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Hellboy: Weird Tales #1 By Matt Martin
Dark Horse Comics – Various (w/a)
Man, it’s just an anthology kind of week around these parts…first Metal Hurlant, and now the new Hellboy series…
In any event, I’m a big Hellboy fan and an even bigger fan of Mike Mignola, so I was more than a little curious to see how his most famous creation would fare without his guidance, as Mignola handed over the reigns to a group of creators to do with as they would. And a more varied group of creators one would be hard-pressed to find.
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The book opens with a bang, kicking things off with a John Cassaday story that is, in fact, the standout of the issue. Therein, Hellboy meets fellow B.P.R.D. agents Abe Sapien and Liz at the site of a haunted circus in rural Germany. Not only is Cassaday’s art breathtakingly good (making me long for the days when Planetary actually shipped), but also he demonstrates a real mastery of both the character’s style of story and the form itself. The plot is established, a bit of exposition moves things from the introduction to the conflict and resolution is swiftly and satisfyingly found; one could not ask for a more textbook-perfect short comic book story.
The stories that follow are varied, to say the least. Andi Watson’s is a slice-of-life style piece about Hellboy’s birthday. Invited to a carnival by Liz, his abnormal size and impressive physical attributes make normal carnival games a dangerous proposal, inspiring a bit of introspection on Hellboy’s part. However, Watson ends on an upbeat note, though it never feels forced or hurried.
Fabian Nicieza scripts and Stefano Raffaele pencils a story that breaks away from Hellboy for a bit to focus on the influence of one of his most famous nemeses, Baba Yaga (of Dancing Hut fame). The story feels a bit more compacted that the preceding two and has a less-than-satisfying ending, but is nonetheless a nice change of pace, in that it denotes a willingness to delve into the supporting cast of the Hellboy books rather than simply focus on the titular character himself.
John Cassaday wraps the issue up with a two-page, Golden Age style piece regarding Lobster Johnson, Hellboy’s childhood hero (himself a bit of a Sandman/Blue Beetle-type of guy), which is scheduled to continue in the next issue (and presumably all the following issues).
The real selling point of the book is that all the creators involved have been allowed to play to their own strengths. For example, Andi Watson and Hellboy are not creators and characters that one generally associates with each other. However, what I infer to be a lack of editorial interference allows Watson to craft a story that is both appropriate to the character and suited to his style of writing and art.
In the end, Hellboy: Weird Tales #1 is comprised of a diverse group of creators and stories, but when they’re put under one roof, they all seem to fit. And Hellboy never once falls through a floor.