There are so many joys to a great Hellboy story of any length, but a particular joy in a very short Hellboy story. Not because longer Hellboy stories overstay their welcome or drag on; quite the opposite — long-form Hellboy stories do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of world-building, character development, and filling gaps in the overall history of the Hellboy Universe.
What makes short Hellboy stories so great is that they never have to worry about all that work. Instead, they can focus on a simple premise, generally an odd, one-off case that that highlights a single oddity in that world. They tend to get wrapped up quickly, rather easily, and if they leave a lot of questions behind that’s only because the world of Hellboy is a very puzzling place.
What’s more, it shows how Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. are constantly working. Their world is jam-packed with ghouls and goblins and giant steel medusa/iron maiden hybrids. This is all just work for these characters, and the hyper-quick, troubling events in Old Man Whittier could just be an example of Hellboy’s average Tuesday.
The story features that old standby of weird fiction, the Inherited Haunted House; Hellboy is accompanying a young woman to her familial estate, which she hasn’t seen since being sent away at the age of four. The house, as you might expect, has a horrible secret. Hellboy stumbles in, as he often does, and bests the evil almost entirely by accident.
Bing. Bang. Literal Boom. It’s a succinct story, fun and creepy, and is accessible no matter your familiarity with the franchise; this is a prime example of an issue a long-time reader can enjoy in the middle of a deep dive. It is also a perfect issue to hand to a friend who has little to no understanding of what they’re getting themselves into.
That’s because Old Man Whittier contains all the charms that are hallmarks of the series, and it’s got eye-poppingly beautiful artwork from Gabriel Hernández Walta, whose style here might not exactly represent the visual style of the franchise to that new reader, but which will nonetheless stun them, cement for them Hellboy’s hulking, gruff, and often bemused presence.
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