Almost every single comic franchise has done a Christmas special, whether they are a childhood idol recounting a famous Dickens classic, a league hero connecting with the common folk through a good deed on Christmas Eve or it is just plain Christmas everywhere and not even our caped crusaders can hide from it. All that a special Christmas issue needs is the setting, the date and some sort of mention of yuletide merriment. Hellboy: A Christmas Underground (the first story featured in an anthology Christmas issue), for instance, has all these things without being a specifically Christmas story, it’s actually very clever and more than just a little creepy.
The story progresses suddenly, being that it is a single story you need to capture the reader’s attention pretty quickly. Hellboy happens to stumble upon his answer quickly but that doesn’t mean that you really know exactly what is going on until the very last page. Leave it to Mignola to create an intriguing mystery in only twenty three pages. You’re not left wondering what’s happened nor are you left with the feeling that you have read something tediously simple, you’re left with an understanding of a world that’s been created and a vague sense of intrigue that only a good short story can give. A reader who has never read any Hellboy before could pick up this issue and enjoy it, it doesn’t rely on the character’s previous history, it doesn’t rely on you already having an understanding of the character’s attitudes and it doesn’t insult your intelligence by trying to explain it all anyway, it’s just a really cool little story about family, sacrifice and redemption, all the really important things about Christmas.
Being that it is Hellboy week, choosing to read a one shot story by Mike Mignola set in the Hellboy universe is a fantastic way to either introduce yourself to the character or to simply appreciate great comic storytelling. The Hellboy comic universe is rich in character, drama, humour and wit, what better way to appreciate all that it is than by sinking your teeth into a well-crafted Christmas special, making something that is normally a tedious activity for some writers into an interesting and atmospheric mystery.