Hellboy in Love #4
Hellboy and Anastasia find out more about the history of Turkish shadow puppetry than they intended. After their clash with the malevolent shadows of puppet show characters Karagöz and Hacivat, the pair soon find themselves with more than shadow puppets to reckon with! But any possible way out must first lead deeper into the shadows...
HELLBOY IN LOVE #4 is not as directly focused on the relationship between Big Red and Anastasia as previous issues have been. Instead, Christopher Golden opts to finish out the second half of their Shadow Theater arc with a plot focused narrative that carries with it a theme symbolic of our main character’s history together, both past and future.
We pick up with our titular lovebirds right where we left them, stuck in the ancient past. The two take advantage of their current predicament to search for the source of the shadow puppets back in the present day. They wind up coming into conflict with that source, a cursed man who manipulates the story of two workers whose souls remain trapped within their own story, which is one laid out with nothing but pain and misery. Anastasia and Hellboy, after some wonderfully illustrated scenes of action, arrive back in the present through means unbeknownst to them. Decidedly, they realize the only way to stop the cycle of pain these two shadow souls are experiencing is to change the way in which their story is told, healing over that darkness with ease.
What I’ve loved about this series so far is Golden’s dedication to the dialogue and little action dynamics between Hellboy and Anastasia. While this issue reads much heavier as a classic Hellboy story of supernatural mystery rooted in history and long-standing cultural folklore, the theme of re-visiting a person’s story to find the good in order to heal is exactly what this mini-series has set out to do. Anastasia and Hellboy don’t form a lasting relationship, and yet here we are revisiting where their love had come from in the first place. This issue is also book ended by moments of characterization for the two’s love that just irradiates feel-good energy. It is nice to have a comic on the stands that isn’t mired in sending its protagonists to rock bottom in order to fulfill some fantasy of growth. You can grow from the good just as easily as one can misery. There are no narrative tricks here, only an engaging plot with some really great dialogue and even better character dynamics.
The art team on this issue just continues to excel in their work with the level of atmosphere they imbue into every panel. Their fluency in the language of visual storytelling is top-notch. So much of the emotional grief the two shadow souls have experienced is spoken by their expressions and design. So much of this story wouldn’t be as excellently told without them on art duties. Matt Smith and Chris O’Halloran should never be allowed to separate. Everything they touch, even gold, becomes platinum.
HELLBOY IN LOVE #4 offers up the best representation of what this universe of stories can be. It's an entertaining read that utilizes the medium to its strengths with some fantastic art and coloring. If you haven't already dove into this mini-series, now is the time as its first two acts have been completed, leaving you awaiting what is hopefully a tight finish.
Hellboy in Love #4: Partners of the Past
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 8.5/108.5/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10