Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson
Artist: Laurence Campbell
Letterer: Clem Robins
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Release Date: 15th September 2021
Hellboy and Agent Susan Xiang are on the hunt for copies of Gustav Strobl’s Witchcraft & Demonology, which someone has foolishly published as a mass market paperback leading to some major headaches for the B.P.R.D. Seeking the last copy in Dayton Ohio, Hellboy and Xiang find themselves at the door of Gladys Stemple, a woman for whom the unhappy home she inhabits with her husband, son and ageing mother have become a hellish prison.
I was less than gushing about the last Hellboy story I read, however I’m pleased to say that Family Ties presents a return to the kind of Hellboy story I love. This is a taut, economical one-shot that is truly chilling in places. Invoking the name of Gustav Strobl immerses us in a storyline that spans the earliest days of our heroes’ adventures, from the tales of Sir Edward Grey “witchfinder”, to the events concluding in Hell on Earth.
While the name itself might not immediately ring bells, there are over 25 years of tales in the Mignolaverse that have in some way or other been influenced by the actions of Gustav Strobl. If you are a regular reader of Hellboy, The B.P.R.D., or indeed any of the other titles in the Mignolaverse, then this will (at least it did for me) add an extra layer of depth to the story. If you are a casual reader or relatively new to the franchise then I would heartily recommend digging deeper into the stories that sculpted the stories we are seeing today.
This story of demonic possession is as much about how poisonous and imprisoning family relationships can become, as the demonic entity haunting the Stemple’s and for me there’s something of the old Hellblazer stories in the way this is delivered. While there is a time and a place for the more light-hearted Hellboy stories (if any can truly be called light-hearted), I’ve always been drawn to the ones with a darker heart; and the family tensions driving the events really add another layer to the darkness.
Laurence Campbell’s artwork in this book is really great, on the one hand capturing the typical style of the Mignolaverse and on the other harking back to horror titles such as Creepy, Eerie, and Tales from the Crypt. While I will always love the original artwork for Hellboy, I am becoming far less of a snob when it comes to the artwork on the newer series. Okqy, some may have not worked for me over the years, but there are some fantastic creators that have/are working on the Mignolaverse and they are putting their own stamp on the series predominantly with great success.
While I’ve found some of the stories a bit hit and miss over the last couple of years, and as I’ve said above, this is a great return to form for Team Mignolaverse. Long may it continue.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek