Coming out of the ComicsPro retailer event this week was news that June 4th is going to be “Dark Horse Day” in celebration of the company’s 30th anniversary. Retailers are being offered discounts on key titles in the company’s backlist as well as a sampler to be handed out to their customers for free. This sampler will contain previously published stories from “Aliens vs. Predator,” “Sin City,” and “The Umbrella Academy,” as well as a new “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” story from current series writer Christos Gage. I’d argue that the sampler should be more forward-looking than it is, with samples/promotions of upcoming titles, but I think the company has earned the right to celebrate after three decades in this business. If only for their contributions towards creators rights and ownership, as well as singlehandedly raising the standard for licensed titles in comics.
The Chronicles of Conan vol. 32: The Second Coming of Shuma-Gorath and Other Stories: First off, yes Dark Horse is still reprinting the old “Conan” comic series from Marvel after all these years. This volume will take us up to #258. Second, after seeing the title my first thought was “Wasn’t Shuma-Gorath one of the characters in ‘Marvel vs. Capcom?’” Yes. Yes it was. One of a few characters from “Conan” creator Robert E. Howard to be imported into the Marvel Universe, the Cthulu-esque creature wound up being a playable character in “Marvel Super Heroes,” “Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter,” “Marvel vs. Capcom 2,” and “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” as part of the first DLC pack. Also, Howard was good friends with Cthulu creator H.P. Lovecraft, so the creature’s look is more of a well-intended homage than anything else.
Will I actually be picking this up? That’s a definite “No.” I’ve got twenty-eight volumes to buy first before that even becomes a consideration.
Dragon Age: Magekiller: Greg Rucka writes this miniseries based on the excellent series of games where magic users run the risk of becoming demonic threats to humanity and thus lead strictly controlled lives in their circles as ordained by religion and government. There are those mages who choose to buck the system by seeking their freedom, and that’s where the mercenary team in this miniseries comes in. From what I’ve heard, “Magekiller” offers the first look inside the aging Tevinter Imperium, the only place in the land of Thedas where mages rule man instead of the other way around. That alone should make it worth checking out for any dedicated fan of the series. As it’s written by Rucka, that also means this series will very likely be a good read in addition to that.
Dream Gang: The psychedelic stylings of artist Brendan McCarthy should be well-known to comics fans with a long memory. As this volume involves a trip through the dreamworld to stop a bomb from rendering all of humanity catatonic, it should provide a great showcase for the strengths of his style. However, McCarthy also co-wrote and provided designs for the best film I saw in 2015: “Mad Max: Fury Road.” That’s kind of surprising to realize when I think about his day-glo outlandishness versus the gritty action of that film. I don’t have enough of McCarthy’s work in my library, so it’s likely that I’ll be picking this up when it comes out.
Joe Golem: Occult Detective vol. 1 -- The Rat Catcher and the Sunken Dead: Normally I’d balk at a five-issue miniseries being collected for $25. However, this is from the “Baltimore” team of Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, and that series has been consistently good enough for me to keep picking up when a new volume comes out. I think I’ll go ahead and get in on the ground floor with this series so that I’m not left with a weird situation like with “Baltimore” where the first volume is in the paperback section of my library and the rest are on my hardcover shelves. Yeah, it’s a real First World Problem right there.
King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border: Writer Tim Truman teased that he had something planned for the “Old King Conan” character who provided the framing narration for his “King Conan” series and here it is. With talk of a mystic artifact fueling an invasion of Picts, the old king gets off his throne for what could be the battle which will allow him to die on his feet rather than in a bed. Truman is working off of an unfinished story from creator Robert E. Howard, so he has some freedom here with what will likely be his final story featuring the character. Tomas Giorello once again provides the art here, so if this is the end for these creators and the character I have no reason not to expect that they won’t go out on a high note.
Mae #1: What happens when your sister disappeared when she was a girl and returns as an adult saying that she found a portal to a fantasy land where she lived as a legendary hero defeating monsters, mad scientists and power-mad nobles? You’d find it a little hard to believe, right? That’s the situation that Mae finds herself in with her sister Abbie. Only now the monsters from this fantasy land have finally found their way into our world and it’s up to Abbie and her sister to stop them. It’s a concept I can get behind, but the real selling point here is that it’s from Gene Ha, legendary for his art on “Top 10” and just about every comic he has illustrated since. The man is also writing this, and he’s an unproven quality in that area. Still, this is a case where the quality of his art may be able to shore up any deficiencies in the writing. One to keep an eye on.
Past Aways: Facedown in the Timestream: “Mind MGMT’s” Matt Kindt writes this series, with art from Scott Kolins, about deep-time explorers who find themselves stranded in the backwaters of the 21st century. Now they’re forced to defend our era from the horrors being spit out at it by a rift in the timestream. The solicitation text indicates we’ll be getting some fish-out-of-water humor as these explorers have to contend with our “primitive” technology. Kindt’s presence would lead one to believe that we’ll be getting a head-trip of a story, but remember that he’s only writing this. So the inventive execution with regards to the comics form which marked his signature series may very well be absent here. I’m still intrigued enough to pick this up and give it a shot, regardless.
Usagi Yojimbo vol. 30: Thieves & Spies: Another volume of this great series in time for Comic-Con (like all of the other collections here, it’s advance-solicited for July). Nice to know that some things never change.
Wandering Island: I wrote about this back in November and now we have the official solicitation for it. There’s not much to add here, save for the fact that for once, Dark Horse seems to be more realistic about a manga’s publication schedule than its Japanese publisher. By that I mean the cover to the manga indicates that this is “vol. 1” while there’s no such indication that this is an ongoing series in the solicitation text. So long as this volume doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, I’m okay with that. Mangaka Kenji Tsuruta has been publishing this series “irregularly” since 2012 so there’s no indication when a second volume will come out in Japan. If this does turn out to be good, treating each volume as an individual graphic novel will likely be better for its long-term health.