Morris Cover - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Rebekah Isaacs
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Cover Artist: Steve Morris
Release Date: 8/29/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "The expedition to Quor-Toth has taken an unplanned turn for Angel, Faith, Willow, and Connor. While they struggle to survive the horrors that surround them, they have also taken on a mission to stage a great escape—and not just for themselves! They must act fast, before the effect that this hell dimension is having on their thoughts and emotions overcomes them!"

To be honest, this reviewer hasn't been following Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Angel since the respective ends of the television series despite the great reviews from other publications that the current run of comics from Dark Horse Comics been receiving. But with reading this one issue, even without knowing all that's going on except for the plot threads used from the final seasons of both Buffy and Angel's television series, this reads and plays out just like an episode with Whedon at the helm. That said I'm not a Whedon devotee, I did love both Buffy and Angel but Whedon's work is very hit or miss with me. I digress, what made the good episodes of Angel good is all contained in these 25 pages, artwork is fitting and works well for the current storyline. The artists have clearly studied the actors that portrayed Angel (David Boreanez), Faith (Eliza Dushku), Willow (Alyson Hannigan), and Connor (Vincent Kartheiser) well before their runs began in the Buffyverse; each panel is pretty spot on when compared to the real actors. As stated there's enough Whedonesque quirks and banter to feel like an episode, but thankfully without the downfall of many of Whedon's creations when he's writing them himself (though he is billed as executive producer of the comics) longterm, namely getting lost in the quip filled banter to the point where the dialogue becomes an exercise in the characters out-quipping each other in rapid succession thereby losing the focus of the actual story and severely watering down the action.

Rebekah Issacs Variant Cover - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Once more, artist Rebekah Isaacs nails the character designs, both human and monster, and facial features of the main characters in a truly commendable style. She's been earning a new fan right here since seeing examples of her work in the months since TLR started reviewing comics and graphic novels from Dark Horse Comics. Colorist Dan Jackson is also doing a great job with this series, his palette of colors fits the mood and story at this point perfectly. It also compliments Isaacs' linework beautifully.
This one issue really has reminded me of old appreciation and caring for these characters, especially the titular duo Angel and Faith; both were always favorites of mine watching the television series throughout my high school and early college years. This series also fulfills the wish for more of Faith's story after she turned herself into the police to do time for her crimes at Angel's behest. The continuing cycle of her redemption. Also seeing Quor-Toth again is just plain and simple a fanboy moment as an old fan.

Angel and Faith # 13 is defintely worth picking up if you're an old or new fan of the franchise, not a great jumping on point if you're a noob to the Buffyverse but defintely a great story. This reviewer is looking forward to the next issue and may just be taking a ride to the nearest comic shop to pick up the previous twelve issues of the series.

Angel and Faith # 13 gets a 4 out of 5.

For more check out www.darkhorse.com and get out to your local comic shops and support them!

- Michael Meade

Dark Horse Comics
Posted 9/8/12 4:58PM EST

Cover Artist: Bo Hampton - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writers: Bo Hampton and Robert Tinnell
Artist: Bo Hampton
Cover Artist: Bo Hampton
Release Date: 8/22/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "Katya has been in a coma for five years, and when she awakes, everything has changed. Now she is a gorgeous teenager with a mysterious, gruesome past, becoming aware of a growing, terrifying power inside her body, triggered by the touch of the full moon, eager to break free . . . Can Katy solve the mystery of her blood-drenched nightmares before they become reality?"

Considering werewolves are this reviewer's favorite monster Bo Hampton and Robert Tinnell's Riven is a godsend! They've brought back the horrific, suspenseful, and heartwrenching werewolf horror tale not seen in years. And what's better, the monsters are actually scary! No conflicted, lover's lament, love triangle wetdream for 'tween girls here... *SPOILER* alright there is a little, but not much,  this story revolves around a 19 year old young woman who missed ages 14-18 while comatose after all. So yes, there is some romantic tension between hera Katy Harrington one of the supporting characters, but this is far from being a certain supernatural themed teen sensation that besides being a disservice to strong independent women everywhere is also a disservice to mythology.
The joking selling points of this graphic novel aside, the story is engrossing and riveting, it's just short of 100 pages of story and it felt like I rode through them at breakneck speed; in the good way, Riven is defintely not "what the hell? That's it?" kind of story. Hampton also did all the art for the graphic novel, let it be considered nailed in tone and atmosphere regardless of the setting of any one scene. Overall there is nothing to complain about with Riven, it was hit spot on in all the right places... story, pacing, tone, character personalities, monsters, monster design, character design (which has most of the cool tidbits focused on main protagonist Katy, from an interesting and story related thing with her eyes that would be too much of a spoiler to go into specifics to her Joan Jett inspired makeover after waking from her coma), atmosphere and lighting differences specific to location. I really hope this graphic novel makes it big at Dark Horse and brings a big boost to the writer/artist, Riven really is one of the best things I've read this year across the board and one of the best horror stories I've read in many years; finally a return to substance and actual story over tons of desensitizing gore that becomes pointless and far from frightening. Riven is also the best werewolf story I've read since first reading Stephen King's Cycle of The Werewolf (basis for the movie Silver Bullet) at the age of 11.
The last scene is absolutely brilliant in and of itself, I will not spoil anything, just read the graphic novel and appreciate every page and every panel if you love horror, real horror that tells a fully realized story; that can get in your head.

Riven gets a well earned 5 out of 5 on the Geekonomicon scale.

