Tag Archives: Dark Horse Comics

Review: “Hellboy Vol. VII: The Troll Witch And Others” by Mike Mignola, P. Craig Russell, & Richard Corben

Title: The Troll Witch And Others
Writer & Artist: Mike Mignola
Additional Artists: P. Craig Russell & Richard Corben
Series: Hellboy
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2007

That figures. I stated in my last Hellboy review that I couldn’t wait for the next volume to figure out where the story was going, and so of course the next collection was an anthology. Oh well, I like those best anyways….While he still handles most of the art, this time out, Mignola collaborates with a couple guest artists for special occasion stories.

We open in Malaysia, 1958 as Hellboy investigates a local creature known as The Penanggalan, a demon born when an old priestess accidentally kicked her own head off. (“That might be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” “I did not say it was true, only that I believe it.”) A short, predictable, and delightfully strange tale. We then move on to Alaska, 1961 as Hellboy investigates claims of a monster haunting the grave of Hercules in The Hydra And The Lion. Mignola is the first to admit that this one doesn’t make a lot of sense, but in Hellboy’s world that really doesn’t matter too much. The Troll Witch takes us to Norway, 1963 as Hellboy investigates a series of horrific murders. This has the distinction of being one of the only stories where Hellboy doesn’t get to punch something, which leads to a bit of a subversion of your expectations. The Vampire Of Prague is set in 1982 and is Mignola’s first time writing for P. Craig Russell. This is some good stuff. I especially enjoyed the part where the vampire is chasing his own severed head down the street…. Dr. Carp’s Experiment takes us to New York, 1991 as Hellboy and the BPRD investigate a newly-discovered secret chamber in a notorious haunted house. This one was good, I always love a good time travel story. The Ghoul is set in London, 1992, and is one of the strangest Hellboy tales I’ve seen. It features our favorite demonic hero beating the crap out of a ghoul who speaks solely in creepy poetry, and a puppet theatre production of Hamlet. Makoma is another weird one, this time a collaboration with Richard Corben. Mignola draws the framing story set in 1993, while Corben draws the legend being narrated. I’m not entirely sure how to understand this one, but it seems to be about Hellboy in a past life. Sort of a “Wheel of Time” thing where everything repeats throughout time. If so, it sheds some light on Hellboy’s eventual battle with the Ogdru Jahad….

Content: Minor language, some stylized violence and gore. Mild sexual content, and some non-sexual nudity. A fair amount of occult content, however. In Hellboy’s world, everything supernatural would seem to exist in….well, not harmony, but a unified worldview. This includes the Christian God and the Devil as well as more Lovecraftian things such as the Ogdru Jahad. God and the Church have power, but there are other things abroad in the world that have power as well and were old long before Christ was born in his manger. Hellboy is brought to Earth from another plane–implied to be Hell–in a dark ritual performed by Grigori Rasputin. He later tries to use Hellboy as the focus of another ritual to free the Ogdru Jahad (similar to H.P. Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones) and bring an end to the world as we know it. One of the short tales implies that Hellboy himself is the son of the Devil and a mortal witch. Ghosts, vampires….the Beast of the Apocalypse…..

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Review: “Star Wars: Vow Of Justice” by Jan Strnad & John Nadeau

Title: Vow Of Justice
Writer: Jan Strnad
Artist: John Nadeau
Series: Star Wars: Republic (Backup story in Star Wars #4-6)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2000

Vow Of Justice is a tale that ran as a backup feature in issues four through six of Dark Horse’s ongoing Star Wars comic, later retitled Star Wars: Republic. It was included in the trade paperback collection Prelude To Rebellion, and was reprinted in Star Wars Omnibus: Rise Of The Sith.

This story features a much younger version of Ki-Adi-Mundi as a recently-knighted Jedi returning to his home planet of Cerea for the first time to end the reign of a local warlord who had terrorized the region before Ki-Adi-Mundi’s departure for the Jedi Temple. What he finds on arrival, though, is not what he expected….Can the newly minted Jedi Knight hold true to the Jedi ways, or will he allow the Dark Side a foothold by taking vengeance on the raiders for their persecution of his family?

