Hell­boy: the mid­night cir­cus

Comic Heroes - - Front Page - Mike Mig­nola Dun­can Fe­gredo

WRI TER : Artist: Pub­lisher: Dark Horse Out: Now

The Mid­night Cir­cus is a tale of Hell­boy when he was lit­er­ally a boy, be­fore the sawn-off horns and the cigar-chomp­ing and the “punch first, ask ques­tions later” ap­proach to deal­ing with el­dritch men­aces. It’s 1948, and young Hell­boy has been Trevor Brut­ten­holm’s ward for four years and is chaf­ing against the re­stric­tions im­posed on him as a per­ma­nent res­i­dent at the Con­necti­cut head­quar­ters of the Bureau for Para­nor­mal Re­search and De­fense.

One night, he sneaks off into the woods to smoke his first fag, and is drawn to a sin­is­ter su­per­nat­u­ral cir­cus. Hav­ing watched a phan­tas­magor­i­cal per­for­mance in the Big Top, he is then tempted by a sideshow which of­fers all the lures and en­tice­ments of the adult world. The story ex­plic­itly ref­er­ences Carlo Col­lodi’s Pinoc­chio, while fore­shad­ow­ing events that will un­fold much later in Hell­boy’s life (and in­deed death).

Mig­nola’s script is pitched per­fectly, bal­anc­ing the sin­is­ter and the sen­ti­men­tal in the man­ner of Ray Brad­bury, who him­self up­dated Col­lodi with his tales of dark car­ni­vals that prove dan­ger­ously se­duc­tive to in­no­cent youth.

Fe­gredo’s art, mean­while, is never less than gor­geous. His use of blocky inks mim­ics Mig­nola’s own style for the scenes set in the real world, but he switches to a more or­nate line-and­wash for the fan­tasy realm of the cir­cus and some­thing looser and weirder, akin to the work of Paul Pope or Troy Nixey, for a few pan­els sum­maris­ing Pinoc­chio.

The Mid­night Cir­cus is a tour de force from both cre­ators, and an es­sen­tial pur­chase.

It’s an of­fer Hell­boy just can’t refuse.

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