For more check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

Star Wars: Knight Errant - Escape #4 of 5
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 9/14/12 6:05PM EST

Cover Artist: Benjamin Carré - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer: John Jackson Miller
Penciller: Marco Castiello
Inker: Vincenzo Acunzo
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Cover Artist: Benjamin Carré
Release Date: 9/12/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "Caught in a battle between three Sith armies, Jedi Kerra Holt does her utmost to prevent them from finding a powerful Sith relic. Her mission to find her lost family brought the war onto this world, and as she reaches the end of her search for her parents, she realizes the extent of the danger that could be brought to the galaxy if the relic falls into Sith hands! Has Kerra let her personal gain override the needs of thousands of innocents?"

The Knight Errant series never disappoints this reviewer whenever I check in on the adventures of Jedi Knight Kerra Holt, and the Escape mini-series is no different. John Jackson Miller's writing of Kerra is still as wonderful as the first time I read Knight Errant during the Deluge series just about a year ago, and clearly I have unfortunately missed much since then; the action is still awesome and brings much to the table of The Old Republic era of the Star Wars Universe (for those not versed in the extended universe timeline, Kerra's adventures happen about 1,300 years before the Battle of Yavin). Kerra's search for her parents brings up against a sinister Sith cult searching for an ancient relic that could destroy all life throughout the universe, high stakes for a lone Jedi, but more than the action and plot this story is about the personal side of Kerra Holt. And like most well done Star Wars tales, Escape has heart at the core of the story, the humor usually found in many Star Wars stories is not found in this issue, but as this series reaches it's penultimate chapter in issue number five the fate of all life throughout the expanse of the universe is in Kerra's inprisoned hands.

Artwork is singularly beautiful in Escape, Marco Castiello's pencils with Michael Atiyeh's colors and Vincenzo Acunzo's inking combines to produce some of the most beautifully presented artwork I've seen in comics all year. The villains and supporting characters look ready for a new round of live action Star Wars films, and Kerra has never looked better! Everything about the way the art crew drew her displays the character's beauty, strength, power, and even vulnerability better than 90% of Hollywood could ever hope to. If there is any series that could sell the "movie purists" out there on loving the Expanded Universe stories Knight Errant is the series, both the comics and prose novels, to do it!

Star Wars: Knight Errant - Escape #4 gets a 4.5 out of 5.

For more on the Knight Errant series, as well as other Star Wars comics, check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

The Creep #1
Crime Noir/Action/Adventure
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 9/14/12 11:15PM EST

Cover Artist: Mike Mignola - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Jonathan Case
Cover Artist: Mike Mignola
Release Date: 9/12/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "A pair of teen suicides raise terrible questions, but can a grim private eye commit himself to a case that is so closely connected to his own haunted past?"

Crime thrillers that don't involve superheroes and masked villains aren't usually my cup of tea, but The Creep get me involved and turning the page just to get to the next panel as quickly as possible. Mysteries abound around the protagonist, ailing and burnt out P.I. Oxel as he investigates the "contagious" suicides of two young teenagers in a small town. This reviewer first became with John Arcudi through his artwork on the Hellboy spin off B.P.R.D. mini-series nine or ten years ago, and am glad to see he is as commendable a writer as he is an artist; though the seeds of this fact could be seen when he started co-writing B.P.R.D. with Mike Mignola and started soloing some of them as well as Mignola had various full length Hellboy mini-series going around the time Hellboy II: The Golden Army hit theaters. Speaking of artwork, though it would be great to see Arcudi's art coupled with his writing, Johnathan Case's art is great with it's very noirish and grey style; not as gritty as Arcudi's work could get if the tone of the story required but Case's style fits The Creep just as well. As stated above, crime thrillers very rarely get me excited but I can't wait for issue two to see where the story goes next. Even though more action oriented readers may find this first issue to have a slow start, trust me this will evolve quickly to a very engrossing story with epic twists and turns more than worthy of the great noir P.I. flicks of yesteryear.

The Creep #1 gets a solid 4 out of 5.

For more check out www.darkhorse.com and get out to your local comic shops and support them! Support local comic shops before they're gone and another great resource becomes a footnote of pop culture history.

- Michael Meade

The Victories #2 - "The Mark"
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 9/18/12 7:15PM EST

Cover Artist: Michael Avon Oeming - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer & Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Cover Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Release Date: 9/12/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "With their city drowning in the weird drug known as Float, the Victories bust a major operation, only to have their leader’s mind scanned by an evil psychic who plans to use this knowledge for the superhero team’s destruction."

"The plot thickens" is the key phrase with issue number two of Oeming's The Victories, and thickens some more after that. We're introduced to more members of the team this issue, but the focus of the story is still Faustus, the story is told very much in a third person view of his perspective as the team plunges deeper into the drug crisis brought on by designer drug Float. Not much is revealed about the other heroes Sleeper, Sai, D.D. Mau, and Lady Dragon other than their general attitudes, surface personalities and thus their superhero archetypes... at least what they each pose as in front of the others. Over and above character development, the story moves as briskly and enjoyably as did issue one; a few more subplots that no doubt feed the main plot in some appreciable way, considering this is a five issue mini-series, are set up in this issue. Without spoiling anything in the details none of the threads revealed seem to tie together closely enough to make the bigger picture focus just yet.

Oeming is still pulling double duty on writing and art, with Nick Filardi on colors. Everything is just as tight as issue one, which this reviewer appreciates immensely. Consistency is a great thing, adn often underrated tool of late, in story telling of any kind but makes visual stories all the more appealing in my opinion. The Victories could take a place on par with Watchmen (sacrilege I know) for the breadth of the story; granted it's not quite as far reaching in it's scope at the present point of the story but the potential is definitely there.

The Victories #2 gets a 4 out of 5, and still has this reviewer eagerly awaiting the next chapter!

