Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola present a collection of short stories written by various authors in Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors.
Written by Christopher Golden, Jonathan Maberry, Michael Rowe, Seanan McGuire, Paul Tremblay, Laird Barron, Chris Priestley, Chelsea Cain, E. Lily Yu, Chris Roberson, Kealan Patrick Burke, Richard Kadrey, Weston Ochse, Delilah Dawson, Angela Slatter, Rio Youers, and Nathan Ballingrud
Illustrated by Mike Mignola and Chris Priestley
Edited by Christopher Golden
Sixteen of the biggest names in weird literature come together to pay tribute to Hellboy and the characters of Mike Mignola’s award-winning line of books! Assembled by Joe Golem and Baltimore cowriter Christopher Golden and featuring illustrations by Mike Mignola and Chris Priestley, the anthology boasts sixteen original stories by the best in horror, fantasy, and science fiction, including Seanan McGuire (October Daye series), Chelsea Cain (Heartsick), Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger series), and more! The new writer of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., iZombie cocreator Chris Roberson, pitches in as well, and Chris Priestley (Tales of Terror) provides a story and an illustration.
I always find it interesting to read prose stories about comic book characters. Prose is a different artform than comics and it is not always easy to see how everything will translate over smoothly. However, even though I had some initial apprehension, once I started reading the short-stories included in Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors, I quickly realized each of my favorite characters (Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, Roger, and many more) were waiting for me and written in a way that was as familiar an experience as when reading a comic book.
Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors is the fourth anthology of short stories published by Dark Horse books and edited by long-time “Hellboy” collaborator Christopher Golden. The book includes sixteen short stories written by different authors, each with their own take on the Hellboy Universe. The stories range from eight to twenty-six pages, and include a beautiful black and white illustration before the start of each section. Each illustration was created by Mike Mignola, with the exception of one by Chris Priestly that was presented before his tale, to set the tone for the upcoming story.
What I love about a collection of stories from several different writers, as opposed to a single author, is that it showcases many different writing styles and varying character viewpoints. This anthology includes stories from first person and third person points-of-view, along with characters ranging from the core B.P.R.D. team to Hellboy to other individuals involved in the narrative (pedestrians, other B.P.R.D. members, etc.). Whether the story was about a new B.P.R.D. agent on his first mission, Liz Sherman as a teenager running away from the Bureau on a journey of self-discovery, or Hellboy on an adventure in New York to solve supernatural murders, the stories were fun and entertaining.
However, some stories were better than others. In fact, I thought a couple were a little shallow and had pacing issues. Fortunately, these stories were few and far between and outweighed by the good ones.
I want to go a little deeper to give a better feel of the stories in this anthology, so I am going to analyze three stories I feel exemplify the quality of this book. Minor spoilers ahead.
“The Promised Smile” by Rio Youers — This story is about a new B.P.R.D. agent (Casper Morrow) who is sent into the field for the first time to investigate the disappearance of a rich man’s wife and is assigned to work with Hellboy. Youers presents the story from the first person point of view of Casper allowing the reader to understand what it is like to be a newbie in the field. We learn Casper has a lot of insecurities about being a new B.P.R.D. field agent, which comes out during their mission as he tries to prove himself to Hellboy. While on the surface this is a story about Casper and Hellboy putting themselves into peril to save a kidnapped woman from a witch, at its core it is about developing Casper as a well-rounded and real character that we end up caring about by the end of the story.Continued below
“The Other Side of Summer” by Chris Roberson — This story takes place in 1950 and is a tale of friendship between a girl named Ginny and a young Hellboy. Overall the story shows the innocence of two kids as they become friends and go on an adventure. Throughout the story Roberson does a great job of giving depth to the young Hellboy, who is an insecure adolescent that wants to present himself as a strong individual, and Ginny, who is a smart, compassionate little girl who doesn’t see Hellboy as anything other than a little boy (instead of a demon). While on their adventure they grow a bond through discussion of a traumatic moment from Hellboy’s past and showing compassion for an unknown mysterious creature.
“Fire is the Devil’s Only Friend” by Michael Rowe — A special needs girl named Hazel is in danger, and she uses her psychic powers to reach out to Hellboy for help. This story is presented from the perspective of multiple people including Hazel’s mother Katrina, Hellboy as he searches for the girl, and the man who is going to hurt Hazel (whose name I won’t say due to spoilers). One of the things Michael Rowe did exceptionally well here was to not write any of the action sequences, but instead use changes in character perspective (like scene breaks) to leave gaps in the action and then use characters’ inner monologues to reflect on what transpired allowing readers to use their imagination to figure out what happened. In addition, while the characters were reflecting, Rowe presented each in a way that made their emotions permeate from the page and made me feel for them in various ways. I felt sympathy for Katrina as she worried about her daughter and thought about her frustrations of trying to make ends meet as a single working class mother, disdain for the man who is going to hurt Hazel as his motivations slowly became clear showing him to be a callous sociopath, and empathy for Hazel as her fears and emotions were presented through Hellboy’s eyes via their psychic connection.
From the perspective of how these stories fit into the Hellboy Universe, there is no mention as to if they are canon or not. My impression after reading the book is most are ‘Weird Tales’ (non-canon stories), however, “The Other Side of Summer” seemed like it was canon. The reason being Chris Roberson makes references to events that transpired with Hellboy in 1949 during the comic “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Devil’s Wings.” No other short stories in this anthology make reference to the core Mignolaverse narrative. Maybe this story is not canon and the reference to 1949 is just due Roberson’s vast knowledge of the Hellboy Universe from writing “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.,” however I did enjoy “The Other Side of Summer” and would prefer to think of it as a canon.
Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors lives up to its name, for better or worse. Some stories didn’t work for me, but others soared. Where it really succeeds in the variety of its authors’ voices— Michael Rowe and Rio Youers were great at finding the vulnerability in the characters and exploring them intimately, while Chris Roberson had a focus on young innocence, and Chris Priestly went for a mood-based piece. An Assortment of Horrors delves into so many different corners of this universe, I’ve no doubt any Mignolaverse fan will find something to enjoy.
Final verdict: 7. A pleasant journey through the many facets of the Hellboy Universe.