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Gamma is a Dark Horse one-shot about a once-great hero turned sad sack loser, and his attempt to reclaim lost glory . . . kind of.  Co-written by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas, and drawn by Farinas, Gamma first appeared as a three-part story in Dark Horse Presents #18, #19, and #20.  If you missed the story in those books, here is your chance to meet Dusty Ketzchemal, a cowardly, lecherous, aimless has-been who now makes a living by letting strangers punch him in the face for being the world’s biggest coward.  If that sounds ridiculous to you, then hold on, because things get even weirder, and sadder, and funnier.  Turns out Dusty used to be the best monster trainer in all of the Monster League, and so when the monsters got out of hand, the government called him in to save the day.  Only he couldn’t, and now, in a world that doesn’t have much else to focus on other than its past failure, he is the subject of ridicule.

Conan Volume 14: The Death collects issues seven through twelve of acclaimed writer Brian Wood’s adaptation of Conan creator Robert E. Howard’s story Queen of the Black Coast. A staple in comics, Wood has created and written innumerable series, from the thought-provoking Demo (with art also by Becky Cloonan) to the hard-hitting DMZ and the savage, unbridled Northlanders to the politically potent The Massive, currently being released by Dark Horse.  And, these are just a few of the most well-known series he has created.  In other words, Brian Wood knows comics, and he knows characters, too.  And, with a title like Conan the Barbarian, knowing characters is incredibly important, because if a writer doesn’t know how to create characters, Conan may easily slip into the broad strokes of pop culture tropes – all heaving muscles and swinging swords, with nary any dialogue or resonance to be found.  Luckily, Brian Wood is interested in telling a complex and intriguing tale, and one steeped in more emotion than some would think possible for someone of Conan’s ilk, especially someone only associated with the cinematic representations of the barbarian. 

Dream Thief is a dark, gritty, violent, and engaging new comic from Dark Horse, created and written by Jai Nitz, with art and letters by Greg Smallwood.  The story is a simple, fascinating one and once you start reading, it is honestly hard to put down.  Deadbeat John Lincoln isn’t that nice of a guy, or that bad of a guy, but rather falls into a nascent middle ground, a guy who complains that everything is against him, without really trying to do anything about it.  He has a girlfriend who is upset at him, a sister who is upset at him, and a best friend who is there to listen, and drink with him.  John’s status quo is inaction; that is until he wakes up wearing an Aboriginal mask he nonchalantly suggested stealing from the museum he visited the night before.  Turns out he must have actually stolen it, but he has no memory of stealing it or anything after the museum.  As his memory slowly returns, he remembers a very important detail: he killed someone last night, and properly disposed of the body, too.  Except it wasn’t John that did the killing, it was the mask.  When he falls asleep, the mask, imbued with the ghost of someone who has been murdered, takes over his body and seeks justice on those who got away.  John becomes an unwilling instrument of justice, a justice that takes matters into its own hands to see wrongs righted.

Paging through The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series, Book One: Air reminded me with each amazing sketch, character drawing, and spectacular painting how much I love this show, and I find myself once again bursting to tell everyone who hasn’t seen it to go out and watch it right now.  Goosebumps were a common occurrence when I watched The Legend of Korra.  The animation and environments were incredible, filled with real, fully-fleshed out, human characters moving fluidly through a solid and exhilarating story, a story that wasn’t afraid to be dark, and to deal with intense, troubling situations and emotions.  All of the elements that made The Legend of Korra one of the most riveting and poignant shows on television, and I mean the entirety of television, not just among cartoons, are on full display here, and one can understand how such a phenomenal show came to be: it was through hard work, creative ingenuity, and tireless talent, wrapped up in a team of artists, designers, and animators (storytellers all) that truly respect, trust, and believe in one another, and each one working toward the same goal of animated and storytelling excellence.

Though their last movie was Ghostbusters 2 in 1989, the Ghostbusters have become a permanent staple in popular culture, and we all know and love the paranormal antics of Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore, and their long-suffering secretary Janine Melnitz. Over the years, there have been Ghostbusters cartoons and video games, and I am sure some fan fiction, too.  Now, IDW has revitalized The Ghostbusters through the realm of comics, and, in a way, they’ve done it twice. The New Ghostbusters is a new, ongoing title that picks up where IDW’s initial sixteen issue Ghostbusters series left off, and this collection of the first four issues is loads of spooky fun.