For more on Michael Avon Oeming's The Victories check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

Spike: A Dark Place # 2 of 5
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 9/22/12 7:45PM EST

Cover artist Jenny Frison - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Victor Gischler
Penciller: Paul Lee
Inker: Andy Owens
Cover Artist: Jenny Frison
Variant Cover Artist: Steve Morris
Release Date: 9/19/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "Spike, traveling with a crew of cockroach-like aliens and stranded demons, is headed back from the dark side of the moon to . . . Sunnydale. If you’re a vampire on a walkabout who wants to gain some perspective and get over a girl (psst . . . it's Buffy), it might not be the best idea to return to the nostalgia-filled hometown you helped her destroy. But if you don’t have a choice, maybe the best hope is to find another way to put out the old flame . . ."

Why do all Joss Whedon stories end up in outer space at one point or another? Whether he's doing the writing or not. Not that this reviewer is complaining, in fact for the first time ever I appreciate Spike as a character unto himself. Spike never seemed to be capable of being a stand alone character in the past (as I said in my review of Angel and Faith #13, I haven't kept up with the comics, a fact I'm regretting more and more as I read more of the Season 9 issues of the Buffyverse, so maybe he's been a stronger lead/solo character) always being the villain or love interest or even foil to Angel; but here ol' Spike displays spotlight worthy character. This is of course thanks to Gischler's writing, Spike does some interesting soul searching in this issue, intelligently and personally phrased, this is the stuff that was missing from the TV series when the plot point was contrived to set the same curse on him that was placed on Angel.

Variant Cover Artist: Steve Morris - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Artwork is stellar, the pencils are sharp and convey real expression in both facial expressions and body language; and the fight sequence isn't too shabby either. There's a fluidity to the motion that sometimes lacks in comics and graphics novels, but Lee (pencils) has that in his practiced linework. Andy Ownes' ink is a nearly perfect balance of light and shadow regardless of the scene, day or night, indoors or outdoors, shading on characters or architecture... it doesn't matter that balance is never lost. Overall this reviewer is impressed with story, art, and character personalities and Spike's inner monologue. Plus there are five foot tall, talking roaches led by a fiercely loyal fellow named Sebastian... who I can't help but give the voice of Richard Steven Horvitz (Alpha 5 on the original US version of the Power Rangers).

Spike: A Dark Place #2 scores a 4 out of 5.

For more in the Buffyverse of comicdom check out www.darkhorse.com

- Michael Meade

Lobster Johnson: Caput Mortuum
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 9/23/12 2:35PM EST

Artist: Tonci Zonjic - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Artist: Tonci Zonjic
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Cover Artist: Tonci Zonjic
Year of Monsters Variant Cover Artist: Mike Mignola
Release Date: 9/19/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "Hellboy’s favorite gun-blazing vigilante takes justice to the skies this time by getting locked in combat aboard a zeppelin!"

Dark Horse's solicitation really says it all about this Lobster Johnson issue, 1930s spy noir aboard a German zeppelin. Action is fast, and the story feels faster... almost too fast; this issue is very episodic in nature. I wouldn't recommend it as a jumping on point for this particular corner of the Hellboy universe, the story is great if you know who the character of Lobster Johnson is in the grander scheme of Mignola's Hellboy universe; if you're looking to delve into the many awesome layers of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.. On it's Caput Mortuum is a great noir thriller with a sci-fi center, Lobster Johnson himself is enigmatic as ever but damn bad ass as he battles German patriots out to seek revenge for the American government's abuse of war reparations following World War I.
The German means of vengeance is as interesting as it is horrible, and is a wonderful ode to pulp science fiction from the post World War II 1940s and early 1950s, before most pulp fiction shifted gears to propaganda against the former Soviet Union. Unabashed violence and a hero that could be described as Captain America with Batman's attitude and demeanor cap this story as a damn good read whether you're vested in the Hellboy mythos or just looking for a good yesteryear noir page turner.

Year of Monsters Variant Cover Artist: Mike Mignola - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Art and colors are dark and hard, perfectly suited for this type of story, the almost grayscale quality of light (due to a storm in story but a great touch in the storytelling and art working hand in hand) and the muted brighter colors set the mood like old jazz and an aged scotch. Artist Zonjic and colorist Stewart really do give one hell of a one-two punch in the art department.

Lobster Johnson: Caput Mortuum aces a 3.5 out of 5, great story by two of my favorite writers at Dark Horse, great art with a duo I hope to see more teaming up from, but even for a self contained story (relatively speaking when it comes to a character with several mini-series behind him) it just moves too fast toward an ending that is definite but feels anti-climatic given rest of the action leading up to it.

For more check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

Star Wars - Darth Maul: Death Sentence #3
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 9/26/12 3:45PM EST

Cover Artist: Dave Dorman - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Bruno Redondo
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Cover Artist: Dave Dorman

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "While an injured Darth Maul recuperates from his recent battle with a team of Jedi, he plots his revenge—and the rescue of his brother Savage Opress (now in Jedi custody). But it isn’t simply the Jedi that Maul must face; it’s a powerful mining magnate with forces of his own!

Luckily for Maul, the mine owner has made a career out of exploiting the local work force, and the natives are . . . revolting!"

The first Star Wars comic to act as a direct follow up to a season, the fourth to be exact, of Cartoon Network's Star Wars: The Clone Wars CG animated series, this mini-series detailing what happened to Darth Maul and his brother Savage Opress after their multi-episode arc in the animated series. This issue shows how truly dark a Sith Maul is in his machinations to gain vegeance on the jedi and on the greedy mine owner Ja'Boag, who has also enslaved the planet's native race to work as miners. Sociological and moral themes aside this issue builds momentum for the coming finale from beginning to end, even the action is building toward a larger conflict in the remaining two issues, the pace on both sides of the story reflect that as Maul places his pawns; the native Moorjhooni believe him to be their mythical savior, the Demon in Light. The Sith of course manipulates this to further his plan and free his brother from the carbonite prison Ja'Boag trapped him in last issue.
Writing is well thought and plays up Maul's ruthlessness better than other stories featuring him, both pre- and post- Episode I-The Phantom Menace, in that his utter lack of conscience in the manipulation and harm of others. Maul may truly have been Darth Sidious's (The Emperor) best apprentice ever, not as strong as Vader surely but completely unredeemable with nothing resembling a heart left. In short, Darth Maul: Death Sentence is one of the best, if not the best, Darth Maul story (barring the throwdown between Darth Vader and a clone of Maul a year before the Battle of Yavin, that was epic though truthfully I forget if that was canon or an alternate timeline story).

