By Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson, Scott Allie, Paul Grist, Christopher Mitten, Sebastian Fiumara, Dave Stewart and Bill Crabtree
Mike Mignola and company are back for another seasonal one-shot from Dark Horse comics. Hellboy Winter Special 2017 is the second installment and once again they managed to do the Hellboy universe justice by bring together a wonderfully eclectic group of folks. It’s been years now, but when Mignola decided to stop writing and drawing Hellboy himself, there was backlash from the fans. But now we can all most likely agree it was a move that paved the way for a ton of new talent, which has only ever breathed fresh life into the character. Not that Hellboy was ever in trouble as a franchise — it wasn’t, and the many spin-off titles are proof of that — but in hindsight even the core Hellboy caretakers have to admit Mignola’s semi-departure is what allowed the “universe” to explode. They’ve been capitalizing on it ever since by curating exceptional writers and artist as a means of increasing the quality of the content rather than the profit-based value. One of the best examples of their creative success is the “Winter Special”.
Writers Mignola, Chris Roberson and Scott Allie put together three individual weird tales from different eras covering a variety of characters. There’s a Witchfinder story featuring Sir Edward Grey himself, along with Sarah Jewell, a new character introduced in the recent Rise of the Black Flame miniseries. Taking place in 1890’s London, “The Great Blizzard” is an original mystery that fits neatly in just a few pages. You gotta hand it to the creators when a short story packs as much of a punch as a full length comic. Thanks to Roberson’s ability to adapt to the Hellboy stuff so well, readers will get a glimpse at the relationship between investigators Grey and Jewell, who share a terrific rapport. Christopher Mitten and Dave Stewart return to round out the original team from Rise of the Black Flame and fans will be glad to see more by the talented Mitten so soon. His approach, like Roberson, is ideal for the subject matter and so fans can rest assured this is as suitable a match up as ever.
In “God Rest Ye Merry” Mignola and Roberson take fans back to what is basically a Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. story during the 1950s. Professor Bruttenholm and Hellboy take on a possessed Santa Claus with the help of another B.P.R.D. member also with enhance abilities. It’s an interesting story, but more fun than anything else. A light moment in the middle of this book isn’t a bad thing and it’s a really good chance for artist Paul Grist and colorist Bill Crabtree to shine. There’s more to come from these guys so think of this story as a glimpse into the future. Grist knows how to handle Hellboy and uses the other characters as a means of supporting HB’s role, without overshadowing. The comic feels like a Sunday strip, which is perfect nostalgia for the 1950s setting. Crabtree has an equally approachable style and instead of channeling Dave Stewart, uses palettes and tones familiar to these stories. Warm palettes collide with cooler ones and both use muted hues as a means of contrast.
The final chapter, “The Last Witch of Fairfield” reunites the original team of Liz Sherman, Abe Sapien and Hellboy during an investigation set in the 1980s. Written by Hellboy Editor Scott Allie and drawn by Abe Sapien illustrator Sebastian Fiumara, you can’t help but smile as you read along. It’s a classic tale, written and drawn in order to tap into everything we love about these beloved characters. One of the best things about how this content has been rolled out over the years is the ability for the creators to dip into any one particular period in the history and create an all-new storyline. Whether you can make connections to previous stories or not, it’s refreshing to know we can always count on the fact that sooner or later we’ll be circling back to the moments we cherish most. Presently Abe and Liz are back with the B.P.R.D., though we’ve yet to see that in a new issue after the conclusion of the B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth cycle. So this opportunity to see them together after so many years of separation is a real treat. Fiumara is the perfect choice for this brand of horror story and it’s obvious why he has become a fan favorite. He can draw creepy elements side by side with emotional drama seamlessly. Even during hectic action sequences, Fiumara and Dave Stewart give us a legible, well-crafted comic story that not only shows their professional skills, but displays their dedication to Hellboy as well.
That goes for everyone involved in Hellboy Winter Special 2017 too. It’s difficult to imagine someone not wanting to be a part of a project like this, but thankfully we get a group of people who feel plain right for the job. This one-shot is a good jumping on point for what has become a sprawling universe with a lengthy yet rewarding reading order. Be warned though, you’re likely to get hooked, and if not Hellboy, then certainly on one of these talented contributors.