The High Ways is a new, interstellar miniseries from IDW created, written, and drawn by comics legend John Byrne. Possibly most well-known for his work on The Uncanny X-Men with Chris Claremont and his run on Fantastic Four, Byrne has worked on more titles over the years than can be listed here, as artist and as writer. He has also created many original properties in his near five decades working in comics, including John Byrne’s Next Men. Now, he has added The High Ways to his ever-burgeoning list of credits. Taking place at the meeting of the 21st and 22nd centuries, this is a story of scientific intrigue, interplanetary travel, and space trucking. Eddie Wallace is on his first trip out of earth’s orbit into deep space aboard the Carol Ann, an old, reliable space freighter captained by Jack Cagney and his partner Marilyn Jones. Marilyn has a thing for nicknames and so Eddie is known as “Sprout” for most of the series, which works as a nice reversal once some elements of Eddie’s past are revealed later in the story.

From the twisted and horribly creative minds of Eric Powell and Kyle Hotz comes the third installment in the secret history of Billy the Kid.  Written by Powell, the creator, writer, and artist of the horror comedy hit The Goon, and Hotz, who also provides the artwork, Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Orm of Loch Ness is quite possibly one of the most interesting miniseries that you have sadly never heard of.  Published by Dark Horse, Orm of Loch Ness is a four-issue miniseries, just like the original Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and its sequel, The Ghastly Fiend of London.  The over-arching premise of this title is an entertaining one: Billy the Kid, that cunning and reckless western outlaw, was not murdered by lawman Pat Garrett, but instead faked his death and joined up with a traveling show of “Biological Curiosities,” known commonly as freaks, as their foul-mouthed protector. If that doesn’t sell you, then the Victorian-era characters Billy and his band encounter will: in the first miniseries, it is Dr. Victor Frankenstein, in the second, Jack the Ripper and Joseph Merrick, also known as The Elephant Man, and in this third outing it is Dracula.

King Conan Hour of the Dragon 2King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon is an adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s only Conan novel into two six-issue miniseries, brought to the comic page by writer Timothy Truman, artists Tomás Giorello and José Villarrubia, and with lettering by Richard Starkings and Comicraft. Issues one and two of The Hour of the Dragon are the first Conan comics I have ever really sat down and read, and what is fantastic about this title is that from the script to the art, to even the lettering, you feel as if you have unearthed a treasure that was created during the true age of pulp comics, and that gives a great sense of authenticity to the telling of this tale. Another interesting piece of history is that the novel was released first in 1935 as a five-part serial in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, until being published in its original format in 1950. That being said, Dark Horse publishing The Hour of the Dragon as a comic book miniseries is in line with how readers would have first experienced the tale, albeit now with gorgeous illustrations, each page within this issue so striking that any one of them could be used as the cover.   


The Chronicles of Conan V24The Chronicles of Conan is an ongoing collection published by Dark Horse of the original Conan the Barbarian comics produced by Marvel Comics from 1970-1993 and which ran for 275 issues, and the Conan the Barbarian Annual, which ran for 12 issues from 1973-1987.  Volume 24: Blood Dawn and Other Stories collects the Conan the Barbarian Annual #11 and Conan the Barbarian #182-189.  This collection is made up largely of one story arc, though it does dip back into events that took place in the previous collection, Well of Souls and Other Stories, but since these comics were originally published in this same order, writer James Owsley fills us in on what happened in those earlier issues to remind us if we had forgotten and to inform us if we simply had not read those issues.  It was actually interesting to see a straight adventure comic like Conan have stories with long-reaching consequences and as I was sucked deeper into the world of Conan, it became apparent these comics were more of an ongoing, unfolding journey than mere standalone adventures cobbled together.


Masks and MobstersMasks & Mobsters, another great title from digital publisher Monkeybrain Comics, is a crime anthology written by Joshua Williamson, with art by Mike Henderson, with guest artists Jason Copland, Justin Greenwood, Ryan Cody, and Seth Damoose popping up throughout.  Masks & Mobsters takes place during the 1920s, its stories relating what happens when superheroes (masks, as the mobsters disdainfully refer to them) first start showing up in Golden City, putting the squeeze on the local crime syndicates, and how the criminal underworld retaliates.  The art is all in glorious black and white, which perfectly captures the rough edges of the crime world, while also bringing a simple elegance to the time period.  There are shadows galore, and Henderson and the other artists use them effectively, an element of danger and mystery hanging over each issue.  This first print collection is being published in a classy hardcover by the Image Comics imprint Shadowline, and includes the first ten issues, which are two more than are currently being offered digitally.  Also, each issue has a page of rough artwork showing character or cover sketches, which helps give an idea of how this world is continually growing and developing not only through Joshua Williamson’s stories, but also through the artwork.

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