Artwork, lines and color, on Maul himself is awesome and wonderfully detailed, it really captures the hatred and the seething power in Maul's eyes in every close up panel. Other characters, while still top notch in design aren't as lifelike as Maul; this really is a Darth Maul book in every way.

Star Wars - Darth Maul: Death Sentence #3 gets a 3.5 out of 5, Maul's scenes are great from dialogue to art they really capture the darkness and malicious strength of the character, far beyond many of the other Expanded Universe tales this reviewer has seen with him. But other characters aren't given as much lavishment in their treatment, still great from script and design standpoints but they're just not given as much as Maul himself.
For more on this title and others from Dark Horse Comics, check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

The Goon #42
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 9/28/12 6:45PM EST

Cover Artist: Blur Studio - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Eric Powell
Story Assist: Tom Sniegoski
Artists: Eric Powell and Mark Buckingham
Colorists: Bill Farmer and Eric Powell
Cover Artist: Blur Studio (the studio bringing you the upcoming The Goon film)

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solitcitation: "The Zombie Priest, now going by the name Mr. Corpus, has reemerged and given the Goon a dire warning. But will the Goon listen or will he just go for the punching? My vote’s on the punching."

Why aren't more people reading this series?! The Goon has everything... supernatural thrills, humor for every distinguishing taste (alright there's a lot of toilet and sex humor at times but there are also priceless lines like in this issue where Franky keeps reinterating that "the Witchcraft is in..." this or that), memorable monsters (*SPOILER* including a zombie stuffed with loads of dynamite), a dream or nightmare supporting cast, and a morally questionable street tough as the main character. Why didn't I start reading this series sooner?!?
Platitudes aside, The Goon delivers like a horror sitcom crossed with Boardwalk Empire, sans the 1920s jazz in the background and overabundance of pathos. Truthfully, there aren't any detractors from this issue (or from older I've skimmed in the past), pace is tight in there being no lag to the story, premise of the issue is funny and both builds off recent events in the series while building further toward something larger coming down the pike for the Goon. Fight sequences are well constructed and illustrated in signature style for The Goon by series creator and writer Eric Powell in the main story and Mark Buckingham in the back up "The Bog Lurk That Lurked Like a Thing! A Bad Thing". Without some major spoilers there's not much more that can be said so... go buy The Goon #42 before the Witchcraft gets to siccin' on you.

The Goon #42 gets a 4 out of 5.

For more on The Goon check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

A Christmas Carol: The Night That Changed the Life of Eliza
Scrooge (Hardcover Collection)
Classic/Graphic Literature
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 10/3/12 9:00PM EST

Cover Artist: Rod Espinosa - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer, artist, & cover artist: Rod Espinoza
Release Date: 10/3/12

Official Dark Horse Comics' Solicitation: "Charles Dickens’s holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, is given a fresh twist—with a female Scrooge! Rod Espinosa (The Courageous Princess) adapts and illustrates this story of the miserly Eliza Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of the past, present, and future on one fateful Christmas eve."

There are many adapations of Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol with female lead characters instead of the original version of Ebenezer Scrooge, but as a serious fan of Dickens this reviewer must say this is one of the best I've ever seen. Condensed to a hundred pages, Rod Espinosa breaths a new perspective into the classic, while clearly respecting and even loving the original tale. Even in the condensing none of the main themes or important scenes and interactions are cut, and what remains is optimized for visual storytelling. The art style is a mix of Western and Eastern as Espinosa's art is similar to the anime/manga and Western art style fusion found in the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoons and comics. As a hardcore Dickens fan myself, A Christmas Carol being second only to David Copperfield in my book, I highly approve of this reworked retelling of the timeless classic. Christmas has definitely come a few months early this year, the hardcover edition of A Christmas Carol: The Night That Changed the Life of Eliza Scrooge is a great gift for comic fans and literature buffs in general.

A Christmas Carol: The Night That Changed the Life of Eliza Scrooge gets a 4.5 out of 5 for style and being true to the original story, even though some of the detailed depth of Charles Dickens' narrations are lost in the condensing and reworking as a graphic novel, Rod Espinosa's adaptation stays true to the heart and deeper meaning given to the original A Christmas Carol.

For more check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

The Immortal: Demon in The Blood TPB

Dark Horse Comics
Posted 10/7/12 11:17PM EST

Cover Artist Long Vo - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Ian Edginton
Penciller: Vicenç Villagrasa
Inker & Colorist: José Luis Río
Cover Artist: Long Vo
Release Date: 10/3/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "After a swordfight, Amane, a young samurai with a haunted past, is left for dead—only to be saved by a mysterious tattooist who imbues Amane with the immortal spirit of an oni demon. From that day on, Amane ages no more.

Amane learns of another with a similar oni—one that requires its host to kill—which leads Amane to the realization that the “other” is the man who murdered his sister years ago. But when his decades-long quest for the murderer causes him to cross paths with a maniacal serial killer intent on murdering the woman Amane loves, the only one who can help him is the man who killed his sister. Collects the four-issue miniseries."

