For more than 25 years, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy has been a fan-favorite fixture in comic books. In that time, the irascible demon hunter has fought evil around the world between the occasional cigar and stiff drink. And, with his Judeo-Christian influences, Hellboy is no stranger to celebrating the holidays in his own hard-hitting way, with the horned hero staying cozy as he continues to battle things that go bump in the night. Dark Horse Comics has published a new winter special, featuring a trio of short stories set in Hellboy’s expansive world, with varying degrees of quality.
Only one of the three stories, written by Mignola, Chris Roberson and Scott Allie, actually features Hellboy at all, while the other two are ancillary, tangential tales that fill out his world. Despite that lack of Hellboy, the creative teams deliver on the expected monster action. These stories veer more into horror without the benefit of having the eponymous demon hunter there to save the day.
It’s important to point out that none of the stories in this winter anthology is bad, and each creative team brings its own voice to the special. However, the far and away best is the lead-off story, starring Hellboy and written by Mignola himself. All of the classic hallmarks of the long-running comic series are present, and it was a wise move to hook readers by starting the issue with Hellboy doing what he does best in a relatively lightweight story.
As an acclaimed artist, Mignola has always had a keen eye for assembling talent to bring his supernatural world to visual life. Mark Lazlo, joined by longtime colorist Dave Stewart, matches Mignola’s darker, more atmospheric sensibilities. He captures Hellboy being roped into investigating a haunted house in a remote, snowbound village, bringing both the cozier elements and expected action sequences to visceral life.
Leila del Duca, working with colorist Michelle Madsen, crafts a more family-oriented story with writer Chris Roberson, taking the most visual advantage of the winter setting. Finally, Allie is joined by artist Andrea Mutti and colorist Lee Loughridge for a period piece story, with Mutti and Loughridge’s moodier, more evocative visuals elevating the story to haunting heights.
The Hellboy Winter Special 2019 is a fine one-shot in the venerable franchise’s mythos, although, as mentioned, readers hoping for more of the eponymous superhero may walk away disappointed. With a fun Hellboy story leading the anthology off and a moody, atmospheric period piece closing it out, the special is a bit of a mixed bag and not overly important to the ongoing adventures of Hellboy. Though, in its defense, it never sets out to be. Instead, its simply a trio of tales set in the winter season in Mike Mignola’s fan-favorite world.