Dark Ages #1 Written by Dan Abnett
Art by I.N.J. Culbard
Edited by Daniel Chabon
Covers by I.N.J. Culbard Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: August 13, 2014
Cover Price: $3.99
Dark Ages #1 is part medieval historical fiction, part Lovecraftian terror, and part sci-fi monsters from space. The story introduces us to a band of knights eager for the 100 Years War to start in Medieval Europe. While they wait, they travel the countryside looking for a good fight. The group is diverse; some pray for battles, others assume that prayer will do no good, as a godless world will provide many opportunities to fight. They each have their special talents, and some are more battle hardened than others.
One night, while sitting around the fire, they notice strange stars appear in the sky. The stars turn out to be meteorites that contain strange, and deadly, alien creatures. The aliens decimate the group, severely injuring the leader, and the group flees to a monastery. The monks bring in the group, but something doesn’t sit right with the captain’s right-hand-man and now de facto leader. We learn that one of the monks is not only aware of the alien’s visitation, but is eagerly expecting it.
Hellboy in Hell #1 Story & Art by Mike Mignola
Colors by Dave Stewart
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover by Mike Mignola with Dave Stewart
Designers: Mike Mignola & Gary Grazzini
Assistant Editor: Daniel Chabon
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Mike Richardson Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: December 5, 2012
Cover Price: $2.99
Hellboy in Hell #1 was the first Hellboy comic that I’ve ever read. Ever. I have nothing against the character, is just seemed that it was one of those books that never interested me. That being said, what I found when I read this comic surprised me.
Mike Mignola packs a LOT of humor in this story, and frankly, I really wasn’t expecting that. Again, I’m not familiar with the Hellboy character or universe, so I didn’t know what to expect, but it sure wasn’t this. As a character, Hellboy is very tongue in cheek and quite a wise-cracking badass. Unfortunately, I found the story a little hard to follow. This is obviously aimed at Hellboy fans, so I’m sure I missed a ton of “in jokes” and references to past stories, but that’s OK. It’s an entertaining read with a couple of really good, funny parts to the story.
Writer Steve Niles may have had greater success with works like 30 Days of Night, but it’s the embittered hunter of the supernatural demons, Cal McDonald, that is his iconic character and the one Niles has continually returned to for 22 years. And, after all this time, it seems as though Cal is having a bit of an existential crisis with his current predicament.
Criminal Macabre: The Iron Spirit takes a little excursion from the main narrative of the series – the war between man and seemingly every supernatural monster ever dreamed – to do a one-shot detective story. When the book opens, Cal is trying to come to grips with his recent… undeath. The bad is that he can’t sleep, he has no blood, and his hands are kind of cold and clammy; the good is he can still drink and smoke (and do both without the adverse health effects, I assume, so: bonus?) and has picked up the ability to sense other members of the undead. I’m sure Niles will explore it further, but whatever rules he has for the undead, the message seems to be that there is no relief from life in undeath. Or, as Cal put it: “I seemed pretty much like myself, just dead and tooling around like before.” The mechanics of being undead are perhaps the most interesting thing about this comic, and I don’t mean that as a backhanded insult. It’s the kind of thing that keeps Cal compelling beyond the mysteries he’s trying to solve.
Criminal Macabre: Die, Die, My Darling finds its anti-hero, Cal McDonald, adjusting to life after life. To being undead in other words. How is he taking the transition? He’s disgruntled, sure, but whatever, he seems to be disgruntled about a lot of other things, too.
Since 1990 writer Steve Niles, who you should know from the 30 Days of Night books/film (and if you don’t that’s your loss) has been doing his own take on the Paranormal Sleuth sub-genre in both comics and prose. Specifically, by Sleuth I mean the hard living, solving-crime-in-a-drunken-have type, and by Paranormal I’m talking about a casual slathering of vampires and werewolves. You like John Constantine? Give this a try.
Monstermen and Other Scary Stories Written and Illustrated by Gary Gianni
Additional Stories by William Hope Hodgeson, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard and Perceval Landon
Letters by Sean Konot, Todd Klein, and Clem Robins
Introduction by Michael Chabon Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: March 7, 2012
Cover Price: $24.99
At one point early on in Gary Gianni’s Monstermen and Other Scary Stories a main character gets a curse that leaves a disturbing mark on his head. It has to be seen to be fully understood because I can only describe it as a Stegosaurus Mohawk… and it’s maybe one of the single coolest things I’ve ever seen in a comic. A few pages later it’s gone, like a ghastly sight in a haunted house, never to be seen again.
Monstermen and Other Scary Stories was originally published as back ups in Hellboy beginning in the mid-90s, though Giannis’ work seems to be about as much Edward Gorey as Mike Mignola. Many avid comic book readers will be familiar with his work, which began first on Classics Illustrated adaptations, most famously on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He then won an Eisner for Best Short Story for the Heroes contribution in Batman: Black and White before settling into his current gig doing Prince Valiant. Monstermen stands out in his body of work as being his most original and innovative title.