It’s finally here. After following it for a good portion of my adult life,* one of my all-time favorite series reaches its conclusion this March (because Dark Horse advance-solicits collections two months ahead in their solicitations). “Blade of the Immortal vol. 31: The Final Curtain” brings the series to a close fifteen years after I first started reading it. Though I’ve talked it up a good deal here over the years, I didn’t jump on the bandwagon right when it came out. I was always curious about it after the monthly issues kept getting mentioned in Wizard’s manga section but never found copies for sale at my local bookstores. Then some time later an acquaintance at one of UCR’s anime clubs offered to sell me the first two volumes and I found out what I had been missing out on. (This was around ‘99 because the first volume I bought afterwards was vol. 4 “On Silent Wings.” Yes, I did buy vol. 4 before I bought vol. 3 -- this was back in the time when I considered the now-defunct Virgin Megastore to be the best place to get graphic novels. Before I discovered Amazon and started getting in good with my local comic shops.) Long story short, I was immediately hooked and have remained so ever since. I’ll be re-reading the ENTIRE series once the final volume comes out next year. There is a certain bit of anticipation there as I’m wondering how everything will hold up after I do that. I guess we’ll all find out then.
*You know, for a given definition of the term “adult.”
Baltimore vol. 5: The Apostle and The Witch of Harju: After slaying his vampire nemesis in the previous volume, Lord Baltimore learned that it only heralded a greater threat. We also saw fanatical inquisitor Duvic transformed into a werewolf after he had been cursed for his brutal methods. Both threads are followed up on here, and it looks like the title character will not be alone in his quest. The solicitation text mentions that he has a team of “fearless vampire killers” which, while being a nod to the old Peter Cushing film, also implies that this solitary man has finally realized he can’t do this quest alone. I’m actually surprised that he’d reach such a conclusion, but maybe we’ll get an explanation for it in this volume.
The Chronicles of Conan vol. 29: The Shape in the Shadow and Other Stories: I just want to mention that it’s quite impressive to see that Dark Horse’s reprint program of the old Marvel Comics “Conan” series is still going strong after all these years. Actually, it’s even more impressive since the’ve been reprinting these issues in full color and eight-to-ten issues at a time for $20 now. Then again, that’s still a better deal than you’ll get for most comics published today. I have the first three volumes of this run and thought they were good fun. Collecting the subsequent twenty-six requires more money, time, and shelf space than I’m willing to commit to right now. Also, the first volume of Fred Van Lente and Brian Ching’s “Conan the Avenger” is solicited here. All I can hope is that it’s better than the miniseries Van Lente did prior to taking on the monthly title.
The Courageous Princess vol. 1: Beyond the Hundred Kingdoms (Third Edition) HC: I’ve referred to Rod Espinosa’s “Neotopia” to friends as a “Hippie Tree-Hugger version of ‘Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind’” and followed it up with, “But it’s really quite good.” I don’t know why I feel the need to make things harder on myself and that series, but there you go. Ever since, I’ve been waiting for the writer/artist to deliver a proper follow-up to that series. “Prince of Heroes” looked like it at first, yet we’ve only seen two volumes of that title. Then there’s this graphic novel he first did for Antarctic before setting up shop at Dark Horse. It’s a fun all-ages title about a title character who comes as advertised. While the fact that it’s getting another reissue, its first in hardcover, isn’t particularly noteworthy the accompanying solicitation text is. We’re told that there will be two more volumes arriving in June and September of 2015, which makes for some very welcome news. Start anticipating them… NOW!
Dark Ages: Mercenaries in the title age vs. aliens! Brought to you by writer Dan Abnett and artist I.N.J. Culbard who previously gave us “The New Deadwardians.” That title was an impressive genre mash-up and feat of worldbuilding that was undone by a not-particularly-well-thought-out twist towards the end. It was still good enough for me to take note of this title and make plans to buy it when it comes out to see if they can deliver a satisfying story from start-to-finish here.
Demo: While the subject of “third editions” is still fresh in our minds, let’s talk about this latest edition of Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s “teens with superpowers” series. Originally published by AIT*PlanetLar, it was then re-published by Vertigo when Wood started writing for them, and a second volume was commissioned as well. Now with the writer ensconced at Dark Horse, the original title is being republished again along with the second volume in a complete edition. Though I’m a fan of Wood’s work, this is one series of his I’ve never actually read. That was mainly because the word of mouth on the original run was that it was good, but VERY depressing as well. Given that it’s being republished again with both volumes, I guess it’s time to get over myself and finally pick it up.
Empowered Unchained vol. 1: If you’ve been reading my thoughts on these solicitations for any length of time, you’ll know that whenever a new “Empowered” one-shot arrives I always bitch about when we’re finally going to see them all collected in one volume. Well, THAT TIME HAS FINALLY ARRIVED! This volume brings together the six one-offs that creator Adam Warren has written with the likes of Brandon Graham, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Ryan Kinnaird providing the art. I’m expecting this to be a great read, while also eager to see how other artists interpret Warren’s world and characters. Particularly Graham, since his sense of humor is just as lowbrow as Warren’s.
Groo: Friends and Foes #1 (of 12): Now that the “Conan” team up is behind them (and ready to be collected any month now) Mark Evarnier and Sergio Aragones bring their most famous creation back to his solo adventures. While the last several “Groo” series from the company have been miniseries about a particular subject, this maxi-series looks to have the character interacting with his supporting cast and incurring the expected amounts of property damage along the way. First up is Captain Ahax, which tells me that the only gimmickry we’ll see in this title will be that Groo’s encounters will be alphabetical in nature.
The Shaolin Cowboy HC: Back in the mid aughts, the Wachowskis set up their own comic publishing imprint to feature creators like Steve Skroce and Geof Darrow who worked with them on the “Matrix Trilogy.” While Skroce’s “Frankenstein” series seems to have vanished into the ether, Dark Horse has taken up the reins to bring us Darrow’s “Shaolin Cowboy.” In case you’re not familiar with the artist, he’s one of those guys who draws EVERYTHING in his art. While this produces some utterly absorbing work, it has resulted in the man being even less prolific than someone with a similar approach like Frank Quitely. That being said, there’s been enough comics about this character that we can now have a collected edition to showcase his adventures and Darrow’s art. If you’re wondering if this would be the series for you, then you’re encouraged to take a look at its cover. That should tell you everything you need to know.