Hellboy, The Massive, and Beasts of Burden Headline 'Dark Horse Presents #8' [Advance Review]

The current run of Dark Horse Presents has a long way to go to match the epic, 157 issue original run of the title, or even the 36 issue run the comic had on MySpace. But if it keeps up the exciting quality of issues like February’s issue number eight, we should be in for another huge success.

Why are we picking out issue eight, in particular, when there’s been a few issues along the way we’ve neglected to talk about? Two reasons: Hellboy, and The Massive. And we’ll get to those in a second, but suffice to say those are far from the only reasons to pick up this week’s issue.

Let’s start with the Hellboy/BPRD story, which provides an emotional aftermath not just to the death of Hellboy in his own title, but also the recent BPRD: Russia mini-series, as the Bureau’s Kate grapples with several unfinished threads in her life. It also ties up a few plot threads, as Kate (and hence all of BPRD) finds out Hellboy is no longer among the living. It’s a beautiful, simple little story that’s a must read for fans of Mike Mignola’s universe. Short, elegiac, and extremely well illustrated by Duncan Fegredo, this may not be for the casual fan – but its nice to look at regardless.

The other main draw, of course, is the first part of The Massive, a new story by writer Brian Wood and artist Kristian Donaldson. Here, we get a covert team invading an oilrig to stop a hostage situation, only to encounter something much, much worse. And as tempting as it is to call this a “massive” success, or a “massive” failure, it plays more as a teaser of events to come. This is more of a prologue to the main story, rather than a full meal in and of itself, and that’s a little bit of a disappointment, particularly given the hype behind the tale. That said, it’s a vastly different story than most of Wood’s work (though closer to a DMZ than, say, a Northlanders), and the protagonist is intriguing enough in his brief appearance. I’m certainly going to read more, and I expect you’ll want to, as well.

But the biggest, unheralded surprise of this issue is a new Beasts of Burden story by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, which may just count as one of the most haunting tales they’ve ever told. For those of you who haven’t read BoB before, it’s about a bunch of animals who protect the town of Burden from supernatural threats. It could be nothing but adorable animal shots (and heck, sometimes it is), but Dorkin and Thompson use the opportunity to mine the inherent darkness of the situations, as well. These are on par with Grimm’s Fairy Tales – the real ones – rather than sanitized Goosebumps nonsense. I don’t even want to say anything about the story, other than the final image is terrifying, and perfectly justified by the story. If I was a kid reading this, I might never sleep again.

There’s a few more stand-outs in the book: Neal Adams Blood is reliably crazy in all the right ways; and I was pleasantly surprised to find a Tarzan riff that may or may not take place in the future. But on a whole, it’s the first three stories that are the draw, and make this collection well worth you dollars this week. Here’s to the next one hundred forty-nine issues.

Dark Horse Presents #8 is available at comic book shops on February 1st, 2012.

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