Comic Reviews: October 1992


The comic book industry has been dominated for years by two companies, Marvel and D.C. But lately, so-called “independent” companies have been gaining strength. One of the foremost of these is Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Horse has built a great deal of popularity around movie titles like Predator, Terminator, and Aliens, yet the company’s strength lies in its willingness to publish quality work that would likely not see publishing without Dark Horse’s gutsiness such as titles like Concrete and continuing Deadface material.

Three of Dark Horse’s most recent and highest quality titles are reviewed below.


Grendel: War Child

Created by wuderkind Matt Wagner in the 1980’s, GRENDEL continues in the 1980s in a 10-part WAR CHILD mini series.

WAR CHlLD Is Wagner’s .. “swan song” with the GRENDEL mythos (except for special projects) and Wagner is ending on a high point.

For those unfamiliar with the characters and situations, the GRENDEL storyline stretches from the present-time to the distant future. In the span, a force known only as Grendel has grown from an  inhibiting spirit to a way of life. In the future, a man known as the Grendel-Khan, Orion Assante, became the ruler of a united North America and started an almost feudal system inspired by the samurai-like Gendel clans.

As WAR CHILD begins, Orion I has died, leaving the ruling of the Grendel Empire to his heir, Jupiter, and his stepmother Laurel Assante. Laurel has proved a tyrant with retarious plans, however, and so alone unidentified Grendel warrior kidnaps Jupiter and the race begins.

Wagner writes and inks the art on WAR CHILD and he has crafted a swift-moving and entertaining storyline encouraged by Japan’s Lone Wolf And Cub series. But, Wagner throws humor, a little science fiction, zombies, post-apocalypse landscapes, and more to the mix, and the result is a delight. Where the previous storyline on Grendel may have been a bit too ponderous in its scope and ambition, WAR CHILD manages to be thought-provoking and entertaining.

Wagner’s partners-in crime in WAR CHILD are pencil artist Pat McEown and color artists Bernie Mireault and Kathryn Delaney. McEown’s previous work was featured on some Aircel titles and the pencils on WAR CHILD show remarkable growth and maturity. Wagner’s scripts leave the artwork to carry much of the tale, and McEown easily runs with the notion. But, the coloring, done animation cel style, makes the artwork stunning. Kudos must go to Mireault(best known for his fabulous The Jam series) and Delaney.

Rounding out the totgi package is cover artist Simon Bisley who turns in his usual stunning work.

Yes, you could term this a “rave review.” After seeing two issues of this series, one is almost saddened at the thought of author Wagner leaving the story behind, but the future promises more GRENDEL specialprojects and GRENDEL TALES (a title featuring clans as done by a rotating stable of artists and writers.) Rush out and buy this series (Color $2.50).



Like Grendel, NEXUS began as a series In the 1980’s for a similar defunct comic book company. Unfortunately, NEXUS ran out of steam as its run ended, especially after artist Steve Rude left.

Happily, Rude is reunited with writer Mike Baron on NEXUS: THE ORIGIN, which re-tells the origin of the superhero Nexus and promises to serve as a lead-in to future NEXUS projects.

The tale features a futuristic premise and begins with General Hellpop, an adjunct ruler of the Soviet planet, Vradic. The good general, it seems, is the father of Nexus (Horatio Hellpop). The general is loyal to his empire, and while he has a conscience, he destroys Vradic, rather than surrendering control to outside forces. As atonement, Hellpop decides to pilot his spaceship (with wife and unborn child aboard) into a black hole. However, the ship winds up on the mysterious planet Ylum. And things get weird…

Further plot revelations I’ll leave to the comic. However, it should be noted that while NEXUS is a superhero title, it features super-heroics with content. Nexus, you see, is driven by nightmares to seek vengeance on mass murderers.

Writer Baron throws ridiculous elements together with some strong science fiction postulation and (gasp!) mid philosophy. Baron’s strength lies in characterization and great dialogue. The angst and dramatics in the story never overwhelm, but underscore the heady themes.

But … the primary allure to the story lies with renderer Rude. Action, drama, facial expressions, fluid depiction and odd scenes … Rude accomplishes all these with aplomb. Rude’s Kirby-esque style manages to make the tale vivid. Plus, he also draws some of the niftiest aliens to be seen in comics.

Luckily, Baron and Rude will be continuing with NEXUS material next year. But for now, NEXUS: THE ORIGIN is evidence that not all superhero comics are crap. Indeed, they can even be … entertaining?! (Color $3.95)


Star Wars: Dark Empire

Continuing Dark Horse’s commitment to publishing movie-related material, writer Tom Veitch and artist Cam Kennedy have crafted STAR WARS: DARK EMPIRE.

DARK EMPIRE Star Wars storyline several years after Return of The Jedi (and shortly after author Timothy Zahn‘s new book series based on the Star Wars films. It seems that the victory of the Rebel Alliance over the Empire is not as complete as believed. While the rebels struggle to unite their gains, the disorganized Imperial forces have been combining and achieving strength under the seemingly resurrected Emperor Palpatine. Even worse though, the Emperor wields new terminology that seems to doom the rebel forces. To combat this, Luke Skywalker surrenders to the Emperor under the auspices of learning the ways of the “Dark Side” in order to overcome Palpatine. But will the allure of the “Dark Side” prove too tempting… ?

Scripter Tom Veitch previously did uninspired work on D.C.’s Animal Man, but has created a surprisingly thoughtful and exciting tale. Better yet, Veitch managed to capture the spirit of the movies admirably. indeed, the writing makes one wistful and nostalgic.

Veitch is well abetted by artist Cam Kennedy, who combines pencil and ink drawings with painted color. Kennedy draws great space scenes but also shows wonderful skill in likeness. The mood and scope of the tales are depicted well.

Yes, your reviewer is gushing … an admitted Star Wars fan. Luckily. Dark Empire avoids the pitfalls of Marvel’s awful STAR WARS series, blending great story with powerful art. Dark Empire is only slated for six issues, but Dark Horse is promising that Veitch and Kennedy will return in 1993 with more STAR WARS material. The anticipation is delicious. (Color $2.95)

Check out more from SLUG‘s Archives:
Comic Reviews: May 1992
Comic Reviews: August 1992