Publisher: Dark Horse
A mixed bag for the inaugural issue of this no-Mignola-involvement eight-issue bi-monthly anthology series, giving a chance for other creators to cut loose in the BPRD-days of Hellboy. Whether Mignola has any control over this at all is not made clear – presumably his requirements were effectively that nothing could be changed for good, that nothing contemporary with his stories was allowed, and that certain character types (maybe the Nazis) were verboten.
It all starts off nicely enough, a John “Planetary” Cassaday cover hiding the first story; which is written and drawn by Cassaday too – possibly his first published script in comics? A ghost circus gains revenge on the town that killed it, by kidnapping their children and spiriting them away – can these kids be rescued, or is it a case of writing them off but finishing the circus anyway? A strange piece of dialogue near the end of the story jars the effect somewhat – Hellboy tells Liz to “Bring it!!!”, when he actually means for her to set fire to/explode something.
“Party Pooper” by Andi Watson is a really cool little piece of Hellboy at the beach, ending with a neat effect involving a vision in a flame coupled with an apropos piece of dialogue from Hellboy, all wrapped up in Watson’s distinctive, unusual, yet not-incongruous art. Best thing in the issue.
The final story is from the creative team on the upcoming series, The Blackburne Covenant, Fabian Nicieza and Stefano Raffaele, and it’s not clear whether this will have any relevance to that series or not. It certainly seems tangential at best to Hellboy, featuring the Baba Yaga character from the recent series, sort of the origin tale of Baba Yaga, but you keep on expecting Hellboy to show as the pages go by, and it’s very dissatisfying when he doesn’t appear at all.
The issue wraps up with a throwaway Lobster Johnson two-pager by Cassaday, his Silver Age adventures condensed down into a few panels. This one will carry on into future issues, but nothing of interest actually happens in it, it’s totally out of place with the rest of the issue and not one I have great hopes for in future issues.
So, one very, very good story, one almost as good, one disappointment…not a bad start.
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