HELLBOY: THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS HC
Written by Mike Mignola
Art by Duncan Fergredo and Dave Stewart
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Release date: October 23, 2013
Few comic titles have a steady run of main title releases with as quality story (even in the spin-off comic titles) as the Hellboy series. While the ongoing efforts of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, as well as Hellboy himself, have been covered in print, novels, and two films, very little has been touched on about the start of Hellboy’s life with the Bureau — or, our world as a whole. A comic released in 1999 entitled “Pancakes” touched on one of the more charming aspects of young Hellboy, but we have had very little to do with his beginning as readers for quite some time.
Hellboy: The Midnight Circus serves as a fascinating glimpse into quite a few aspects of the Hellboy universe while also honoring multiple classic stories in horror/fantasy literature, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Pinocchio among them. In terms of borrowing from previous literary texts, yet still honoring and expanding the Hellboy mythos, The Midnight Circus succeeds.
The Midnight Circus tells a very, very simple story: Hellboy, having become fed up with his treatment as just a kid by some of the military Bureau staff, runs off the premises. As he explores the outside world he comes upon a strange, other-worldly circus. The added lore of who serves as the Master of Circus is a great touch to add to the lore Hellboy fans know and love. However, it certainly is not commented on explicitly in the comic and will not ruin the enjoyment of the comic should the del Toro films be a reader’s only knowledge of Hellboy.
Themes of growing up, rebellious defiance, and Nature vs. Nurture pepper the pages in ways that are both well written and not heavy handed when the source material is considered. The comic runs less than 60 pages yet the story feel well-crafted and a good excerpt from Hellboy’s life — fleshing out the character in ways his adult exploits cannot do. There is a simple series of panels in which Hellboy reveals he stole cigarettes and matches, which says as much about Hellboy’s character as the Seventh Revelation of Arnot de Falvy lore does.
Returning to the aforementioned literary nods to other classic stories, Hellboy’s narrative plot is heavily bolstered by Pinocchio and Something Wicked This Way Comes, but these nods are wonderful and they add to the fun of the story. One moment even mirrors the use of the Fox and Cat characters from the book by Carlo Collodi. The characters of the Fox and Cat are re-cast as, quite possibly, some of the creepiest kinds of villains a child can wander up upon while being lost in the woods. The panels with Hellboy, Fox, and Cat are chilling, as is a moment where Hellboy is forced to experience seeing Professor Broom, his adopted/heart-father, freeze to death while Hellboy believes himself powerless to save the one man who cares most for him in the whole human world.
The chilling impact of The Midnight Circus cannot be described unless the fantastic art of Duncan Fergredo is brought up. Fergredo’s fabulous art might best be recognized from his work on Vertigo’s Lucifer, DC Comic’s run of Doom Patrol in 1992, numerous Judge Dredd titles, and comic covered from work set in the Hellboy universe such as B.P.R.D: Hell on Earth. Very, very special words of praise must also be given to colorist Dave Stewart. Together with the colors of Mr. Stewart and the art of Mr. Fergredo, The Midnight Circus truly does seem to come to life. The art at the comic’s beginning switches from the popular Mignola-style to the lush, vibrant work that the Fergredo/Stewart team has perfected. The moment Hellboy steps foot into the mysterious Circus he steps into a world that literally looks different on the page. The impact of this dual art-style is incredible and worth the price of the comic alone.
Hellboy: The Midnight Circus is an amazingly drawn and colored piece of art that serves as a wonderful homage to older tales, but it also adds to the rich Hellboy universe. While the story is short, it serves as a window into what is a genuinely large comic universe, and the journey into the circus is one not to be missed.
The Verdict: 9.0/10