Based on the critically acclaimed Japanese novel Ura-Enma, Immortal: Demon in The Blood has just about everything crammed into it... samurai, Japanese folklore, steampunk technology, historical basis in a fascinating time in the history of Japan even with the steampunk spice thrown into the mix. The story is just fun to read and experience, Japanese sensibilities also are kept surprisingly close to the real deal in this Western adaptation reflecting the time the story is set in realisticly again even with the alternate timeline of steam-based technology rapidly evolving providing steam powered cars, clockwork maids and rickshaw drivers, zepplins thirty years earlier than they were en vogue etc.
Characters too are instantly appealing and keep your attention focused on the character driven side of the tale. Incidently, from this reviewer's point of view, the story is completely character as the magic and swordplay take backseats to the humans wielding them. This is the strength of Immortal: Demon in The Blood and unfortaunately it's weakness. The narrative make you want more insight into the pasts of the main characters right off the bat and leaves you wanting more, to what is next with the very definition of "want" instead of the baited breath of waiting for the next issue. Which if one thinks about it is true to the Japanese style of storytelling in many ways, if you're a fan of anime and manga compare it to Cowboy Bebop or Steamboy you want more but you know it's not coming.

That detractor aside, The Immortal: Demon in The Blood is visually awesome and the story being forgiven the above is just one of the best I've read in a while. *SPOILER* Connecting Oni (demons) and the ancient art of tattoo artistry in Japan is brilliant and brilliantly adapted into an English graphic novel. If you missed out on the four issue mini-series pick up The Immortal: Demon in The Blood TPB, whether you're a hard core fan of samurai film and novel or not this one is a great piece of fiction regardless of the part of it that calls to you.

The Immortal: Demon in The Blood TPB gets a 5 out of 5 for story, style, smooth art, and nods to actual Japanese mythology. One of the best offerings from Dark Horse Comics this year!

For more check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9 #14
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 10/11/12 3:25AM EST

Cover Artist: Phil Noto - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

"Billy The Vampire Slayer" Part 1

Writer:Jane Espenson
Penciller:Karl Moline
Inker:Andy Owens
Colorist:Michelle Madsen
Cover Artist:Phil Noto
Release Date: 10/10/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "Buffy television scribes Jane Espenson and Drew Z. Greenberg take readers on a special two-part adventure where a new kind of Slayer emerges in a world without magic! As the zompire epidemic threatens a small California town, Slayer and Watcher join forces to eradicate an overwhelming new evil."

A new kind of slayer rises to fight the menace of the zompire epidemic in the wake of magic's death. This two part arc could be a real turning point in the Buffyverse with the advent of the much talked about first male slayer. On top of the major evolution of the canon of Buffy's universe, the arc also furthers showcasing strong gay lead characters in comic book media with high schooler Billy Lane. Granted this is not a new development in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer canon, in the realm of television or comics, which has featured several strong lesbian and bi characters in the cast before but the step does further a banner few years in comics for the LGBT Community (following DC Comics' reintroduction of Batwoman six years ago as an independent lesbian woman, Marvel Comics giving a greater role and emphasis to their LBGT chacters including the first gay marriage in comics earlier this year, and DC again rebooting original Green Lantern Alan Scott as a gay man the New 52 multiverse) and Dark Horse and the creators behind Buffy continue that trend wonderfully here.

Variant Cover Artist: Georges Jeanty - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

The writers have Billy face real world problems for gay teens (bullying and family acceptance) before the supernatural ones add some spice to the protagonist's life. Now beyond the equality pride, this really turns the Buffy mythos on it's ear a little bit, this reviewer is purposely avoiding spoilers of any kind that haven't already been in solicitations for the issue, but the ramifications of a male slayer regardless of the sexuality of the character could have so many interesting plot points in the future of Buffy The Vampire Slayer over and the above the fun for both Buffy's crew and demons and vamps already with the death of magic in the human dimension of the Buffyverse.
Artwork and dialogue are both sharp and witty, as most of Whedon's creations are. Thankfully though it's not just "let's see how many quips we can pack in every scene and panel" (yes, I've said this once before on an Angel & Faith review, but I stand by it again), if I wanted that I'd go watch a Diablo Cody flick. Dialogue and monologues are the perfect mix of humor, seriousness, and heart; one half sentence of inner monologue in particular near the end of the issue stands out in particular for the soul the writers have given Billy.

Artwork also is slick and fluid but not cartoony, action flows appropriately for the action, gore is not over the top but does communicate very well the zompires and their scariness. For that haven't been following the Buffy comics, think of the zompires as a blend of the reaper vamps in Blade Trinity and the completely vicious almost beastial vampires from 30 Days of Night with the mindless need to feed of a zombie. Can we cool as hell and scary as shit? I knew you could.
Buffy The Vampire Slay Season 9 #14 gets a solid 5 out of 5.
For more Buffy comics check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

The Creep #2
Crime Noir/Action/Adventure
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 10/11/12 11:50PM EST

Cover Artist: Ryan Sook - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Jonathan Case
Cover Artist: Ryan Sook
Release Date: 10/10/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "The case that Oxel couldn't give up on has sucked him in deeper as he looks for answers. But why? Not for money, not even for curiosity, so why? What sins can he hope to uncover—or wash away?"

The Creep #2 is all about deepening the plot... but not clueing the reader in anymore than protagonist P.I. Oxel is. Like the character you're sure there is something just out of the reach of your senses going on that makes the case come together with an explanation, but it stays out of reach. For the moment at least. Much like issue number one, Arcudi's writing moves the events of the current issue forward at breakneck speed. For that speed though, the story overall still feels slow in it's building, not in a bad way mind you just that right amount that makes the reveal as after the reader has put the clues together along with the lead P.I. all the sweeter for the journey, regardless if the outcome.