This shorter tale isn’t as problematic as the main story, even if it is fairly predictable in its conclusion. Definitely worth tracking down, especially if you’re a fan of Ki-Adi-Mundi. This story is set thirty-five years before The Phantom Menace, or sixty-seven years before A New Hope.

CONTENT: Mild violence. Mild profanity. Mild sexual innuendo, including a few scantily-clad characters.

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Review: “Star Wars: Prelude To Rebellion” by Jan Strnad & Anthony Winn

Title: Prelude To Rebellion
Writer: Jan Strnad
Artist: Anthony Winn
Series: Star Wars: Republic Vol. I (Star Wars #1-6)
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2000

Continuing my trek through some of the earlier Star Wars comics, we come to Dark Horse’s first ongoing series set in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. Originally simply entitled Star Wars, the series was retitled Star Wars: Republic to avoid confusion when Dark Horse began publishing a second ongoing focused in the era of the Original Trilogy films. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to refer to the series as a whole using the Republic subtitle in these reviews. This story was reprinted in the eponymous trade paperback, which also featured the backup tale Vow Of Justice, and in Star Wars Omnibus: Rise Of The Sith.

Jedi Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi serves as the Jedi protector for his homeworld of Cerea, a relatively primitive world far from the beaten path of interstellar travel. Cerea isn’t a member of the galaxy-wide Republic, but there are those who would very much like to change that–open up Cerea as a market for modern technology and exploit its unique natural resources. When violence breaks out at a pro-Republic rally and his daughter is implicated, Ki-Adi-Mundi is sucked into an investigation of smuggling, murder, and conspiracy….

This one was pretty mediocre, and doesn’t fit very well with the other stories in the same era. Partially this is a function of this story being the first published in this era, even before The Phantom Menace. When this was released, it wasn’t known that Jedi were not allowed to marry. Later the writers were forced to retcon the backstory and explain that Ki-Adi-Mundi was granted an exception to this rule based on his species’ low birth rate. While we know the Republic was growing corrupt in its final days, here it appears downright villainous. I don’t want to say that this was bad, but it wasn’t great–especially compared with some of the later arcs of the same series.

This tale is set one year prior to the events of The Phantom Menace, and occurs simultaneously with Jedi Council: Acts Of War.

CONTENT: Mild violence. Mild profanity. Mild sexual innuendo, including a couple scantily-clad women in Jabba’s court.

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Review: “Star Wars–Jedi Council: Acts Of War” by Randy Stradley & Davide Fabbri

Title: Jedi Council: Acts Of War
Writer: Randy Stradley
Artist: Davide Fabbri
Series: Star Wars: Jedi Council #1-4 (Legends Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2001

Shifting gears a bit, this time out we’re visiting a setting a little closer to the events of the films. The Dark Horse Comics miniseries Jedi Council: Acts Of War takes place only a year before the events of Star Wars–Episode I: The Phantom Menace (that’s 33 BBY, if you’re keeping track). This story was published as a standalone collection, and reprinted in Star Wars Omnibus: Rise Of The Sith.

Before the galaxy was engulfed in the Clone Wars, transforming the Jedi into generals, they served to keep peace across the galaxy-spanning Republic. One such threat comes in the form of the Yinchorri, a warlike species newly accepted into galactic society. When the Yinchorri begin trying to carve out a small empire for themselves among the stars, Jedi Master Mace Windu dispatched a pair of Jedi to manage the crisis. Their mutilated bodies were soon delivered to the office of Chancellor Valorum. Now the Council must mount a full-scale expedition to end this threat to peace in the galaxy, as well as seeking to uncover just who is pulling the strings of the Yinchorri….

This was a well-executed story. It can be somewhat difficult to keep an appropriate degree of tension in stories featuring characters you know will survive based on later appearances (Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Mace, Adi, etc.), but the large cast keeps this from being an issue. Each of the characters here is well developed, and some of the new characters introduced in this miniseries would go on to become fan favorites across the franchise. The art is also of high quality, serving the story well. Is the story essential? Not particularly. It’s the first appearance of K’kruhk, though, and Randy Stradley enjoys returning to the character of Micah Giett on occasion in the pages of Tales. Plus, it’s always fun watching Palpatine’s labyrinthine plots to pave the way for his eventual rise….

