Karen Berger is back! The big news coming out of the ComicsPro conference for Dark Horse is that the company will be publishing a new line of comics from the legendary editor. For those of you who might not know who she is, Berger rose to fame at DC in the late 80’s where she edited numerous titles with offbeat and mature sensibilities. These included “The Sandman,” “Doom Patrol,” “Shade the Changing Man,” and “Animal Man.” Several years later, Berger established the Vertigo imprint under DC for titles that shared those sensibilities and didn’t fit neatly into the DC Universe. The rest was history until she retired from the company in December 2012. People have been speculating that Berger was going to start her own line of comics after that, and now we have it.
While Berger is currently editing “Surgeon X” over at Image, Dark Horse seems like a better fit for her. The company may be more corporate than the creator-owned free-for-all that is Image, but I think that makes them better positioned to support a line that is editor-curated. Plus, they’ve got a long history of respecting creator rights as well. While we shouldn’t expect lightning to strike twice with Berger’s new line, I’m sure they’re going to be worth checking out. Plus, I hear she’s really tight with that Neil Gaiman guy too!
Angel Catbird vol. 3: The Catbird Roars: Margaret Atwood and Johnnie Christmas’ cat-astrophic graphic novel trilogy concludes. Vol. 2 just came out and… I have yet to even order it. I’m sure I’ll get around to it at some point, if only to see if the Castle of Count Catula is as awesome as it sounds.
Berserk vol. 38: As the solicitation text reminds us, this will be the first new volume of “Berserk” in four years. Mind you, much like nearly every other Dark Horse manga where the gaps between new volumes can be measured in years, the wait here isn’t because of low sales. That’s because all outward appearances indicate that mangaka Kentaro Miura is struggling to maintain interest in continuing his magnum opus. In addition to lengthy hiatuses between new chapters, he even took time off to do the “Giganto Maxia” miniseries. While I’d say that the series is more than halfway done, it still doesn’t look to be anywhere near finished. If waiting four years between volumes is the new normal for “Berserk” now, I’d say people should content themselves with checking out the anime, or side projects like the “Berserk and the Band of the Hawk” game which came out this week, rather than invest their time and money in a series that will likely never see completion.
Oh, but what about this particular volume? We’re told that Guts’ band arrive at the island of Skelig in the hopes that the magic of the elves can cure Casca’s condition, while Rickert finally comes face-to-face with Griffith for the first time since the rest of the Band of the Hawk was sacrificed. It’s not that I don’t think seeing these developments play out will be disappointing or even unsatisfying. Not knowing when we’ll see them followed up on is the real dealbreaker here.
Dept. H vol. 2: After the Flood: I recently picked up and read the first volume of Matt Kindt’s latest series, a near-future murder mystery set in a research lab on the bottom of the ocean floor. The good news is that it didn’t end in a way that had me wanting to write it off in the way that the first volume of “Mind MGMT” did. Unfortunately, the relentless experimentation with the comics form which drove that series is absent here. While it’s probably expecting too much from Kindt to push the envelope with every new title he does, the fact is that without it his storytelling is revealed to be fairly pedestrian. I was also left with the feeling that the story being told here would be fine for a twelve-issue series, but issue #14 is also solicited here. I’ll pick up this volume to see where he’s going with this, though I’ll also keep my expectations low when I do.
Dragon Age: Knight Errant #1 (of 5): The first “Dragon Age” miniseries from Dark Horse came from a writer -- Greg Rucka -- I really liked. He was also working well out of his area of expertise and the final product came off as fairly by-the-book as a result. Now we’ve got the veteran writing team of Nunzio DeFillips and Christina Weir giving us the story of elven squire Vaea accompanying her knight into Kirkwall just in time for the appointment of Varric Tethras as its new viscount. Vaea is also a talented thief, but when she attempts to change the terms of what she thought was a simple job things start to get ugly. This sounds all well and good, but I’m honestly more intrigued with the concept of seeing Varric in a position of leadership. Seeing a scoundrel like him in a position of authority sounds like an idea worthy of a miniseries itself. Too bad it appears to be just a subplot here.
Ether vol. 1: Death of the Last Golden Blaze: Also from Matt Kindt, though he’s just writing the story of an interdimensional adventurer who only believes in science and yet is called upon to solve the crimes of a fantasy realm. I know I just knocked his storytelling abilities with “Dept. H,” but he’s actually come up with a pretty clever premise here. “Ether’s” art is also coming from the highly talented David Rubin, so there’s a chance it could help to gloss over some of the flaws that come up. This is also debuting in paperback first for $15 so it’s easier to get onboard with as well. What I guess I’m trying to say here is that I’m more interested in this new collaborative project from Kindt than his writer/artist gig.
Gary Gianni’s MonsterMen and Other Scary Stories: Gianni hasn’t done a whole lot of sequential art, but whenever his name is mentioned this is usually the title that is cited to show what he’s done. It’s about millionaire filmmaker Lawrence St. George and his associate Benedict and their various adventures involving squid pirates, zombie cowboys, abominable snowmen, mustachioed skulls, and flying demons. While I’m familiar with Gianni’s meticulous art, I can’t say anything about his storytelling. Which makes it good that Dark Horse included a couple of enthusiastic quotes from Mikes Mignola and Chabon to let us know what we’re getting here. However, don’t expect all 168 pages to be filled with comics. The solicitation text also lets us know that this volume includes stories from the likes of Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith that Gianni has illustrated as well.
H.P. Lovecraft’s The Hound and Other Stories: From mangaka Gou Tanabe comes an adaptation of three stories from the legendary horror writer. While literary adaptations tend to be very hit-or-miss in comics, I’ll be picking this up because I figure it sends a better message to Dark Horse regarding what kind of manga I want to see from them as opposed to picking up any of their “Vocaloid” titles. Regrettably, I still have yet to read any of Lovecraft’s actual stories. I’ve been meaning to fix that for years now, but maybe one of these days…
I Am a Hero Omnibus vol. 4: Seeing a new volume of this title solicited here was the most pleasant surprise in this round of solicitations. Not just because it’s actually being solicited, but because it’s scheduled to come three months after vol. 3. Previously, new volumes of this title had been scheduled at six-month intervals. I can only hope this means that “I Am a Hero” has been selling well enough for the company for them to put this latest omnibus out so soon. As for the contents of the volume itself, we’re told that protagonist Hideo is now being forced to work with a group of survivors who have some odd(?) rules about survival in this post-apocalyptic world. Mention is also made of the fact that Hideo’s highschool companion Hiromi is also “partially mutated” which, in the relatively grounded aesthetic of this series, reads to me the same as “being completely screwed.” I hope no one got too attached to her in vol. 2.