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The Best Dark Horse Comics Series: 15 must-read comics books

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Best Dark Horse Comic

Following the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, what is now called the Black-and-White Boom took form with the apparition in 1986 of a LOT of new publishers ready to make a fortune. Apple Comics, Fantagor Press, ACE Comics, Crystal Publications, Eternity Comics, Imperial Comics, Quality Comics, Malibu Comics, and more! Most of them produced forgettable books and rapidly closed shops. Not all of course, or else we wouldn’t be here to talk about Dark Horse Comics.

Mike Richardson used the profit generated by his comic book shop to launch the company with his friend Randy Stradley. Dark Horse Comics started with the anthology Dark Horse Presents and James Dean Smith’s parody comic Boris the Bear. The two titles became hits and helped the company to go much further than most of its competitors.

Using its successful launch, Dark Horse Comics adopted a strategy based on popular franchises. Mike Richardson began buying the rights to make Godzilla comics, then it was Aliens, Predator, Star Wars, and Tarzan. The company soon started producing toys and producing movies (via Dark Horse Entertainment).

Dark Horse Comics even tried to invade the world of superheroes with the imprint Comics’ Greatest World. But as the industry changed, DH had to refocus its ambitions on the creators–this led to the publication of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy.

Unlike lots of publishers from that time, Dark Horse survived the speculation boom of the 1990s and even found new avenues to explore with the publication of translated manga series.

After more than 25 years of activity, Dark Horse Comics gave us a lot of comics to read. To help you find some of the best stories out there, Comic Book Treasury has made a selection of 15 of the Best Dark Horse Comics to read. This is not an exhaustive list, and there are easily more greatest stories from Dark Horse out there.

Whether you are a new reader, an old one, or someone who read Dark Horse Comics for some past decades and wants to reconnect with the characters, we hope you’ll find something you want to read or re-read in this list.

As said above, this is not an ultimate list, so don’t hesitate to leave your own suggestions for the best Dark Horse Comics in the comments below! Also, some of the series cited here are also in our 50 Best Comic Books To Read list.

Here is our selection of what we consider 15 of the best Dark Horse comics to read (in chronological order):

Cover of the magazine "Dark Horse Presents Concrete Part 1" published in 1991

 

Paul Chadwick’s Concrete (1987 – 1996)

Concrete by Paul Chadwick first appeared in Dark Horse Presents #1 and became an instant critical success playing its part in making the anthology a success. It’s a highly influential comic that suffers today from not being easily available, sadly. Yet, it’s hard to deny the importance of Concrete, especially in Dark Horse history. It’s a great comic about humanity with a sci-fi twist.

Here is the story: Part man, part … rock? Over seven feet tall and weighing over a thousand pounds, he is known as Concrete but is in reality the mind of one Ronald Lithgow, trapped inside a shell of stone, a body that allows him to walk unaided on the ocean’s floor or survive the crush of a thousand tons of rubble in a collapsed mineshaft … but prevents him from feeling the touch of a human hand.


The Mask (1987 – 1998)

Coming from Doug Mahnke and John Arcudi (rebooting a concept by Mike Richardson and Mark Badger), The Mask is probably best known for the movie adaptation starring Jim Carrey than the Dark Horse original comics. Nevertheless, this is an ultra-violent dark comedy that is original, energetic, and experimental.

Here is the story: A weird mask of unknown origin and power is discovered and imbues its wearer with limitless cartoon character invulnerability that takes the nerdy Stanley Ipkiss, the police, the mafia, and the monstrous mob muscleman Walter on a colliding violent path of homicidal mayhem, lunacy, and destruction! 


Hard Boiled (1990 – 1992)

Before Frank Miller and Geof Darrow reunited for “Big Guy & Rusty the Boy Robot,” also published at Dark Horse Comics, they made a splash with Hard Boiled. The series simply offered a non-stop action comic, one that mostly works as an excuse to display Geof Darrow’s talent—the team won the 1991 Eisner award for Best Writer/Artist for this series.

Here is the story: Carl Seltz is a suburban insurance investigator, a loving husband, and a devoted father. Nixon is a berserk, homicidal tax collector racking up mind-boggling body counts in a diseased urban slaughterhouse. Unit Four is the ultimate robot killing machine—and the last hope of the future’s enslaved mechanical servants. And they’re all the same psychotic entity. 


Martha Washington (1990 – 1997, 2007)

At Dark Horse Comics, Frank Miller worked with the best. This time, it’s Dave Gibbons the main artist on the title. The duo introduced us to an unlikely hero named Martha Washington who’s living incredible adventures fighting corruption and injustice in a dystopian future. With time, the book strangely became a satire of contemporary politics, but its main success is that it’s a thrilling sci-fi adventure like no other.

The story begins in the squalid corridors of a maximum-security housing project, where a young girl will rise from the war-torn streets of Chicago to battle injustice in a world insane with corruption. Her fight will take her far, from the frontlines of the second American Civil War, to the cold, unforgiving reaches of space. She will be called a hero, a traitor, and nearly everything in between, but all along the way, her courage, her integrity, and her unwavering commitment to that most valuable of rights-liberty-will inspire a movement that will never surrender.


Sin City (1991 – 2000)

During the 1990s, Frank Miller was one of the most influential artists in the industry and Sin City is clearly his most notable work. He went back to his first love, crime fiction, writing and drawing a very noir and violent story in a black & white style that delivers a lot of punches. It’s a classic, so it’s hard to know what to add at this point.

Here is the story: There is no light in a place like Sin City—only misery, crime, perversion… But for a single moment, amid the filth and degenerates, the hulking and unstable ex-con Marv has found an angel. She says her name is Goldie—a goddess who has blessed this wretched low-life with a night of heaven. But good things never last—a few hours later, Goldie is dead—murdered by his side without a mark on her body. Who was she? And who wanted her dead? The cops are on their way—it smells like a frame job, and this time, they won’t let him live. Whoever killed Goldie … is going to pay. Marv’s got a soul to send to hell, and it’s going to get nasty.


Grendel (1982 – present)

When Matt Wagner first serialized Grendel: Devil by the Deed, it was as a backup in his title Mage. Today, it’s his most popular creation, a twisted tale full of daring narrative choices that became a centuries-spanning epic exploring the roots and consequences of violence. To give life to his tales, he worked with a lot of talented artists like Tim Sale, Guy Davis, Stan Sakai, Mike Allred, Jill Thompson, and a lot more, taking the series into a lot of visual directions. It’s unique and captivating.

The story starts with the introduction of Hunter Rose, a popular writer who’s also the brilliant, twisted assassin Grendel. When he put the mask on, he controls the criminal world and is hunted by Argent, an apparently immortal man-wolf cursed with a thirst for violence. 


Hellboy by Mike Mignola (1994 – present)

Hellboy is the mascot of Dark Horse Comics, basically. Mike Mignola’s creation is an institution at that point, and the universe he headlined will just never stop expanding. There’s really nothing like Hellboy, a masterfully craft horror series with a mythology so rich, it continued to develop without its headliner. In fact, Hellboy is a classic, but everything from B.P.R.D. to Lobster Johnson also deserved a lot of attention. It’s just so big, I’ll simply redirect you to our full reading order for the Hellboy universe.

Hellboy is a half-Demon who was summoned from Hell to Earth as a baby by the “Mad Monk” Grigori Rasputin for the Nazi. Adopted by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, the man behind the United States Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (also called the B.P.R.D.), Hellboy grew up with humans and learned to hunt monsters. Adult, he is easily identifiable. After all, he is red-skinned, huge with a tail, horns, cloven hooves for feet, and his right is hand made of stone. Working with the B.P.R.D., he hunts Nazis, witches, and other types of Lovecraftian monsters, teaming up with the amphibian humanoid Abe Sapien, and pyrokinetic Liz Sherman. As years pass, Hellboy must confront who he really is and fulfilled his destiny as the B.P.R.D. becomes the first line of defense against cosmic menaces.


Madman (1996 – 2001)

Dark Horse Comics also published superhero books, but they never became as notorious as Batman, Captain America, and others. Nevertheless, Madman (aka Frank Einstein) deserved the glory. Mike Allred’s creation is a fun, crazy, brilliantly weird adventure on every level as the art style is just so perfect for the story’s idiosyncrasies.

The story follows Frank Einstein’s superhero alter ego Madman as he adventures through Snap City and encounters many zany and timeless characters and villains in this true homage to superhero fiction, metaphysical philosophy, 1950s science fiction films, rock and roll pop music, and much more in this truly humorous and heartfelt comic book 


The Goon (1999 – present)

Eric Powell’s The Goon is another iconic comic book series from Dark Horse, a marvelous mix of black humor, horror, neo-noir, crazy ideas, and gorgeous art. It always feels so unique and imaginative with great monsters, and strangely emotional stories, but also total nonsense and delirious at times.