CONTENT: Moderate violence, occasionally a bit gruesome. No profanity. No sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars–Dawn Of The Jedi Vol. III: Force War” by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

Title: Force War
Story & Script: John Ostrander
Story & Art: Jan Duursema
Series: Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi Volume III (Issues #11-15)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2014

Here we go again, diving one last time into the ancient history of the Star Wars universe. Obviously, this will contain spoilers for the previous volumes of the series, Force Storm and Prisoner Of Bogan.

Jumping forward a year from where we left our heroes, we find the Tython system embroiled in  full-scale war. The Rakata have arrived in force, capturing several of the outlying planets before being turned back by the combined forces of the Je’daii and the other Tythans under the command of Daegan Lok. Wielding Forcesabers modeled on that carried by former Force Hound Xesh, the Je’daii walk a fine line in the Force, drawing increasingly on the Dark Side to power their weapons and carry them through battle unscathed. Despite the endless battles facing him and his friends, Xesh is finding himself increasingly in balance as he learns to touch the Light Side of the Force as well as the Dark, helped in no small measure by his growing relationship with Shae Koda. Fighting together the Tythans have managed to stymie the Rakatan advance, but at heavy cost. What they don’t know, however, is that the Rakata want far more than just Tython. They want the Infinity Gate buried beneath it, an ancient piece of tech that would unlock any and every world in the galaxy for conquest….

As with the previous entries, I absolutely loved this one. The one-year jump forward glossed over a number of events that I would have enjoyed getting to see, but given the timing of the license shifting to Marvel, I suspect that this was the only way to get to the conclusion Ostrander & Duursema envisioned before running out of time. I’d love to have a lot more of this series, obviously, but given that events didn’t allow that to happen, this was an incredible conclusion to the series. I would enjoy seeing how the Je’daii evolve into the order we see at the start of the Tales Of The Jedi comics, but that is naught but a pipe dream now that all the relevant media has been relegated to Legends status.

CONTENT: Some violence. Mildly explicit sexual content. Mild to no profanity.

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Review: “Star Wars–Dawn Of The Jedi Vol. II: Prisoner Of Bogan” by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

Title: Prisoner Of Bogan
Story & Script: John Ostrander
Story & Art: Jan Duursema
Series: Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi Volume II (Issues #6-10)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2013

Continuing my project to work through the backlog of Star Wars comics I’ve yet to read (or haven’t read for a long time,) we jump once more into the ancient history of the Galaxy Far, Far Away….You may recall my review of the first volume way back when, but here’s a quick recap. Over twenty thousand years before the rise of the Empire, the Je’daii and their descendants inhabit the Tython system. Instead of the polarized Light and Dark alignments seen in later eras of the timeline, the Je’daii strive for balance in all things. When the Force is out of balance, the planet itself rises against its inhabitants. Elsewhere in the galaxy, the Rakatan Infinite Empire spreads across the stars fueled by the Dark Side of the Force, finding worlds rich in the Force and stripping them for their own use. Their Force-sensitive hunters have seen a vision of Tython, and Force H0und Xesh was dispatched to find this world and guide his masters there. Xesh’s craft inexplicably crashed on arrival, killing all but the Hound himself and triggering a massive Force Storm. Now with his memories clouded by amnesia but still immersed in darkness, Xesh has been banished to Bogan until he can find balance in the Force. Also on Bogan is Daegan Lok, a mad Je’daii obsessed with a vision of invading armies carrying blades of energy and strengthened by the Dark Side of the Force. In Xesh, Lok sees proof of his vision’s veracity. The council won’t see reason, so he’s going to have to force them to take him seriously….even if he has to conquer Tython to do it!