Oxel's story is shaping up to be someplace in between Hitchcock and Bogart, at the moment with stronger Hitchcockian leanings set in the late 1980s. This reviewer is still looking forward to more from Arcudi's The Creep as the story progresses. Artwork is still stark and engaging, grayish but still alive enough to have color though muted to reflect the grave mindsets of Oxel and the people he encounters as he delves deeper into the suicide of what seemed to be a happy and adjusted teenage boy and the chain reaction it caused.

The Creep #2 gets a 3.5 out of 5; style, substance, and story are all still there with top notch noir style art, but it feels like there should be something more given to the audience in the clue department. Even just a crumb of a clue to not feel quite as lost as Oxel.

For more check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

Star Wars Knight Errant: Escape #5 of 5

Dark Horse Comics
Posted 10/12/12 5:52PM EST

Cover Artist: Benjamin Carré - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer: John Jackson Miller
Penciller: Marco Castiello
Inker: Vincenzo Acunzo
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Cover Artist: Benjamin Carré
Release Date: 10/10/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "Kerra Holt, lone Jedi Knight, may have let her personal mission bring disaster to a planet of innocents—and possibly the entire galaxy! With the truth behind her missing family almost revealed, Kerra scrambles to find some solution to what she has done. The battle between the three Sith armies continues to new heights, and one Sith lord has reached the dangerous relic that will enable him to draw insurmountable power from the misery of others . . ."

Lord Odion's evil plot to wipe life from the galaxy unto the whole of the universe comes to a head as Kerra is captured and at Odion's mercy. The finale of Escape is one of the fastest moving and best written Star Wars stories from the Expanded Universe that this reviewer has read! Even moreso than in the past we see the hear t and soul of Jedi Knight Kerra Holt laid bare and beat down, but still she shines and rises to be an example of a true hero regardless of the universe you happen to be in. Miller keeps showing why he earned his spot on the New York Times' Best Seller List with his original novel featuring Kerra, Knight Errant, the layers and personality he gives to the characters as well as the depths of evil and madness for the villains is to be commended. In the Star Wars universe in particular, it's an easy trap to fall into when writing the characters to make the good guys almost divine in their altruism and selflessness while the villains are absolute paragons of evil that would smack a puppy with a baby; Miller however avoids this. Humanity is never completely lost within the villains, and if it is there's good reason for it, and the heroes are never completely without humanity either; they experience doubt, grief, hopelessness but have the strength to push past them for the greater good. Even when mustering that strength is a fight in and of itself.

Artwork is beautiful as the rest of the mini-series, Kerra Holt has never looked better than with pencils, colors, and ink than by Castiello, Acunzo, and Atiyeh respectively. She is beautiful and sexy, yet never loses one bit of her strong and heroic presence, plus the details the three artists give to the other characters human and non-human is just awesome.


As I said way at the top of this Knight Errant lovefest, the story moves fast, faster even than issue number four last month, but this pacing not only wraps up this part of Kerra's journey it readies the reader for her next jaunt in her quest to find her family and the families of a planet worth of children once held captive on a planetwide orphanage Odion was using for his own ends.

As it always seems with Knight Errant titles, Star Wars Knight Errant: Escape #5 of 5 gets a 5 out of 5... we need to fit the number five in this review a litte more. Here's looking forward to the next Knight Errant series, keep them coming Dark Horse Comics and John Jackson Miller!

For more check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

The Victories # 3 of 5
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 10/24/12 6:45PM EST

Cover Artist: Michael Avon Oeming - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

"Hands On"

Writer: Michael Avon Oeming
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Cover Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Release Date: 10/17/12

Oeming's The Victories is still moving along and churning out more clues to Faustus's inner demons and why he has fallen into his alcohol dependence so deeply. Beyond that though, it's moving slower than a five issue mini-series should... or at least this reviewer would've said that before the news broke that The Victories will be returning in future pages of Dark Horse Presents. Being late with a review was for the better for once, as again with that news in mind there are no major detractors from this issue in the series. Storyline is moving at the pace of a full series so wrapping up would be hard in the remaining two issues, but the build works wonders on the atmosphere of the overall tale. The nuances are layered even when it appears something is about to slap you in the face with answer to The Float drug epidemic, and as stated #3 reveals more of why Faustus is so damaged as a human being. Perhaps moreso than some might get at a casual read-through of the book, without giving away some major spoilers, and when I say major I mean pretty much the whole issue, to share theories on where this reviewer thinks things are headed with Faustus.

More backstory and happenings with the other members of The Victories would be nice, but this mini-series from the start has shown that Faustus is the focal character here. Which is fine, he is a great character and shows, if you'll pardon the comparision beyond costume elements, what would happen if a hero with a mental drive and physical conditioning like Batman had if he suffered an emotional breakdown like an ordinary person. Deconstructing the psyche, in a realistic manner, of superheroes has always been a favorite story device for me, not in an overly tortuous "let's take everything away from the character just to watch him/her tick" way but to showcase what true strength, and sometimes true weakness, are.
The Victories is doing that in spades and this reviewer is still enjoying it.

For more on Michael Avon Oeming's The Victories check out www.darkhorse.com and get out to your local comic shops and hobby store!

- Michael Meade

Ex Sanguine # 1
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 10/24/12 8:04PM EST

Cover Artist: Tim Seeley - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

"The Hollow Man"

Writer: Tim Seeley, Josh Emmons
Artist: Tim Seeley
Colorist: Carlos Badilla
Cover Artist: Tim Seeley
Release Date: 10/17/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "One’s a natural born killer—a remorseless hunter restlessly prowling the night for victims to quench an unnatural bloodlust. The other’s a vampire. A bored vampire. His centuries of existence have left him world weary and detached, until one day his thirst is reinvigorated when the deadly and intricate work of the Sanguine Killer catches his eyes."

