Beasts of Burden/Hellboy

Written by Mike Mignola and Evan Dorkin

Art by Jill Thompson

Lettering by Jason Arthur

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Review by Zack Kotzer

Hellboy is Dark Horse’s signature demon puncher, drawn exceptionally well while doing so and has been battling the forces of darkness shy of two decades. The Beasts of Burden are a Homeward Bound-style pack of cute pets also defending their community from that which goes bump in the night, also drawn well (thanks to Jill Thompson) and had done so for about a year. A crossover between the two is not only expected but deserving, and it won’t surprise too many that these two properties go together like a ghost and an empty manor.

If you are not familiar with Hellboy, somehow, there isn’t much to know. He doesn’t like demons and ghouls who screw around, and that’s all you’ll need if you’re just walking. If you aren’t familiar with the Beasts of Burden, however, that’s a little bit more understandable, and while this crossover takes place firmly on their side of the universe, Mignola and Dorkin do a good job of balancing out their narrative baggage so that you are both included and hooked to discover more.

Thompson, as usual, is doing a spectacular job. She’s worked with Hellboy before but here it’s given a more picture-book vibe, perhaps due to more humble environments to work with, perhaps because she’s drawing a lot of cute animals. And it’s great that watching Hellboy interact with a myriad of small town pets is adorable, because adorable is an interesting balance to the usual thuggish justice being dealt to the undead. Oh, don’t worry gloom fans, there is still gloom, blood and menacing monsters about in the occult arena, but cute is just the tweak of the element that ends up complimenting both properties. 

When Hellboy met The Goon, it was great, because they were similar but different enough properties crafted by talented creators which needed little justification to display the gooiest of violence. It’s kind of the same thing here, but scampering in the other visual direction.

Dracula: The Company of Monsters #3

Story by Kurt Busiek

Written by Daryl Gregory

Art by Damian Couceiro

Lettering by Johnny Lowe

Published by BOOM! Studios

Review by Zack Kotzer

If you approach the comic rack and are met with a comic using the name ‘Dracula’ in the title, I don’t think anyone should blame you for the sudden weight felt by a newly developed chip on your shoulder. Dracula is a figure whose popularity unwavers regardless of the popularity of his vampire kin. He’s been thrown into just about every scenario you’d expect him in, from lord of darkness to dead and loving it. Kurt Busiek’s a strong writer, but in this field, even the top tier legends can have routine off days. So I came into this new series, Dracula: The Company of Monsters with my defenses up, expecting something along the lines of harmless to forgettable, but it’s certainly nice to be caught off guard from time to time, isn’t it?

This Dracula is sort of a hybrid, not exactly fitting to an archetype of which you’ve come to expect, he’s more of a brutal, supernatural leader than a vampire. Oh, he still likes blood, but he’s not so fixated that he needs to make a pun about the bodily fluid once a page. I’m not a history buff, so I can’t affirm point to point on Busiek’s and Gregory’s non-supernatural historical accuracy, but the writing seems confident that even if it’s far off from truth it all stands to support the story. So this Dracula is more of a cross between history and pop-culture, and even more interesting is how non-horror his situation is while retaining the horrifying. Dracula’s a prisoner of all things, at the bane of Conrad, a corporate tycoon who plans to use his mystical abilities in a company takeover so genre-over-the-top it almost humbles Inception.

Being given a crash course in history and humanity, Dracula is more disgusted at the monstrosity of contemporary society, and it’s rubbing off on our troubled hero, Evan, who’s  also starting to personally redefine the brands of good and evil. Conrad, his family and partner in scheming is willing to harm the jobs and well being of hundreds, while Dracula boasts that while he spilled much blood in ways history would never forget, it was all done for the protection of his people. It’s no longer a battle against the forces of darkness (though don’t worry, there’s some action if you need it) it is a battle against the forces of corruption. It’s an incredibly interesting new take on one of fiction’s most over-used characters, which really says a lot. Better yet, it asks if you’re acquainted with one tyrant and familiar to the other, which one is the devil you know and the devil you don’t?

Read any comics so far this week?

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