Stories by: Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson, Scott Allie
Art by: Mark Laszlo, Leila del Duca, Andrea Mutti
Colors by: Dave Stewart, Michelle Madsen, Lee Loughridge
Letters by: Clem Robins
Cover by: Mike Mignola with Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Available: January 15
Continuing the tradition of comic book holiday/winter specials this week is the 2019 Hellboy Winter Special, from Dark Horse Comics. Out tomorrow, this year’s offering features three new, short-format tales in a 30-page book.
The first of the three stories, “The Miser’s Gift,” is by Mike Mignola, Mark Laszlo and Dave Stewart, and features a quick Hellboy-involved (though fairly minimally) ghost story, with a twist. I really enjoy Laszlo’s art on this one: all creepy, bugged-out eyes, off-kilter landscapes and not a straight line to be found, it supports Mignola’s tone well. And Stewart’s colors are, as always, flawless—ranging from dull blues, grays and browns to explosive oranges and reds in just the right spectra, at just the right time. A fun, pass-the-time between larger arcs kind of tale.
The second story, “The Longest Night,” by Chris Roberson, Leila del Duca and Michelle Madsen, is set in the world of Hellboy, but prior to his arrival. We witness as a member of a BPRD-style agency participates in a Winter Solstice murder investigation—but is the killer the fearsome Braithwood Boogam, known for years to haunt and ravage unwary travelers on the night of the Winter Solstice…or something even more sinister? del Duca’s art is also an excellent accompaniment to Roberson’s tale: she captures the mid-20’s style with flair and panache, clothing and hairstyles all appropriate to time, while also expressing the haunting loneliness of winter-locked upstate New York. And spoiler alert: the wendigo-esque Boogam looks gol-dang cool. All of it, all the more so thanks to Madsen’s colors; her contrast of the warmth of the lodge the characters are trapped in and the cold of the world outside really draw the reader into the tale, despite the story’s short format.
Finally, Scott Allie presents us “The Beast of Ingelheim,” another Hellboy universe tale minus the big red lug, a Christian monster hunter’s deathbed confession, circa early 1400’s rural Europe. I have to say, Mutti’s linework and Loughridge’s colors on this one are fantastic. Allie’s story is all about tone and setup, and they absolutely nail it; the dread they generate, despite their having so little time and space to work with, is palpable. Would actually have loved to have seen this one fleshed out into a full-book treatment, if for no other reason to see more of their work together (and I’ll definitely be hunting down more of Mutti’s art in the immediate future!).
And I would be remiss, were I not to mention the consistent and effective lettering by Clem Robins, whose fine figures grace all three stories. He isn’t given a lot to play with in terms of “POW!s” and “WHAMMM!s” on this one, but does everything we need the letters to do without taking over the page.
I’ll admit to going into this one having relatively low expectations (but first, I’ll cop to not having read previous Hellboy Winter Specials): I love Hellboy, but the history of “Holiday Special” comic books is not exactly overburdened with Pulitzer-level material. And then to discover only one of the three stories having Hellboy in it? Grr. At least, that’s what my initial response was. Which made it all the more enjoyable that what I got were three excellent tales, scripted by masters and lined and colored (in very distinctly differing styles) by outstanding artists.
Now, don’t get me wrong—you’re not going to find major Hollywood blockbusters made out of any of the three stories. But for 10 pages or so each, and for a whopping $3.99? Damn fine work, and again, a great chance to see three divergent styles (and nine comic powerhouses) working different routes toward a similar theme.
And compared to the Marvel Giant Superhero Holiday Grab Bag of 1975? Dark Horse has raised the bar quite a bit. This one is definitely worth heading down to your local comic store, or else hitting up Amazon (HERE) or comiXology and getting yourself a copy.
Score: 12 (of 13)
Review by Andy Patch, thePullbox.com