In Review: Hellboy Winter Special 2017

You'll discover ancient vessels, laugh at unexpected threats, and never want to go in the woods again. Recommended.

The cover: Smoke in hand, Hellboy sits on a grave near a tree as the snow gently falls. A very different and welcome cover for the hero, who’s normally shown tracking some creature or pounding the hell out of one. It’s nice to see him getting a breather before continuing to smite evil. I love the look on his face, passive yet alert. Sebastian Fiumara did a great job on this. The coloring by Dave Stewart is also well done, with the different shades of red on him give him some great depth. Overall grade: A+

The stories: This is a great collection of three short stories. Because these are short tales, I’m going to be more vague than usual, so as not to spoil the delights that each contains. “The Great Blizzard” is by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson. This is set in Cornwell in 1891 and features Sir Edward Grey and Sarah Jewell. If the story had just featured the pair walking and talking I would have been completely satisfied, the dialogue is that good. The winter is exceptionally strong and the Witchfinder believes it to be supernatural. The pair discover something that MUST be employed in a future story. “God Rest Ye Merry” is a super story by Mignola and Roberson. This story is set in Connecticut in 1961 as Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. are on the streets picking up Christmas presents. They spot something wrong with an “old geezer” and things quickly progress. This tale introduces the Visitor who’s the lead of an upcoming series of the same name. Seeing what this character does has me anxiously awaiting this series. There are several good laughs in this story that worked wonderfully with the holiday season. The final tale is by Mignola and Scott Allie. This was a creepy ass story! The combination of the wintry setting, Connecticut in 1979, missing girls, and Abe and Liz in tow is freaky. I’m always impressed when I encounter a supernatural creature that’s new to me, and this contains something I’ve not seen before. The conclusion to this is a great “Oh, hell” moment. All of these stories are excellent. Overall grade: A+

The art: Each tale in this book has a different art team and all are perfectly matches for their stories. Christopher Mitten is the artist of “The Great Blizzard” and he’s terrific. One of the reason I love Sir Edward Grey tales are for the settings and Mitten does exceptional work. The mountains in this tale are stellar, and in snow even more so. The characters look outstanding, with just a look from each (the bottom of Page 1 and the top of 2) communicating much to the reader. The flashback on 2 is beautiful and what they discover on 4 is amazing. This finding could have taken the entire issue to explore, and I would have loved to see what Mitten could have shown at this locale. The final two pages are also beautiful; again, if the story had allowed him to show every alcove of this setting, I would have been happy. I would love to see Mitten do an entire Grey tale. Paul Grist is the artist of “God Rest Ye Merry.” His style is not one that a reader comes across often chronicling a Hellboy outing, but it fits perfectly with this story. I knew that with the second panel, that establishes all the protagonists, he was going to do a great job on this tale. The reveal of the antagonist of the story is the first panel on the tenth page and it’s memorable. One member of the team makes the first attack, and it’s awesome. When Hellboy gets into the game the fight is great, ending in quite a surprise. How the villain is ultimately defeated is unexpected and introduces a character will be appearing soon in his own series. He looks great, resembling a Steve Ditko character, and he fits in perfectly. The final story is illustrated by Sebastian Fiumara and it’s just oozing with atmosphere. When the characters are discovered on 21 it’s beautiful, ominous, and unbelievable foreboding. Fiumara is master at creating anxiety in every panel, even the quite ones. The reader is waiting for the shoe to drop, and this one doesn’t drop — it explodes. This story is wonderful, but the art makes it haunting. Overall grades: A+

The colors: Dave Stewart is the colorist on the first and final story. The opening page’s colors creates a wonderful, calming tone, which allows the flashbacks to spring to life with darker colors. The final two pages of the first story are colored in tans, browns, and dark rose to create a sensationally dated environment. The last story has stand out reds for Hellboy and Liz, but also for quite a bit of crimson in the snow. When the antagonist swings into action, the backgrounds explode in strong oranges and yellows to emphasize the action. The middle story is colored by Bill Crabtree. This story is set in the early sixties and the colors look aged from that period, with characters and backgrounds colored with a very light purple. Hellboy is his signature red, making him stand out, but the antagonist is also red, though he’s a faded red. My favorite choice by Crabtree on this story was the puke green used for a flashback image that’s used to give a history to the evil that’s being fought. Every page and panel is great. Overall grade: A+

The letters: The title of each story is rendered in an elegant font, evoking the holiday spirit, showing the reader that Clem Robins is an exceptional letterer. He creates narration, dialogue, yells, sounds, and whispers. Each yell comes off the page (“God Rest Ye Merry”) and the sounds pack a punch as strong as the visuals (“The Last Witch…”). My favorite combination in the same panel is KLAANG and TINNG, plus the PSSHT was fun. Robins makes these stories audible. Overall grade: A+

The back cover: It’s rare for a book to have art on the back and I was pleased to see that this one did and it’s by Geof Darrow. This has Hellboy in a very rock setting, surrounded by several penguins, with a tiny yellow bird perched on this finger. On a tall structure a dragon looks off into the distance. Please tell me this will the start of a story at some point from Mr. Darrow. Outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The perfect combination of supernatural chills set in three different time periods. You’ll discover ancient vessels, laugh at unexpected threats, and never want to go in the woods again. Something for everyone. Hellboy in winter is truly special. Recommended. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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