Again, the team of Ostrander and Duursema is one of my absolute favorite in comics. I will read anything with their names on it, and have never yet been disappointed. This series is no different. Everything is fresh and different, yet you can see the future looming over the (distant) horizon at times. It’s fun to see some meat fleshed out on the bones of Star Wars‘s prehistory we’ve been given glimpses of before–the Rakata, the Kwa, etc. The similarities to other eras are fun, but even more interesting are the differences. The Je’daii are just as worried about being too in tune with the light as they are the dark, and if it takes channeling some anger to ignite a Forcesaber, well, they really want that energy blade to work. It’ll be interesting to see how this all wraps up next volume, as I suspect that the vision for this series was cut short by the impending move to Marvel. There were a few minor inconsistencies though. It was implied early on that only certain species were visited by each Tho Yor, and that there were a limited number of these ancient vessels. This volume, we have members of other species in the Tythan system. Not a problem, per se, but how? Also, Hawk Ryo seems a bit ambivalent on what he saw in the Rift. At times he admits to sharing Lok’s vision, then other times denies it with a passion. A relic of a rewrite forced by the impending loss of their license? Maybe. Without giving spoilers, the first scene here with Trill and her Rakatan boss is inconsistent with the revelation near the end of the book. Again, I suspect a shift in direction mid-series to accommodate the shorter run.

CONTENT: Some violence. Mild profanity. Mild sexual innuendo, including scantily clad females of various (mostly humanoid) species.

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Review: “Hellboy Vol. VI: Strange Places” by Mike Mignola

Title: Strange Places
Writer & Artist: Mike Mignola
Series: Hellboy
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2006

“Don’t mess with me, lady. I’ve been drinking with skeletons.”

Seriously, how many characters do you know who could deliver that line in all seriousness? Pretty much just Hellboy, which goes quite a ways towards explaining his appeal. The entire series is so….over the top, ridiculous, ambitious….not really sure of the best word to sum it up, but you have to admit it’s pretty great. This time around in The Third Wish, Hellboy is pitted against the Bog Roosh, an undersea witch who wishes to save the world….by ending Hellboy once and for all. Sure, Hellboy has rejected his birthright as Anung Un Rama, the Right Hand Of Doom and devoted his life to saving the world, but so long as he exists someone could use the power of his hand to loose the Ogdru Jahad and burn the world. The Bog Roosh would end this threat once and for all. Then, in The Island Hellboy washes up on a forsaken island and is given a lesson in the origins of the world and all things that culminates in his death. Kind of. Maybe. Guess we’ll have to wait for the next book to see how that works out.

I won’t pretend that I understood everything that happened here, but I don’t think you’re meant to. Mignola is giving you an inside look at the creation of his world, true, but what is left out is as relevant as what is shown. We’ll see where the path Hellboy is set upon leads, I suppose. The book is filled with scattered moments of Hellboy being delightfully himself, and that is most definitely worth the rest of what is undoubtedly one of the darker entries in this series so far.

Content: Minor language, some stylized violence and gore. Little to no sexual content. A fair amount of occult content, however. In Hellboy’s world, everything supernatural would seem to exist in….well, not harmony, but a unified worldview. This includes the Christian God and the Devil as well as more Lovecraftian things such as the Ogdru Jahad. God and the Church have power, but there are other things abroad in the world that have power as well and were old long before Christ was born in his manger. Hellboy is brought to Earth from another plane–implied to be Hell–in a dark ritual performed by Grigori Rasputin. He later tries to use Hellboy as the focus of another ritual to free the Ogdru Jahad (similar to H.P. Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones) and bring an end to the world as we know it. One of the short tales implies that Hellboy himself is the son of the Devil and a mortal witch. Ghosts, vampires….the Beast of the Apocalypse…..

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Review: “Star Wars–Agent Of The Empire: Hard Targets” by John Ostrander & Davide Fabbri

Title: Hard Targets
Writer: John Ostrander
Artist: Davide Fabbri
Series: Star Wars: Agent Of The Empire Volume II (Agent Of The Empire #6-10)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2013

I’ve been going through my backlog of Star Wars comics, and I realized that I never got around to the second arc of John Ostrander’s stellar Agent Of The Empire series! Obviously, that had to be remedied. And so, here we are!

Jahan Cross is a very dangerous man, willing to do whatever he has to in order to make the galaxy a better place. Unfortunately, he believes wholeheartedly that the Empire is the only thing separating the galaxy from utter chaos and ruin. In the interests of the Empire, Cross will do anything that is asked of him. But when he discovers that his most recent kill was less about removing a threat to the Empire and more about lining the pockets of an Imperial official, Cross’s loyalties are placed to the ultimate test….

