Dark Horse Comics released 2018’s Hellboy Winter Special on December 12th. It features three stories: Happy New Year, Ava Galluci by Mike Mignola, Ben Steinbeck, and Dave Stewart, Lost Ones by Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, and Dave Stewart, and The Empty Chair by Tonci Zonjic. I read the issue, and these were my impressions:
1. It reads like a sampler of the Hellboy universe. There’s three stories. The first is a traditional “Despite Hellboy’s warnings, a group of occult dabblers summon a monster” story (‘Happy New Year, Ava Galluci’), done by what appears to be the Baltimore team: Mike Mignola (Hellboy, BPRD), Ben Steinbeck (Baltimore, Frankenstein Underground), and Dave Stewart (Hellboy, Umbrella Academy). That team still knows how to execute a horror/suspense story, so no news there is great news. Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (Casanova, Daytripper, Two Brothers) contribute the second story (‘Lost Ones‘), an addition to their BPRD: Vampire arc. Tonci Zonjic (…Jake Ellis, Lobster Johnson) contributes the third story (‘The Empty Chair‘), a Lobster Johnson special which feels like a particular homage to its influences.
2. It appears Fábio Moon drew most of their story, and Gabriel Ba drew the final page. Lost Ones follows roughly the BPRD: Vampire format, where Fabio Moon drew the supernatural adjacent portions of the story, and Gabriel Ba drew the non-supernatural portion. I wonder if there’s a page where Ba does the background and Moon does the foreground?
3. Speaking of Lobster Johnson’s influences, a couple obvious ones appear to be Green Hornet and the Shadow. Lobster Johnson’s henchman driving felt a lot like Kato, and it’s not difficult to imagine Lobster Johnson’s dialogue in the Shadow’s terse voice.
4. The breadth of tone in the Mignola-verse is particularly striking in the special. If you want a fun pulp story with plenty of delicious mobster names (Vinny The String, Zuco Banana), ‘The Empty Chair’ will serve you well. If you want a classic Hellboy horror story, ‘Happy New Year, Ava Galluci‘ covers you. And finally, if you want vampires being esoteric, Lost Ones is here for you. But most of all, these stories hang together. It’s probably a matter of Dave Stewart coloring the first two stories, but the effect remains.
5. I imagine Tonci Zonjic held in that Mussel Man quip about Lobster Johnson for years. Who knows what he’ll come up for 2019?