Mark Verheiden

Secret Origins Special (1989)

Secret Origins SpecialI always forget how much Neil Gaiman threw himself into the DC Universe when he’d write in it. This Secret Origins Special is all about Batman’s villains; a TV investigative journalist has come to Gotham to do a special. Gaiman seems to enjoy writing those scenes–the ones with the behind the scenes, the Batman cameo, the anecdotes about living in Gotham City and the DC Universe in general. He doesn’t do well with the characters though, not the TV reporter and his crew. These framing scenes have art by Mike Hoffman and Kevin Nowlan. They do better at the start than they do the finish. By the finish, they’re getting tired and the detail from the opening isn’t there anymore.

Alan Grant writes the Penguin’s origin story, which isn’t a straight origin. There’s something modern to all of the Secret Origins here. Penguin’s grabbed a childhood nemesis–who just happened to grow up to be a gangster too–and Batman’s trying to find the guy while the Penguin’s torturing him. It’s an okay script, not great, but the Sam Kieth artwork is gorgeous. Kieth does action, he does Batman, he does Penguin, he does gangsters–he does kids. The best part of it is the tenderness Kieth shows when he’s doing the kids. I always forget Kieth really does know what he’s doing.

A self-reflected Riddler. Art by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner.
A self-reflected Riddler. Art by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner.
Gaiman handles the Riddler’s origin, which ties in a lot to the framing plot. The TV crew goes to interview him. Bernie Mireault on pencils, Matt Wagner on inks. Gaiman’s enthusiastic but misguided. Lots of monologue from the Riddler, but never particularly interesting. The details about the giant objects used in Gotham’s advertising in the past is more interesting than the Riddler teasing the TV crew with the truth. The art’s solid though and gets it over the bumps.

Then there’s the Two-Face story. Mark Verheiden writing it, Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano on the art. Broderick’s pencils are full of energy and light on restraint. It’s a messy story and a fairly cool one, focusing on Grace Dent (Harvey’s wife) and her side of the story. Verheiden doesn’t write the TV crew well and Grace Dent’s a little too slight, but it’s a solid enough story. The art is brutally violent and full of anger. Everyone looks miserable and angry about it.

Harvey Two-Face and Batman graphically wail on each other. Art by Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano.
Harvey Two-Face and Batman graphically wail on each other. Art by Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano.

The issue would’ve been better with stronger art throughout from Hoffman and Nowlan and either more or less from Gaiman. The TV crew ceases to be characters after the introduction, like one of the stories came in a page or two short and Gaiman was padding it out. But the Penguin story is good, the Riddler story could be a lot worse and is technically strong, the Two-Face story is super-solid mainstream DC eighties stuff. It’s good stuff.

CREDITS

Writer, Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant and Mark Verheiden; pencillers, Mike Hoffman, Bernie Mireault and Pat Broderick; inkers, Kevin Nowlan, Matt Wagner and Dick Giordano; artist, Sam Kieth; colorists, Tom McCraw and Joe Matt; letterers, Todd Klein, Albert DeGuzman, Mireault and Agustin Mas; editor, Mark Waid; publisher, DC Comics.

Dark Horse Presents Annual 1997 (February 1998)

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For a Presents annual (or oversized special), this one has a lot of solid work.

Pearson’s Body Bags is a fun diversion. The art’s great and the story moves. It gets a little visually confusing, but it’s good.

And Verheiden (with Marrinan) finally produces a decent installment of The American. It’s a thoughtful story, very well written.

Arcudi and Musgrove’s The Oven Traveler is dumb. It’s a one page story dragged to four.

Aliens (from Smith and Morrow) is atrocious. It’s Aliens meets Westworld. If it weren’t terrible, it’d be an interesting genre mix—plus, Morrow can’t draw the aliens. They look awkward and goofy, not at all frightening.

Jillette and French’s Rheumy Peepers and Chunky Highlights is overwritten but mildly diverting….

Stephens and Allred’s The Stiff is decent, if too silly.

Then there’s a decent Pope finish. It’s a talking heads story, which seems like a waste of Pope.

CREDITS

Body Bags; story and art by Jason Pearson. The American, The Big Deal; story by Mark Verheiden; art by Chris Marrinan; lettering by Sean Konot. The Oven Traveler; story by John Arcudi; art by Scott Musgrove. Aliens, Tourist Season; story by Beau Smith; art by Gray Morrow; lettering by John Costanza; edited by Bob Schreck. The Adventures of Rheumy Peepers and Chunky Highlights; story by Penn Jillette; art by Renée French. The Stiff, Disappearing Act; story, inks and lettering by Jay Stephens; pencils by Mike Allred. Four Cats; story and art by Paul Pope. Edited by Jamie S Rich.

Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special (April 1991)

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This special is far from an accurate representation of Dark Horse Presents. Everything looks very professional.

The Aerialist and Heartbreakers installments are both long needed establishments of the series’ ground situation.

I even liked the Heartbreakers one (Bennett’s writing is far stronger from the clones’ perspective, versus their creator).

There’s also lots of disposable stuff–Concrete, The American and Black Cross are all weak, though Warner’s art is better on Cross than I’ve ever seen it. Chadwick and Verheiden use their stories to blather about American culture.

Of the two Miller’s–Give Me Liberty and Sin City–I almost prefer Sin City. Liberty‘s a little overbearing, though the Gibbons art is nice.

Prosser and Janson do a great adaptation of an Andrew Vachss. The Roachmill, Aliens and Aliens vs. Predator entries are all fantastic.

I’m a little peeved Bob the Alien is on the cover but not in the issue.

CREDITS

Give Me Liberty, Martha Washington’s War Diary: April 16, 2012; story by Frank Miller; art by Dave Gibbons. Concrete, Objects of Value; story and art by Paul Chadwick; lettering by Bill Spicer. Aliens; story by John Arcudi; art by Simon Bisley. The American; story by Mark Verheiden; pencils by Dougie Braithwaite; inks by Robert Campanella; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Roachmill; story and art by Rich Hedden and Tom McWeeney. Placebo; script by Jerry Prosser, based on a story by Andrew Vachss; art by Klaus Janson; lettering by Michael Heisler. Black Cross; story and art by Chris Warner; lettering by Jim Massara. The Aerialist, Part Three; story and art by Matt Wagner; lettering by Kurt Hathaway. Heartbreakers, The Prologue; story by Anina Bennet; art by Paul Guinan; lettering by Willie Schubert. Aliens vs. Predator; story by Randy Stradley; art by Phill Norwood; lettering by Brosseau. Sin City, Episode One; story and art by Frank Miller. Edited by Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 32 (August 1989)

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Ugh, another “annual.” Sixty-four pages of Dark Horse Presents tends to be a little much.

The American is a little long here–it’s very passive and not at all dramatic. On the other hand, Peterson shows he used to be a lot more interesting of an artist.

The Wacky Squirrel strip from publisher Richardson is dumb.

Davis’s Delia & Celia is a complete bore, big shock. He manages to make a pterodactyl boring.

The longer than usual Bob the Alien just shows with more space Rice does an even better story. It’s funny and touching

The Concrete story is better than usual–Concrete’s jealous over girls–and Chadwick puts in three unanswered questions. Two are crime related, one personal. It works.

Bacchus is great. Campbell gets more into his eight pages than anyone ever has in one of these issues.

As usual, Zone is passable, Race of Scorpions is lame.

CREDITS

The American, My Dinner with the American; story by Mark Verheiden; pencils by Brandon Peterson; inks by Randy Emberlin; lettering by David Jackson. Wacky Squirrel; story by Mike Richardson; art by Jim Bradrick; lettering by David Jackson. Delia & Celia, Down, Down and Down; story, art and lettering by Gary Davis. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien, Steppin’ Out; story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. Concrete, Visible Breath; story and art by Paul Chadwick; lettering by Bill Spicer. Bacchus, A God and His Dog; story, art and lettering by Eddie Campbell. Zone; story, art and lettering by Michael Kraiger. Race of Scorpions, The Rusty Soldier; story and art by Leopoldo Durañona; lettering by Laura Davis. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 24 (November 1988)

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And here debuts the licensed property… Aliens. Luckily, it’s a really decent eight pages. Nelson and Verheiden almost make it feel like it’s just a comic book, not a movie tie-in. What’s really interesting is the aliens. Nelson’s able to draw so much fluidity into his own creatures, when he’s got to draw the movie alien, it feels awkward. The shape is defined by being able to be a costume worn by a person, a hampering Nelson doesn’t have with his own creations.

Duranona’s Race of Scorpions continues to be unimpressive. Some more Star Wars homage and a lot of details. The art, once again, makes it impossible to easily discern the content. And a lot of the writing is just silly.

Arcudi and Miehm’s Homicide is a good police procedural. Arcudi is weak on the cop chatter, but the mystery is good. Nice inks.

Geary’s Police Beat‘s fine.