The good news? This second arc is every bit as good as the first, maybe better. The bad news? This is all there is. The series was canceled after this for some reason, probably related to the loss of licensing rights. Whereas the first arc dealt with Cross very much secure in his belief that he was working in the galaxy’s best interests (rightly, in that case), this time out we see a slightly different side of our shadowy hero. This time he knows for certain that his orders have nothing to do with improving the galaxy and everything to do with the personal ambitions of petty politicians. The question is, can Cross manage to make things right without breaking ranks? You’ll just have to wait and see!

As with the previous arc, this story stands pretty well even if you’re not a Star Wars buff. Obviously you’ll be better off if you read Agent Of The Empire: Iron Eclipse, but aside from that its pretty much new material. You get appearances by Armand & Ysanne Isard, but you learn everything you really need to know about them from context. Leia and Winter make a cameo, but again prior knowledge is far from essential. The barest familiarity with the Clone Wars gives you the identity of Count Dooku, whose family features heavily, but as he’s a movie character I think its safe to assume anyone interested knows who he is.

CONTENT: Mild to no profanity. Some violence, occasionally gruesome. Quite a bit of flirting, but no overt sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars–The Clone Wars: The Wind Raiders Of Taloraan” by John Ostrander & The Fillbach Brothers

Title: The Wind Raiders Of Taloraan
Writer: John Ostrander
Artists: The Fillbach Brothers
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Officially Legends, but tied to the TV series)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2009

And so continues my foray into the Expanded Universe material related to The Clone Wars! This time, the third digest-size novella The Wind Raiders Of Taloraan….

After accidentally derailing a delicate diplomatic meeting with the Bothans, Ahsoka is assigned to accompany Obi-Wan and Anakin to observe negotiations with the Denfrandi, rulers of the planet Taloraan. The Republic needs Taloraan’s Tibanna gas supplies for the war effort, but with the Defrandi already secretly in league with the Separatists and the primitive Wind Raiders simply hostile to anyone and everyone, this mission may be simply impossible for our heroes!

As with the previous entries, the story here is pretty decent. Its a little formulaic, with Ahsoka messing up and then learning her lesson by the end, but this is primarily aimed at the younger set, so we can’t complain  too much. Plus, John Ostrander is always a pleasure. I’d have liked to see his longtime collaborator Jan Duursema come along for the ride though, and give us a break from the stylized art of the Fillbach Brothers. It’s not bad, I suppose, I’m just not really a fan. Again, if you like the show, you’ll like this. If you’re not familiar, it won’t do as much for you.

CONTENT: No profanity. Mild violence. No sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars–The Clone Wars: Crash Course” by Henry Gilroy, Gary Scheppke, & The Fillbach Brothers

Title: Crash Course
Writers: Henry Gilroy (Story and Script) & Gary Scheppke
Artists: The Fillbach Brothers
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Officially Legends, but tied to the TV series)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2009

As previously mentioned, I’ve been revisiting the early Clone Wars stuff in an attempt to work out a coherent timeline. So, without further ado, here’s the second Clone Wars digest comic!

After a series of failed offensives, the Jedi surmise that a Separatist spy ring is operating on Coruscant, feeding the enemy classified information. When a Separatist agent escapes with important data, Anakin and Ahsoka go undercover in the world of high-stakes podracing to catch the culprits. But even if the spies never realize they’ve been made, podracing is one of the deadliest sports in the galaxy….

Again, this was a fun little side adventure. Though I’m not a huge fan of the Fillbach Brothers’ art, it’s serviceable enough to get by. The story itself worked well, with the characters all ringing true to their TV personas. It was also fun to stick Anakin back into the world of podracing and see him confront his childhood once more. It’s also interesting to see Ahsoka accumulating her own small network of contacts that will serve her well after she leaves the order. As with the previous comic, whether you’re a fan of this story or not will likely depend on your familiarity with the show.

CONTENT: No profanity. Mild violence. No sexual content.

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