MySpace/Dark Horse Presents #1 (Dark Horse)

dhpBuffy creator Joss Whedon, My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way, and more take part in the return of one of the most storied anthologies in comics history with a little help from everyone's favorite internet addiction: MySpace.

 

 

FC, free;

(W / A: Various)

 

Webcomics are, for the most part, a different world than standard comics. Physically, they are in a different world. They're typically free and always online. Aside from the occasional printed anthology, there isn't anything tangible about them; they force the reader to stay at the computer. Perhaps this is why many webcomics are single-panel or short gag strips.

 

Adventure and superhero comics are different. They cost money, but in return they last longer and the reader gets something he or she can carry around, share, and read anywhere.

 

In a way, webcomics are like internet friends. They exist and they can be just as satisfying as the real, physical thing, but something will always be different.

 

Now webcomics can be your internet friend!

 

The splash page from Sugarshock! Click thumbnail for a larger image.MySpace and Dark Horse have teamed up to create a new, online version of Dark Horse Presents the previously defunct print anthology that first launched the DH brand in 1986, and later saw the birth of Sin City.

 

With Dark Horse at the helm, the comics are anything but standard webcomics. They are, basically, online comic books. Readers simply visit myspace.com/darkhorsepresents to see four different "chapters" in the anthology. With no downloads or additional software, visitors to the site can simply choose a chapter and scroll through it. The comics are the same size as standard comics and pages are lined up vertically.

 

At launch, the four chapters in the anthology were Sugarshock, The Umbrella Academy, Samurai: Heaven and Earth, and The Comic-Con Murder Case.

 

Sugarshock was written by sci-fi/fantasy expert Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly). It follows a rock band with a robot bass player through an alien encounter that leads to a set-up for a space travel adventure in the next installment. Like Whedon's other work, it's well-written and funny. Fabio Moon's art is realistic, but cartoony enough to make Whedon's more subtle jokes even funnier. The onomatopoeia sound effects are especially funny: when the band plays, the words "Loud Music" and "Weird Buzzing" come out of their amps, and when a car speeds away, the words "Tire Squeal" screeh out of its wheels.

 

Written by Gerard Way — the lead singer of My Chemical Romance — The Umbrella Academy is a new and slightly boring take on Batman's dark super-detective theme. This chapter is short, and the few pages online are mostly full of shooting and punching. There isn't really an exposition, and the dialogue at the ending begs the question, "Is this satire or cliché?" The art is also Batman inspired, with a broad-shouldered hero fighting tommy gun-toting villains in front of dark backgrounds. At times, though, the details seem a little off and people seem to change shape depending on where they are in the frame.

 

The only title to have seen print prior to this newest incarnation of DHP (in the form of two miniseries, both collected as graphic novels from Dark Horse), Samurai: Heaven and Earth is a realistically-drawn sword-and-sandal comic by Ron Marz (Green Lantern, Batman/Aliens) and Luke Ross. This chapter sets up the story for future issues and provies a little bit of action. There's just enough plot here to make readers impatient for the next episode.

 

The splash page to the Umbrella Academy. Click thumbnail for a larger image.The Comic-Con Murder Case is a short, bizarre comedy by Rick Geary (A Treasury of Victorian Murder) that would fit perfectly into any anthology, in print or online. Here, Geary uses Edward Gorey-influenced art to tell a quirky story about…a murder at Comic-Con.

 

Where the system falters is with Samurai. While all of the comics look good, this one has intricate page layouts that lose effect when the reader has to scroll through them. Also, the comics are presented on a MySpace page, so there's the typical dead space on the sides and information at the top and bottom. In such a visual medium, that space is useless. It would be nice if Dark Horse and MySpace offered full-screen viewing.  If they don't offer it in the future, perhaps artists will listen to Scott McCloud and start customizing their work to the format.

 

Even though it causes some discomfort, the MySpace format isn't that bad. The ability to leave comments helps replace the community lost by not making readers visit a store or letting them trade books with friends. Also, MySpace and Dark Horse editors will search the network to find promising talent to produce work for the site. This could lead to a boom in online comics production.

 

With good comics, a low price (free), and the potential to uncover new talent, MySpace Dark Horse Presents overcomes all of its shortcomings and presents itself as something that could revolutionize modern comics. | Gabe Bullard

 

Check out MySpace/Dark Horse Presents for yourself at www.myspace.com/darkhorsepresents!

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