Hellboy is one of my favorite comic characters, so I was particularly excited to read Dark Horse’s recent release, Hellboy: Winter Special. What makes Hellboy so memorable amongst the plethora of comics out there is the emphasis on character, relationships, and timing. Your title character is, in reality, the antithesis of his name: just a little lovable pup with a big paw and a cigar. He is relatable and you laugh along in his insane adventures. This issue, however, reads as filler. Nothing is glaringly bad, just subpar; the laughs are there, but the story is just weak.
Winter Special is separated into four main storylines, the later two (“Mood Swings” and “Kung Pao Lobster”) being the most intriguing. There does seem to be a noticeable difference in the voice and storytelling between the four chapters (all with different story authors) instead of a unified Winter Special “voice.” As a reader I found this distracting. I cannot usually tell that I am switching from different story authors between chapters in graphic novels, but the subtle tone and direction choice was jarring enough in this read to take me out of the moment at times, losing the comedic timing which is part of what makes Hellboy so unique.
If the entire special were an expanded arc of chapters “Mood Swings” and “Kung Pao Lobster,” I would devour it in minutes! The warped comedy that is happening in both of these is utterly mind-blowing and outrageously hysterical. I still have the image of Hellboy walking through the snow with antlers on his head and this look on his face, not dissimilar to the look my dog Rue gives me when I dress her up for Halloween – now that I think of it, priceless! “Mood Swings” offers a fun Christmas monster version of My Two Dads while “Kung Pao Lobster” may make you rethink ordering Chinese again. Both are fun, short reads that I would love to read more adventures from.
In retrospect, had the first two chapters been separated from the final two, I might have enjoyed them more as they were so drastically different. Combining the four chapters muddied the stories. “Broken Vessels” and “Wandering Souls” complement each other as do “Mood Swings” and “Kung Pao Lobster.” The four together do not mesh as well and, in fact, do a disservice to the writing as a whole. Separately, each story serves as a fine piece of writing and art for the Hellboy collection. I look forward to the many to come.