Long-time Hellboy readers know that the "Beast of the Apocalypse" has dabbled in romance a handful of times but his flings were brief, albeit powerful. With their new series, Hellboy in Love, the powers that be in the franchise have decided to explore the idea with a little more nuance, plus it finally gives those with the hots for monsters some representation in another mainstream comic book series. Though just a five-issue mini-series, the beginnings of this meet cute are already delivering on what the cover promises, the tragedy naturally being that we already know how Hellboy's story ends. That said, what would life be without a whirlwind summer fling that could define you, especially when your entire life has been people telling you what you are like Hellboy's has been.
Set in the late 1970s, an era that has been mostly unexplored in the larger Hellboy canon, the series picks up with Big Red given the task of finding some troublesome goblins that are robbing train passengers. The first issue sees them stealing from the wrong person, newly-introduced character Anastacia, an archeologist whose belongings are the target of the goblins but also of potential great interest to Hellboy. Anastacia has a theory after all, one that ties larger magic users and cult practices to a specific place and people in time... What's interesting about this particular subplot is that it seems poised to become hugely significant for the larger Hellboy universe but for now, with the promise of love in the air, it doesn't feel terribly notable.
Though Mike Mignola's name is on the cover, it's unclear what he contributed beyond a stamp of approval. One of his regular collaborators, writer Christopher Golden, is credited with the story however, with Matt Smith on art and Chris O'Halloran on colors. Smith and O'Halloran previously made a name for themselves as an artistic team in Hellboy circles with their work on Hellboy: The Bones of Giants. This adaptation of the Mignola/Golden storyline that saw him picking up the hammer of Thor was rich from a visual standpoint, with the pair delivering a unique style that seemed to be channeling the best things about Mignola's own illustrations.
Smith continues his tactic of focusing on the things in each panel that really make his work feel Mignola-esque. The larger use of black space in particular is a quintessential tactic, plus some smaller reactionary panels that appear within the bigger images to sell the subtlety of character throughout. Ironically, Smith also includes a lot of things that Mignola himself doesn't like to draw, additions like cars and, yes, Hellboy's feet. All that is to say that Smith could become the mainstay of Hellboy artists in the 2020s – his work manages to capture a lot about what works from Mignola's own without feeling like a facsimile.
As for the narrative content of Hellboy in Love, this first issue literally hits the ground running, but quickly finds a firm foundation in its story. Despite his own self-conscious feelings, it's easy to see why Anastacia could fall for Hellboy. Her playground style of flirting only elicits profound confusion, which makes it funny to witness and will make the eventual romantic payoff even sweeter. I'd also be remiss if I didn't give a special shout out to the goblins in the issue, each of which have their own personality rather than being near-identical little monsters.
Hellboy in Love is not only telling a unique storyline for the larger franchise, it's doing so with some of the best talents outside of Mike Mignola himself. Considering the decades of lore that are open to Hellboy storytelling it makes sense for this one to arrive where it does, but the eventual fate of Hellboy and his other romantic plot threads don't take away from what seems to be a unique offering on the whole. There's something in the air with Hellboy in Love and it's not just romance, it's the makings of the next great Hellboy story.
Published by Dark Horse Comics
On October 19, 2022
Written by Christopher Golden
Art by Matt Smith
Colors by Chris O'Halloran
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover by Matt Smith0comments