Dark Horse Advance Reviews: The Guild - Bladezz, Dark Horse Presents #2, and Rage #1

Hey gang! We’ve got some advance looks for you at Dark Horse books coming out this week… So spoiler free, of course, but let’s get into it:

The Guild: Bladezz #1

The Guild is basically – though given you’re at MTV Geek, I’m sure you know this – a sitcom in online video form. That isn’t a slam, because it’s well done, well written, tightly acted, and filling a niche for geeky sitcom fare that, prior to the Guild, didn’t really exist anywhere. There’s been countless imitators since, though none quite as successful. So it makes sense to expand the franchise, and that’s just what Dark Horse has been doing with these one shots focusing on individual characters in the series, showing their lives – mostly – outside of the online arena.

This issue, we get our focus on the resident bad boy of The Guild, Bladezz. Turns out he lives at home with his divorced Mom, his precocious sister, and soon, the jerk who’s trying to replace his Dad. The story parallels Bladezz’s rise modeling stardom with his mother’s romance, before tying it all up with a neat bow. And between the beginning and the end, you’ll get sausage jokes and pathos, courtesy of writers Felicia Day and Sean Becker, as well as some nice MAD Magazine-esque art by Andrew Currie.

The reason I mentioned the sitcom thing at the beginning is that, if there’s one major fault here, it’s that the story doesn’t go very far below the surface. We get an exploration of divorce, but nothing deeper than what you might have seen on any three-camera comedy. It’s a little but of a bummer that this is so light a story, but like I said: it stays true to the tone of the series, so that’s important too. And, with a light, brisk tone like this comic has, there are worse ways – and way worse licensed tie-ins to read. Heck, there’s even some good sausage jokes.

Rage #1

Unlike online series, video games are notoriously difficult to adapt to other mediums. Movies are the most glaring, but look at comics. Sometimes, you get something passable, but most of the time, take out the playable features, and you have an empty shell. With Rage – the latest video game from the makers of DOOM and Quake – about to hit stores, Dark Horse made the smart move of hiring Arvid Nelson, the writer of Rex Mundi to take on a prequel story to the upcoming game.

So basically, we get some stuff about how a meteor caused the end of the world, while turning some people into terrible, horrible mutants. A doctor, asleep since the world ended wakes up to find the world different than she left it – but forced to immediately start experimenting on these mutants by a shady government organization.

And even beyond the set-up, the whole thing reads just like playing a video game. There’s nothing truly deep going on here, no real exploration of what it means for the world to have moved on without you, or the remnant humanity of the mutants. Instead, we get a few cut-scenes of exposition interspersed between big action sequences. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though: Nelson does capture the feel of playing a video game in twenty or so short pages. And knowing going in that DOOM and Quake are more about explosions and death than character growth makes this feel like it fits right in.

I still don’t think this has nailed the video game to comic transition, but hey, I can’t wait to play the game. So job well done, comic book. Job well done.

Dark Horse Presents #2

Come for the Concrete, stay for… Well, a bunch of other things, I guess, but really, for this reader, Dark Horse Presents is all about Paul Chadwick’s superb Concrete stories. Even if these are one-shots – though I suspect the stand-alone stories in each issue of DHP may add up to something bigger – Chadwick continues to bring the same amount of intelligence, emotion, and innovation Concrete fans have come to expect, just in smaller doses.

Beyond Concrete, this over-sized issue has a lot more going for it. There were a few stories that flew past me, that didn’t draw me in during issue one, and I still wasn’t drawn to in issue two. But there’s also a number of stand-outs, like Patrick Alexander’s brilliant, silent Batman parody The Wraith; Robert Love and David Walker’s intriguing scifi/fantasy mash-up Number 13; and David Chelsea’s Snow Angel, which continues to read like an after-school special on crack.

I think it’s probably repetitive to mention at this point that A) I really like anthologies, and B) They’re always a mixed bag, which will draw in some people to some stories, and some to others. The key is always whether, on a whole, you end up more on the positive side than the negative, and Dark Horse Presents very much ends up on the positive. On art alone, Dark Horse Presents holds up the legacy of the title, and then some. And on the writing side of things? You’ve got Concrete. What else is there to talk about?

The Guild: Bladezz, Rage #1, and Dark Horse Presents #2 all hit stands this Wednesday, 6/22!

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