CREDITS

Aliens; story and art by Mark A. Nelson; script by Mark Verheiden. Race of Scorpions; story and art by Leopoldo Durañona; lettering by Tim Harkins. Homicide, A Whiff of Madness; story by John Arcudi; art and lettering by Grant Miehm. Police Beat; story, art and lettering by Rick Geary. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Human Target Special 1 (November 1991)

237939.jpgBeyond Who’s Who, I don’t think I’ve read much regular DC Human Target. This special only partially counts as it was a tie-in for the failed nineties television adaptation.

It’s decent, far better than I was expecting. The art from Burchett and Giordano is good and Verheiden’s writing is fine. There’s a lot of humor–Christopher Chance does his work because it’s fun–and Verheiden harps on endlessly with the anti-drug message, but it’s a rather violent book. It opens with someone shot in the head and Chance goes on to kill a bunch of bad guys.

Unfortunately, since Verheiden is mimicking the TV show and assuming the reader has some familiarity with the cast of characters, there’s not much for the supporting cast to do but tell jokes.

If the comic’s any indication, the show might have been decent, Rick Springfield or not.

The comic does go on too long though.

CREDITS

The Mack Attack Contract; writer, Mark Verheiden; penciller, Rick Burchett; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Julianna Ferriter; letterer, Albert DeGuzman; editor, Brian Augustyn; publisher, DC Comics.

Aliens 6 (July 1989)

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The whole series collapses here, thanks to Verheiden’s absurd sense of self-importance. In six issues, he destroys the planet Earth. Wait, no, he doesn’t. In one issue he destroys the planet Earth. He didn’t really hint at that plan until this issue either.

He uses Newt as a narrator again and it’s just as bad as the previous issue. The problem is with the plot. He’s back in summary mode, but he’s just fitting too much into it–and Newt’s not the right narrator of the events he’s showing.

It’s a downbeat conclusion (and not a sequel-ready one, which is almost encouraging me to read the second series but I think Verheiden wrote it too and he probably horrifically narrates it with Newt).

The series is a big let down from the first two or three issues. Verheiden had too much melodrama to fit into six issues.

Blah.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Verheiden; pencillers, Ron Randall and Mark A. Nelson; inker, Nelson; letterer, Willie Schubert; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens 5 (June 1989)

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Yuck.

Verheiden writes the majority of the issue–maybe all of it, I can’t remember, my brain is on strike–from Newt’s perspective. He narrates the issue with her.

It’s awful female narration by a male comic book writer. Probably not the worst ever, but it’s hideous.

The plotting isn’t bad–though I’m not sure why Hicks is even in the comic anymore. He’s practically a villain at this point. Verheiden never bothered establishing a relationship between Newt and Hicks and it didn’t matter when he was telling the story in summary. But now he’s telling it in scenes and the omission is disastrous.

There’s a lot of really cool alien landscape designs here from Nelson. His art hasn’t gotten much better overall, but the design stuff is amazing. Haunting, even. I mean, I remember it from when I was a kid.

But it doesn’t make up for the narration.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Verheiden; artist, Mark A. Nelson; letterer, Willie Schubert; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens 4 (April 1989)

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Almost the entire issue is told in summary–it’s not bad, actually, since Verheiden is using a layered narrative (he’s gone on to write crappy Superman/Batman comics, hasn’t he? That’s unfortunate). He resolves the whole thing with the aliens on earth, which is both good and bad. It’s nice he was able to resolve it in a quick amount of time (basically last issue and this one), but it’s hurried in an unexpected way.

There’s the whole evil corporation angle here (like in the movie), but Verheiden doesn’t spend a lot of time dealing with it in scenes. So this issue, when he finally has some of these evil corporation types running around, they seem really silly–just as fanatical as the religious fanatics… but he doesn’t seem aware of it.

Again, Newt and Hicks mostly get the shaft on page time. Verheiden’s dismissed them as the series’s protagonists.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Verheiden; artist, Mark A. Nelson; letterer, Willie Schubert; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens 3 (January 1989)

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Has Warren Ellis read this issue? Because it reminds me a lot of his first issue for Ultimate Nightmare. It’s better than that comic, but very similar. Verheiden opens the issue with a bunch of psychological reports of people freaking out because of the alien–just being near it. It’s a cool idea, the aliens driving people crazy; it’s where Aliens is at its strongest… the stuff the movies never had the time or inclination to explore.

Unfortunately, the future Verheiden and Nelson come up with isn’t particularly interesting. The Alien movies wisely stayed as mum about earth in the future as they possibly could. It kills the space part of it in a lot of ways.

And the space part is where Verheiden runs into trouble. He’s barely got time for the Hicks and Newt Marine expedition, only enough to reveal a traitor in their midst.

Still, very readable.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Verheiden; artist, Mark A. Nelson; letterer, Willie Schubert; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

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