While we’re still waiting to see if the massive Disney/Fox merger is going to go through, and take all of the Fox licenses away from Dark Horse, Marvel started the year off by sniping a completely different license. After more than a decade at Dark Horse, Marvel is now the new publisher of “Conan” comics. Unlike how Disney’s acquisition of Marvel effectively gave them the “Star Wars” license, this appears to be a case of Marvel negotiating for and acquiring the rights to publish more comics based on everyone’s favorite barbarian. Marvel published hundreds of “Conan” comics through the late 70’s to early 90’s which were fondly remembered to the point where Dark Horse had a long-running trade-reprint program going for them. Now, as is the case with “Star Wars,” Marvel will likely be setting up their own reprint program for all of the “Conan” comics published by Dark Horse.
Why did this happen? Some have mentioned that it’s part of Marvel’s plan to bring all of their wayward children (read: licensed characters they produced comics for in the past) back to them. That makes a certain amount of sense given their currently dire publishing straits. I’d imagine their reasoning is that if they can take “Star Wars” and make it into a far bigger multi-title juggernaut than Dark Horse ever did then they can do the same with “Conan.” It’s disappointing that they’re choosing to do this now, after Dark Horse was so close to completing their plan to adapt all of Robert E. Howard’s stories in comic form. Still, it’s hard to argue that Marvel hasn’t done right by “Star Wars” so I’m at least optimistic regarding whatever “Conan” comics they’re going to publish now. Particularly if they decide to let Jason Aaron write one of them as he has so clearly indicated that the wants to.
A whole lot of “Hellboy” reprints, Frank Miller’s… long-awaited follow-up to “300,” and a new manga license that somehow escaped my attention await after the break.
Aliens: Dust to Dust #1 (of 4): Future of this license at Dark Horse aside, they’re going in an interesting direction with these recent “Aliens” titles. The last one was a spotlight for writer/artist James Stokoe and now Gabriel Hardman is getting the same treatment. While the solicitation plays up the creator’s work as a storyboard artist on films like “The Dark Knight,” “Logan,” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” he’s also worked on a number of comics for Marvel, BOOM!, and Dark Horse including “Star Wars: Legacy Vol. II.” While I can certainly appreciate his art, the storytelling on that series was a major letdown. That said, Hardman is flying solo as a writer here so maybe he stands a better chance of delivering some satisfyingly tense “Aliens” action here.
Beanworld Omnibus vol. 1: Larry Marder’s impossible-to-describe series gets the omnibus treatment. This is one of those cases where I’ve heard so much about this series over the years that I’m appreciative of the fact that it’s finally being delivered in this format. Now I can finally see what all the fuss has been about and maybe even find my own way to describe this title.
Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1: Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s series about superheroes trapped in another, very rural and grounded dimension starts its second series. I still have to pick up vol. 2 and that’s on me. However, the solicitation text scores no points for telling us that the first series ended on one of those cliffhangers where the person who was about to explain everything suddenly disappears. I mean, really Jeff? You should know better. To the writer’s credit, this series looks to follow the perspective of the character who disappeared as she winds up in a dimension of punk rock detectives, emo gods, anthropomorphic humans, and absurdist heroes. I have this nagging feeling that Lemire is riffing on Vertigo here, so we’ll see how that goes.
ElfQuest: The Final Quest vol. 4: Uh, so here’s another Dark Horse series that I’ve fallen behind on collecting. Seeing as how this is going to be the story that wraps up the whole “ElfQuest” saga, I clearly need to get off my ass and pick it up. As well as get around to reading vol. 4 of “The Complete ElfQuest.” Now that one I did buy. I’ve just had difficulty finding the time to sit down and start reading through it. Which is on me, again.
Empowered and the Soldier of Love: Since the first collection of “Empowered” spinoff tales, “Unchained” vol. 1, we’ve had a one-shot, this three-issue miniseries, and a currently serialized six-issue miniseries. Putting them all together would make “Unchained” vol. 2 an interesting reading experience. That’s not happening, as this collection brings together the title story and the one-shot, “Pew, Pew, Pew,” in one package. While I’m betting that the one-shot has something to do with guns (that also fire lazers!) “Soldier of Love” sees the superhero community infected with rampant romance courtesy of a disgruntled magical girl. It’s a straightforward enough setup for Empowered to tackle, which means that the rug will be pulled out from under her, and the reader, once we find out what’s actually going on. Classic Adam Warren, in other words.
Gantz: G vol. 1: I apparently missed the announcement that this series had been licensed so seeing its appearance in these solicitations was a surprise to me. It’s not really a pleasant surprise seeing as how I was perfectly fine with the amount of “Gantz” that we already got and I’m not all that enthusiastic to check out more work from mangaka Hiroya Oku after the letdown that was “Inuyashiki.” Oku is only writing this series with the art provided by Keita Iizuka, who is unknown to me. All I’ve been able to glean about the plot for “Gantz: G” is that it revolves around a group of high school students who get into a bus accident, die, and are resurrected by a Gantz orb. This is a fairly short series at three volumes so it’s not going to require the same kind of massive commitment that its 37-volume parent series did. Still, is anyone actually looking to read more “Gantz” at this point?
Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories vol. 1 & Hellboy Omnibus vol. 2: Strange Places: There’s a whole lot of “Hellboy” coming our way in June. If you’re wondering why we’re getting “The Complete Short Stories” when collecting the series in omnibus form would seem to be all-inclusive, Dark Horse has an answer for you. “Short Stories” is collecting all of the shorts and one-offs chronicling the title character’s adventures prior to the events of the first omnibus. The character’s pre-history if you will. It’ll be a two-volume series while the second omnibus will take us from the events of “The Right Hand of Doom” and “Strange Places” with last year’s “Into the Silent Sea” included for good measure. I’ve probably said this before but if you’re a new reader looking to see why the character is so beloved or an old reader looking to condense the space on your bookshelf then these collections are a great value for your money.
Also solicited here is Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1955 the fourth volume in the chronicle of Hellboy’s early adventures with the organization. I’m still waiting for “1954” to be released but with Mike Mignola co-writing with Chris Roberson again, I’m pretty sure the stories here will turn out just fine. As for why these aren’t being collected in the “Short Stories” omnibus mentioned above, since they chronicle the character’s history prior to his first appearance… uh, “because reasons,” I guess?
Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald HC: What happens when Holmes and Watson are called upon to solve a mystery that involves Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos? This is a question that Neil Gaiman asked himself one day and decided to write himself. Next to Alan Moore, there isn’t a writer that I’d trust more with such a blending of mythologies. While this is another instance where Gaiman isn’t handling the adaptation himself, Rafael Scavone and Rafael Albuquerque are co-adapting with Albuquerque handling the art, the previous adaptations of the writer’s short stories from Dark Horse have been uniformly great. So there’s no reason not to expect this one to be of the same quality.
Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #1 (of 5): This… has been quite a long time in coming. Originally previewed in the first issue of the “Dark Horse Presents” relaunch from April 2011 nothing was heard about it again for years while Miller was busy with other film and comic projects. A sequel to the 2007 film adaptation, “300: Rise of an Empire” was even released in the interim. Hell, Kieron Gillen even found time to publish his rebuttal to that work in “Three” with Ryan Kelly while this series was in hibernation. While Miller is rightly regarded as a comics legend for his accomplishments in the 80’s and 90’s everything he’s produced after the turn of the millenium has either been “entertainingly awful” or “complete and utter shit.” The art he contributed to “The Dark Knight III” also showed that he really can’t hack it any more as an artist so the likelihood of this turning into a complete train wreck is pretty high. Not a certainty, but c’mon…