Hellboy / Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice – Evan Dorkin with Mike Mignola

4 out of 5

In the letters pages to this one-shot, in response to the Beasts of Burden mini-series, a writer asks for an ongoing series. Absolutely agreed, and then I’d take a spin-off ongoing series that’s Hellboy and the B.o.B. Sure, sure, I can understand that it’d be difficult to continually come up with threats that are threatening to both lil’ spook-familiar animals and a big ol’ punchy demon, but I’m sure it could be done.

Yes: that’s an endorsement for this issue and concept. HB is the perfect drift-in, drift-out character: he’s nearby Burden Hill on a B.P.R.D. task, when he spots a curious dog who leads him to a meeting of our favorite pups and cats crew, discussing some recent problems that’ve been happening. It’s entirely natural (and hilarious) for Hellboy to accept the off-page explanation of talking animals and whatnot with a shrug, and then to implicitly agree to help them out, leading to a cave expedition with lots of rats and lots of punching. With Mike Mignola assisting Dorkin on HB’s dialogue, the character’s jovial nature is fully intact, and Jill Thompson’s scratchy, just-a-dash-of-cartoonishness art style for Burden also ends up being an interestingly wonderful fit for the character, far from the Mignola “house” style of the HB books, and giving the character a bright outlet for his established personality.

At the same time, Thompson isn’t quite fit for the typical Hellboy punching hijinks, though, his moments of action coming across rather stiff, perhaps as Thompson struggles with combining the character’s scale with the animals and a badguy that’s fit for both. I also think Jill’s lower-case lettering could’ve benefited from a different font for HB, just to differentiate him that much more. But the main draw here is the way the worlds, storywise, end up combining so well, with Dorkin’s witty and fun characterizations and the sense of discovery and adventure with which Thompson has imbued their setting.