Ex Sanguine is Silence of The Lambs meets Forever Knight, except the vampire isn't a cop or a fed and gives into his thirst on those "no one will miss". Already in the first issue the dynamic is struck in each character's role in the series, or so it would seem, this reviewer is sure there will be a few twists and turns as motives are revealed and the Sanguine Killer's true identity is brought to light. Seeley and Emmons lay down some intriguing archetypes in character personalities, more than I had figured for a first issue; but that only feeds my theory that twists and surprises are in store in this very psychology based occult/horror/crime series.

Tim Seeley is also on artwork for the his series along with Carlos Badilla as colorist, the two artists compliment each other well with a polished and slick, but dark where needed, overall style that is appealing both to the eye and in terms of fitting the dialogue and narration. Psychology aside for a moment, this reviewer was hooked at the connection in imagery, for a part I will not spoil, and use of my favorite T.S. Eliot poem The Hollow Men beyond the title if the issue. It might be early to say it, but this is a series to keep an eye if you're a horror fan; heck even if your a crime thiller fan this is one to watch. Dark Horse wins in the horror genre once more with Tim Seeley's Ex Sanguine, a publisher that gets horror on a level deeper than just gore is rare in any medium these days and Dark Horse is one of the best among those rare gems.

Ex Sanguine #1 gets a solid 4 out of 5.

For more check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

Hellboy in Hell #1
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 12/5/12 9:19AM EST

Cover Artist: Mike Mignola - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "After saving the world in The Storm and The Fury, but sacrificing himself and Great Britain, Hellboy is dead, cast into Hell, where he finds many familiar faces, and a throne that awaits him.

Mike Mignola returns to draw Hellboy's ongoing story for the first time since Conqueror Worm. It's a story only Mignola could tell, as more of Hellboy's secrets are at last revealed, in the most bizarre depiction of Hell you've ever seen.

Death was only the beginning!"

Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Mike Mignola
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Cover Artist: Mike Mignola
Released: 12/5/12

This review may be a little shorter than most... Dark Horse Comics has, rightfully so, placed an embargo on all spoilers for Hellboy in Hell #1 even post release date. So this reviewer will just go with... this issue was incredible! And here I was mad at Mike Mignola for finally killing Hellboy a while back after revealing he's the direct descendant of King Arthur. Mister Mignola, my apologies and you are now restored to being one of the ten comic creators I want to meet in my lifetime. This is Hellboy in top form... well he did just die so forgive him for being in the mood he is when you read this issue (WHICH YOU MUST). I'm backing away from Spoilerland now before I get in trouble. This also happens to be Mignola in top shape not only in his writing but also his art. This issue marks the first time Mike Mignola has done writing and art duty on a Hellboy series since Conquerer Worm, and damn is it good to have him doing both again! It's like going home again after personally being a Hellboy fan for years. Complimented by colors from Dave Stewart that fit Hellboy in Hell, or anywhere else for that matter, to perfection.

Year of Monsters Variant Cover - Cover Artist: Mike Mignola - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Going back to something I said earlier, Hellboy being dead actually is a great story device (when the news first broke to me about it, the report made it sound as though Mignola was walking away from the character for years again) considering the even richer layers of mythology that can be tapped for his adventures in the multiple afterlife ideas and realms through out the myths and religions of the world both dead and still practiced. Just look at what Mignola has done with Celtic myths from pre-Christian pagan traditions, Judeo-Christian mysticism, Sumerian mythology, even extra-terrestrials, and Alantis and Lemuria... pardon this reviewer, who is also an amatuer mythologist, while I geek out over the story possibilities for the future. Though I am getting ahead of things considering this is only the first issue. That said, go buy, read, love, and obsess over this one until issue two comes out. And considering how far this is in Hellboy's story and how much in story history there is behind this point in the character's existence, this is actually a really good jumping on point for new fans or fans that love B.P.R.D. but haven't sunk their teeth into Mignola's Hellboy Universe beyond the Bureau's adventures over the last decade since Hellboy has been flying solo.

Definitely a 5 out of 5, even if I am biased because it's Hellboy. And Hellboy written and drawn by Mike Mignola at that. For more on this title and others from Dark Horse Comics check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

The Victories #5 of 5
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 12/13/12 8:45AM EST

Cover Artist: Michael Avon Oeming - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

"The Blood-Stained Finish"

Writer: Michael Avon Oeming
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Lettering: Aaron Walker
Cover Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Release Date: 12/12/12

Official Dark Horse Comics' Solicitation: "In this epic conclusion to The Victories, Faustus is in jail and only one person is willing to help . . . the Jackal. Will Faustus get revenge against his former master, the Mark? And can the Jackal fulfill his promise to turn Faustus into a killer?"

The conclusion of The Victories moves fast. Incredibly fast. And packs a hell of a lot into it to make way for the arc of the team's story when The Victories move into Dark Horse Presents in the New Year. Getting back to the speed of the final issue, this reviewer blazed through it in five minutes but it felt faster. This is not a bad thing, as stated there is a lot crammed into this issue, but none of it could be called a conclusion truly. There is no closure here, so if you're looking for it you ARE going to be disappointed. However, if like your's truly, you're primed and ready to see where the team of mistfit, dysfunctional (in the serious "these people are superpowered vigilantes?!" way, not the funny way) then you'll enjoy this one. Especially after issue number four's reveal on why Faustus is screwed up and his real history with the Mark, plus more of Faustus looking at himself through the Jackal's twisted and dark, yet too sensible idea on what the world is in the near and more nilhilistic future.
Artwork is still top notch and Oeming's interesting style that's somewhere in-between Paul Dini's Batman: TAS style and an amalgamation of Sam Keith and John Arcudi in texture of both character and environment design. At the same time intrigueing but caustic to eye as well... but in a damn enjoyable way. Nick Filardi's colors still complimenting the line work and designs pitch perfectly in balance of shadow and light, pallette, and... thickness to the colors failing a better descriptive for the visual weight the coloring brings to the artwork.

