In Review: Hellboy Winter Special 2018

This is a must-own item for all Hellboy fans: funny, scary, and action packed.

The covers: A trio of covers to collect, one for each wise man to take to a deserving child. The A cover by Mike Mignola has Hellboy’s leap completed, as his spear is piercing the chest of a monstrous entity that’s trying to rise from the grave. The creature’s head goes back in a roar as the blade plunges deeper into it. Mignola creating a Hellboy image is something to be savored and this is great, with not only the characters looking good, but the gravestones looking outstanding at their tilted angles. The B hails from Gabriel Bá and has Hellboy in the center of the illustration with his gun out. Leaves are blowing around him as three of the men in masks and garb from the second tale surround him. Having the characters on a black background really makes the characters stand out. I also like the faded rust used for the sky, allowing the torch of one of the men to really light up. Last, and definitely not least, is the C cover by Fábio Moon. A massive bust shot of Hellboy has the hero taking a close look at the objects dangling before him: several tiny bells and three tiny bodies of the men from the second story. The three figures look great: cute and freakish — a terrific combination. I also like Hellboy’s mood, as if he’s unsure and ticked off at what he’s spying. The colors on this are also good, with the white background pulling the reader to the characters. Overall grades: A A, B A-, and C A-

The stories: The first story is “Happy New Year, Ava Galluci” by Mike Mignola. In England, 1957, on New Year’s Eve, Hellboy is at Wakefield Manor. Unknowingly he discovers that the family holds a seance to to contact Sir William Wakefield, who was caught worshiping the devil in 1692, wrapped in chains by the locals, and then sunk in a pond. The person running this seance is Ava Galluci, a person Hellboy is familiar with. The story goes creepy during the calling, with Page 5 creating great tension. What happens after this page is classic Hellboy action and thrills. What an ending! “Lost Ones” Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon is set somewhere in Bulgaria in 1954. Deep in the woods a group of five march into the forest wearing elaborate masks and costumes that date back hundreds of years. They are there to “guarantee the fertilizing of nature and the birth of new life…and to protect our land from the evil spirits that come to possess and poison our crops.” As their leader continues his words an audience of animals watches them from afar. Someone then speaks, silencing the man and taking this story into the supernatural realm. There’s a good surprise in this tale with the reveal of a character from a B.P.R.D. adventure, plus the final page introduces something else. Not scary, but very neat for fans of the Bureau. The final tale is a Lobster Johnson six pager set during the holiday season. A trio of gangsters decide to take out some competition forging the Lobster’s fiery brand on their heads. Things go well until the Lobster discovers this use of “plagiarized justice.” God how I love “The Empty Chair” by Tonci Zonjic. I’ve yet to read a bad Lobster tale. Overall grades: All A+

The art: Ben Stenbeck is the artist on “Happy New Year” and he’s great! I love the look of all the family members, with the patriarch being fabulous. The quick confrontation between the protagonist and Ava is great. Stenbeck makes the seance creepy with the house’s exterior, close-ups on paintings, and Galluci looking possessed, lit by a candle. Page 6 is gloriously drawn, with actions of antagonist and protagonist superb. Page 8 is a nightmare come to life and the visuals on 9 more bizarre than one could imagine. Every panel on the final page is gold. “Lost Ones” is illustrated by Bá and Moon and starts with the reader leaving a village and moving into a snowy forest. The second and third pages of the tale seem like a supernatural version of Where the Wild Things Are. The transformation on Page 4 is cool, the tease of an entrance on 5 slick, the reveal on 6 will cause the reader to take pause, and the flashback on 7 neat, but it’s the surprise introduction of a character on 8 that will thrill fans of Mignola. The final page is also surprise for the change in characters and location, while that final panel teases further tales. I’ve been a big fan of Zonjic’s artwork on previous Lobster tales and I was overjoyed to see him back on this character for “The Empty Chair.” The first three panels made me so happy looking at those gangsters. The object the three agree to create in the fourth and fifth panels quickly told me they would catch someone’s attention. The introduction of the Lobster on the second page is fantastic, with his close-up gorgeous. I love Harry’s disguise in the story. The action sequence at the top of Page 3 is awesome. I love seeing the Lobster in action and Page 4 made me so happy. The fourth panel on 5 was a gasp inducing moment, with the last three panels terrific. The final page is brilliant, with the final panel, a tiny circle, creating ironic laughter when combined with the text. Overall grades: A+

The colors: “Happy New Year, Ava Galluci” and “Lost Ones” are colored by Dave Stewart. The first story is a beauty in pale colors on black settings. It really increased the horror when it appeared. Plus, Hellboy’s red skin has him drawing attention every time he appears. I like how yellow is used for the action panels and bright pale green becomes important by the conclusion. Oranges and blues reign in the second tale due to the torches in the forest. The flashback uses sickly greens and burnt oranges to show those scenes are set in the past and they enhance the tone of the tale. Crimson is incredibly important on the final panel on 8. “The Empty Chair” has Tonci Zonjic coloring the Lobster tale, using piercing orange for the hero’s goggles and a flaming form of justice. The other colors used date the tale to 1930, with the browns and grays that were so popular. Whites also become key in a snow covered location. Overall grades: A+

The letters: Clem Robins letters every story, providing story titles, scene settings, dialogue, sounds, whispered dialogue, screams, chants, and character identifiers. I like how every tale has its own unique font for the title, making each stand apart from the other at the get-go. The sounds are fantastic in every story, with those in the first tale reminding of a Shirley Jackson tale and the ones in the later like those from classic cliffhanger serial. The way each sound looks makes the action on the page expand substantially, with the KLANGs, SCRAPEs, and DINGs my favorites. Overall grade: A+ 

The final line: Three outstanding short stories that deal with the supernatural. Hellboy is at a seance gone wrong, a character from the B.P.R.D. makes a scream worthy appearance, and Lobster Johnson stops plagiarism. Exceptional art accompanies each tale. This is a must-own item for all Hellboy fans. It’s funny, scary, and action packed. Highest possible recommendation. 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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