The Nameless Man, the Zombie Priest, has come to town to build a gang from the undead. Yet even with an unlimited supply of soldiers, the Priest cannot move in on the territory controlled by the crime boss Labrazio and his unstoppable enforcer-the Goon. But when the Priest discovers Goon’s most closely held secret, the balance of power threatens to change forever!


Beasts of Burden (2003 – present)

Created by Evan Dorkin (here as a writer) and artist Jill Thompson, Beasts of Burden is once again something quite unique; Adventure, mystery, horror, humor, and cute animals! It may be quite sad sometimes, or quite humorous at other times, but it’s always thoughtful and beautiful to look at.

Welcome to Burden Hill, a picturesque little town that harbors dark and sinister secrets, and it’s up to a heroic gang of dogs, and one cat, to protect the town from the evil forces at work. These are the Beasts of Burden Hill, Pugs, Ace, Jack, Whitey, Red, and the Orphan, whose early experiences with the paranormal (including a haunted doghouse, a witches’ coven, and a pack of canine zombies) have led them to become members of the Wise Dog Society, official animal agents sworn to protect their town from evil. This turns out to be no easy task, as they soon encounter demonic cannibal frogs, tortured spirits, a secret rat society, and a bizarre and deadly resurrection in the Burden Hill Cemetery…


The Umbrella Academy (2007 – 2019)

Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s Dark Horse series is quite famous since the Netflix TV adaptation, but the story of The Umbrella Academy about a “dysfunctional family of superheroes” didn’t really need to be on TV to stand out. The stories are full of great concepts, but the dynamic of the family is what makes the series stand apart–that and the Bà’s outstanding art.

In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-three extraordinary children were spontaneously born to women who’d previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, “To save the world.” These seven children form the Umbrella Academy, a dysfunctional family of superheroes with bizarre powers. Their first adventure at the age of ten pits them against an erratic and deadly Eiffel Tower, piloted by the fearsome zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. Nearly a decade later, the team disbands, but when Hargreeves unexpectedly dies, these disgruntled siblings reunite just in time to save the world once again.


Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt (2012 – 2015)

Mind MGMT is a fascinating and atypical spy story in which people with powers are recruited by an obscure organization. Reality is as much malleable as people’s loyalties. Playing with the genres, Matt Kindt created an ambitious tale with an atypical art style that surprisingly works wonders.

Meru’s obsession with Flight 815 leads her to a much bigger story of a top-secret government Mind MGMT program. Her ensuing journey involves weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers, as she hunts down the flight’s missing passenger, the man who was Mind MGMT’s greatest success–and its most devastating failure. But in a world where people can rewrite reality itself, can she trust anything she sees?


Harrow County (2015 – 2018)

Created by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Tyler Crook, this is another Dark Horse Horror Series that stands apart. With its backwoods type of horror and its wonderful characters, Harrow County immersed us in a strange and fascinating atmosphere to explore the dark parts of the human psyché. All that with amazing monsters and a lot of emotions.

The story is about Emmy who always knew that the woods surrounding her home crawled with ghosts and monsters. But on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she learns that she is connected to these creatures–and to the land itself–in a way she never imagined.


Resident Alien (2012 – present)

Written by Peter Hogan with art by Steve Parkhouse, Resident Alien is about an alien from another planet learning to love the simple pleasure of ordinary life while solving mysteries as the crime fiction aficionado he is. It’s a strange mashup that relies on the simplicity of its storytelling to offer a humanist tale. For those asking, it’s not like the TV Show.

Living undercover as a semi-retired, small-town doctor, a stranded alien’s only hope is to stay off humanity’s radar until he can be rescued. When he’s pulled into a surprising murder mystery by the town’s desperate mayor and struggling police chief, “Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle” learns more about the human condition than he ever wanted to.


Black Hammer (2016 – present)

When Black Hammer started, Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s “superhero” series, it didn’t seem it was going to have an extended universe. In fact, what make it work was the fact that a JLA-like team was stuck in a place where having power is useless and their secret identity is what they must become. It’s an intelligent reverse-take on the genre that went beyond expectations, and well beyond its premise.

Mysteriously banished from existence by a multiversal event, the old superheroes of Spiral City now lead simple lives on a bizarre farm from which there is no escape! But as they employ all of their super abilities to free themselves from this strange purgatory, a mysterious stranger works to bring them back into action for one last adventure!


If you want to read more Dark Horse stories, don’t forget to check out our pages dedicated to all our Dark Horse Reading Orders!

Last Updated on December 8, 2023.

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