Hellboy has always excelled in its ability to be an epic that embodies narrative elasticity. With this fourth instalment in its Winter Specials, the Hellboy series displays how it can stretch itself into new modes of storytelling.
Serving as a three-in-one, this trio of stories bring a joy to the season. Hellboy has always succeeded with its flexibility and ability to play with the idea of the meandering. Mignola’s universe has succeeded through this narrative momentum; one that is both enriching and yet consistently plays within the cultivated world of the Mignolaverse.
For this issue Dark Horse manage to pull out all of the stops, by using former Hellboy and BPRD creators to celebrate the 2019 holiday season. For each of the three short comics stories, the teams display fantastic ingenuity. Ironically, Hellboy is only in one story of the three. Despite the lack of his presence, the other two stories manage to create an ethos that develops the world around Hellboy.
The first story, ‘The Miser’s Gift’, is written by Mignola with art from Márk Lázló, and color by Dave Stewart. Here Hellboy is told a story about a customer in a bar cannot get rid of a gold coin. The series evokes Charles Dickenson’s A Christmas Carol, especially with its inclusion of an old curmudgeon character. It has an endearing sensibility to it, especially thanks to the wonderful art by Lázló and Stewart who manage to capture a Victorian era feel to the world.
The second story ‘The Longest Night’ is written by Chris Roberson, with art from Leila del Duca, and colors by Michelle Madsen. Inspired by both Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle stories, Roberson employs the supernatural into a mystery. For this short, we follow a woman who’s trying to solve a murder in a cabin. Despite a lack of our favourite Beast of the Apocalypse, Roberson displays the pervasive nature of this mythos and how it affects the people in this world. The line art of del Luca allows for an easy flow of storytelling that can switch from mystery to horror at the drop of a hat.
The third story ‘The Beasts of Ingelheim’ is written by Scott Allie with art from Andrea Mutti, and colors by Lee Loughridge. It takes an epistolary approach, depicting the confession of a remorseful priest. In many ways this is the most nuanced approach to faith within the series. It’s a sombre tale yet one that enacts a fantastic empathy towards the idea of an “other”; an extraordinary moral story that simply asks the reader to empathize and comprehend the whole context of our fears. Mutti’s art has an enrapturing sense of both grandiosity and humility.
While it doesn’t add new plotlines to Mignola’s universe, readers do gain new layers in this issue. As always, there are new truths in how we experience this world through these Winter Specials. Having been reading them since their inception, the 2019 edition is a piece that allows for an encapsulation of the Hellboy series in terms of tone, character, and overall scope. It has always been, and remains, a malleable and adaptive comic book, and one that is also a playful epic.
Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson & Scott Allie (W), Mark Laszio, Leila del Duca & Andrea Mutti (A), Dave Stewart, Michelle Madsen & Lee Loughridge (C), Clem Robins (L) Dark Horse Comics, $3.99
Review by Arbaz M. Khan