Without laying down some heavy spoilers there's not much more I can say about The Victories #5, if you liked the preceding issues then get this and enjoy, and if you didn't chances are you didn't stick around past issue two anyway. Much as this reviewer is hooked, the series is very much love it or hate it and there's no way around that. However if you missed the earlier issues I'd recommend hitting the back issue section of your comic retailer or snagging the trade when Dark Horse releases it down the road into 2013 and give this excellent series a chance.

For more info check out www.darkhorsecomics.com.

- Michael Meade

Number 13 #1
Action/Adventure/Science Fiction
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 12/19/12 1:58PM EST

Cover Artist: Robert Love - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

"The End is the Beginning"

Writers: Robert Love & David Walker
Artist: Robert Love
Inker: Dana Shukartsi
Colorist: Brennan Wagner
Cover Artist: Robert Love
Release Date: 12/19/12

Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "The young bionic amnesiac known as Number 13 searches for answers and his creator, in a future world that’s been brought to its knees by the vicious Monstrum Morbus plague. Weakened by his last explosive encounter, Number 13 is discovered by a group of curious, scavenging mutants who have banded together for survival. They dub him “Thirteen” and invite him to join their group—and one of them knows exactly what horrible purpose he was built for!"

Post-apocalyptic stories are nothing new, especially over the last few years as we've been continually bombarded with predictions of doom and the end times from every place imaginable, but Number 13 is refreshing, even with further familiar elements of a catalyst mutating fifty percent or more of the human population and the battles for survival and supremacy between the mutant humans and non-mutated human. However, the refreshment comes not in the story devices, it comes in the fact that the cause is not the story driver; the effect is. As well as the people left on the mostly barren planet after the wars between the Fected and the Munes have taken their toll on both sides.
Enter the protagonist, an amnesiac teenage android (or possibly cyborg, issue one hasn't truly revealed which he is) dubbed 13 by the group of mutants that find him half buried in rubble. Again familiar ground, but before writing Number 13 off as Astro Boy meets The Omega Man give it a chance. Even one issue in, two counting the #0 issue that collects material from the prequel showcased in Dark Horse Presents if this reviewer is correct (apologies if not, I missed issue zero and the Dark Horse Presents that set up the world of Number 13), this series is fast paced and keeps the action front and center. Here comes further showing of that refreshing thing about this series... it doesn't get lost in exposition of the why and how of the world going to hell, it focuses on the in story present moment and the characters you meet and how they survive.

The artwork will not to everyone's liking, but I find it fits the story, Robert Love's linework reminds me of Mike Allred's run on X-Force back in 2000 to 2004-ish, if I remember correctly, surrealist cartooning with a hint of realist manga style to it in short. Teamed with Shukartsi's inks and Wagner's colors brings a vivid yet hazy lustre to the artwork that gives the completed package of the comic a perfect feel for a post-armageddon set series.

Number 13 gets a 3.5 out of 5, original use of familiar themes and story devices, but needs to have a few more issues published before it can said if it actually optimizes the mold it was cast from; or better yet breaks and redefines that mold to be something really special.
For more on Number 13 check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade

The Black Beetle: Night Shift #0
Dark Horse Comics
Posted 12/19/12 3:20PM EST

Cover Artist: Francesco Francavilla - Courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Writer, Artist, & Cover Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Release Date: 12/19/12
Dark Horse Comics' Official Solicitation: "When a powerful totem of dark magic shows up at the Colt City Natural History Museum, Hitler sends his fearsome Werwolf Korps to collect the piece. Unfortunately for the führer, Colt City’s protector, the Black Beetle, is on the case!

From the mind of 2012 Eisner Award winner Francesco Francavilla (Batman: The Black Mirror). Collects three Dark Horse Presents stories from issues #11–#13."

The three chapters of Black Beetle: Night Shift collected from Dark Horse Presents #11-#13 move fast and keep the action heavy throughout, think if Indiana Jones were Batman. Let that image sink in... and go. Francavilla plays the story out in almost perfect pulp noir style, fast action, lots of gunfire and blood, and the Hollow Lizard amulet that appears to be more than just a McGuffin (look up the term if you don't know it, as storytelling device the term has an interesting history and was made an artform in and of itself by Alfred Hitchcock). Francavilla's pulling double duty on this Black Beetle tale as artist on top of writing, and his artwork really completes the atmosphere of 1940s noir. From color palette to shading, texture as well, he scores equal marks from this reviewer between art and story here.

History is mixed with fiction very well here, even Hitler's fascination and use of occult knowledge and practices to advance the Third Reich to victory of the allies. Add the bonus of nazi esponiage on American soil just months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941 and America's full involvement in the war against the Axis powers, and you get a bonified pre-Cold War spy tale in the mix of genres that make up Black Beetle all at once!
The only negative point lies at times in the dialogue of the characters, at points it feels too current. Not in anything as blatent as Francavilla using modern slang or terms that couldn't have existed in 1941, just in sentence structure itself at a few points and use of word contractions that didn't see prevalent use in American English grammer until later decades. And truly, that is, self-admittedly, being incredibly nit picky and hardcore grammer nazi about it as it is hardly noticable to anyone that hasn't read "contemporary" American literature and/or have reprints of comic books from the late '30s and early '40s. All around Black Beetle is on equal footing with titles like Lobster Johnson from the Hellboy universe of Dark Horse properties or even Justice League: The New Frontier.

Black Beetle: Night Shift #0 gets a 4.5 out of 5 and has this reviewer looking forward to the release of Black Beetle: No Way Out starting in January. For more on Black Beetle check out www.darkhorse.com.

- Michael Meade