Hell At Christmas
Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Cundle takes a look at the Hellboy Winter Special out this week from Dark Horse…
Hellboy Winter Special
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artists: Ben Stenbeck, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba & Tonci Zonjic
Dark Horse Comics
With the Yuletide festivities in full flow, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a story or three about all things spectral, occult and mysterious. Thanks, I’d wager, in no small part to Charles Dickens, the most celebrated of holidays has become synonymous with the telling of ghost stories. With that in mind, Mignola, Stenbeck and company have emerged from the shadows to tell a trio of tales revolving around Hellboy, the B.P.R.D and the two-fisted avatar of crustacean justice, Lobster Johnson, which make up the Hellboy Winter Special one-shot.
Beginning with a séance, to which Hellboy has been cordially invited, that takes place on New Year’s Eve in the closing years of the 1950s and ends in grotesque fashion with the would-be villain of the piece getting their just, and deserved, desserts, this latest spook and manner of devilry infused collection begins in much the same manner as it concludes; by expertly balancing on the thin line that separates the darkest humour and weirdest adventures. Finding himself at home with the spectre of a long-deceased member of the aristocracy and immersed in a plot to exploit said visitation from the other side, Hellboy does what any self-respecting paranormal investigator would do in such a situation. He keeps his head down and waits to see how events unfold, which they do, in grim and grisly fashion. Mignola’s sense of devilish humour is ever-present in this short tale and Stenbeck’s mischievous, Mark Davis inspired, Hammer-infused art whispers black life into this gloriously morbid little outing.
The middle act of the Winter Special is given over to Moon and Ba’s sojourn to the haunted forests of Eastern Europe in which the story of an old foe and his new allies is relayed to the BPRD by one of the terrified, and no doubt damned, souls who witnessed the event. In another step on the journey to finding who and what the BPRD is seeking, Ba and Moon’s brief, dangerous, beautifully illustrated and blackly funny tale flirts with the premise that, if you go into the woods at the wrong time, you can almost certainly be sure of a nasty surprise, before reining itself in to leave the door open for a future filled with wickedness.
And then all too quickly, proceeding are brought to an end by Tonci Zonjic’s punchy, pulp-drenched snapshot in which a gang of would-be criminal masterminds are taught the value of brand awareness and the terrible price that ne’er do wells inevitably pay for trademark infringement. While the scares are slightly subdued and not always obvious, they are made manifest by masters of the craft and feature some of the most recognisable, and beloved, of genre characters. Forged in the late night, fireside tradition and filled with ghost, ghouls, all manner of things from beyond the veil and gritty, period, noir soaked adventure, the Hellboy Winter Special is destined to become one of the most re-read and well-thumbed books that’ll appear this Christmas. Tim Cundle
Hellboy Winter Special is out from this Wednesday 12 December from Dark Horse Comics