I just noticed that 3 out of the 4 "Two Shots" I have at hand are from Dark Horse Comics. I wonder if the two issue story was one of their "things". I never really noticed it before.
ANYWAY. . .
Two-shots! More than a one-shot, less than a mini. Let's do this!
PREDATOR VS. MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER (Dark Horse/Valiant)
ISSUE 1: SPORT
There's nothing fancy about this first issue. The art, starting with a decent cover by the great Barry Winsor-Smith, is good, but not great. It's standard 90's layout, fairly heavily inked and colored. It does the job it's supposed to do.
The story is set in the far future and revolves around an encounter with the Predators where humans barely win and even manage to steal a trophy from the Predator ship before it explodes. Fast forward a bit and the Predators return to get their stolen trophy back. It's in the hands of a rich "Hunt Club" that hunts robots and people for sport, which brings them on the bad side of Magnus.The first issue brings together the 3 sides mostly as setup for shenanigans to follow.
The story is okay. Like the art, not great, but good. The problem here is that if you don't know anything about the Valiant version of Magnus and his world, you're probably going to be lost. This is not so much a Predator book as it is a Magnus book.
ISSUE 2: SPOILS
Once again, there's nothing bad about this issue. The art is nicely done, but not great. The Windsor-Smith cover isn't as good as the first issue, but there's nothing wrong with it.
After the setup in the first issue, this half deals with the running battle between the rich "Hunt Club" after the Predator and Magnus. . .Magnus after the Predator unwillingly trying to save the Hunt Club after discovering exactly what they're dealing with, and the Predator after the Hunt Club to recover the stolen trophy, and then after Magnus when it realizes that he's the best trophy around.
So basically, everyone is hunting everyone. The Hunt Club is the biggest loser, as they are decimated before the final showdown between Magnus and Predator. Of course, in the end Magnus triumphs. . .then refuses a trophy from the other Predators who arrive.
Once again, the only real problem is that the reader really needs to be familiar with Valiant's version of Magnus, as well as X-O Manowar. . .the trophy is an X-O helmet and figures heavily in the story, as Magnus' girlfriend is able to telepathically communicate with it.
I'm not a big Magnus, Robot Fighter fan, but I DO love me some Predator. . .so this two-shot fell a little flat for me. There was nothing wrong with it overall, and it was interesting to see a FAR future Predator visit to Earth, but I had a hard time getting behind this story since I have no particular like for the hero or the world he lives in. If you are a fan of Magnus (Valiant's version) then you might really like this book, as it's basically a Magnus book with a Predator being his "Monster of the month".
HELLBOY: ALMOST COLOSSUS (Dark Horse)
Be warned that this is not a stand-alone story. It leads on directly from events in Hellboy: Wake The Devil and sets up events in Hellboy: Conqueror Worm.
That said, it's not bad at all. Mignola's art is one of those unique flavors of "Love it or hate it." and I'm on the "Love it" side.
The story concerns Hellboy trying to save Liz Sherman, who gave up her soul to revive an ancient artificial man (Roger the Homniculus). He travels to Romania and tracks the creature to an ancient, cursed ruin, but discovers that there's a lot more going on than he thought.
The story is good, but fairly short. . .first because there's quite a bit of exposition up front, secondly because there's a backup story in back.
The backup, by Gary Gianni is a "Corpus Monstrum" tale where two agents are in a tomb waiting for a vampire to return and one of them tells the strange story of when he was alone on a tropical island and is pretty much raped by a squid-headed woman.
Oooookay. . .Hmmm. . .I like the art and the imagination, but what the hell was Gary Gianni smoking?
If you like Mignola's art, you'll find his work in this issue remarkable. If not. . .well. . .you won't. He's one of those kind of artists. I found it remarkable. Mignola at his best when Hellboy was still his baby alone.
The story concludes as Roger is offered immortality in a giant, Godlike body by his "Brother". . .a failed first attempt by Roger's creator. Hellboy stumbles into the plot and starts punching things, as Hellboy will. In the end, Roger destroys the gigantic "God Of Science" using Liz Sherman's fire powers, then he returns with Hellboy to B.P.R.D. and returns Liz's power/soul to her, thereby sacrificing his own life and coming out the hero of the tale.
I liked this half of the story. Unfortunately, it isn't really a resolution of anything. As I said in the review of the first issue, this is just a filler to set things up and tie loose ends between two larger stories (Wake The Devil and Conqueror Worm). As a matter of fact, while I enjoyed this, I wonder if it needed to exist. It could have easily filled a single issue without the backup, and could have been the first issue of Conqueror Worm.
Speaking of the backup. Once again, I have to wonder just what the hell Gary Gianni was smoking when he wrote it. Whatever it was. . .I want some.
Squid-faced pirates kill the narrator while he watches from outside his body, then they bury him alive (dead?) with a violin in a treasure chest.
I'm a huge fan of Mignola's art, and this early Hellboy stuff is some premium Mignola at his best. But like I said above, this story just feels like filler. . .like Mignola felt like he HAD to put out something Hellboy while he was working on his next big story. Really, it could have fit into one issue. Still, there wasn't anything really WRONG with it, I just had a hard time thinking of a reason for it to exist when (by dropping the backup) it could have just been the first issue of the next story.
Coming next. . .
More Two-Shots! The Thing From Another World and Trial of The Punisher.
Be there or be square!
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Hard Cover # 1