Written by Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson
Art by Christopher Mitten, Ben Stenbeck
Published by Dark Horse Books
“Get us another round and I’ll tell you about the time that she got into a drinking competition with a tamed grizzly bear that ended in a forest fire.”
A book can’t help but be delightful when it contains lines such as that, and Hellboy: The Silver Lantern Club delivers oodles of delights.
In a time when “universes” of lore are littering the TV and film landscape these 14 years into the MCU – I mean, even Yellowstone, the most popular show on TV, now has a “universe” – it’s nice to go back to comics and see that all done well.
Even though Hellboy’s main story is long finished, Mignola and company keep finding a bunch more new stories to tell along Big Red’s history and those connected to him.
And so we sit in a London pub in 1953 and hear tales of the famed Silver Lantern Club, a B.P.R.D. of its own and clear inspiration to Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. Not just because of the Silver Lantern Club’s capers investigating paranormal cases, but because a member of that club was Simon Bruttenholm, who later became Trevor’s uncle.
Over ever-accumulating pints of ale, Simon Bruttenholm relates tales from his time with the Silver Lantern Club, a diverse array of characters that is not only interesting but would seem tailor-made for a good TV series.
British occultist Sir Edward Grey; American brash broad Sarah Jewell, always with a cigar; a mystic, Lady Bai; and Indian soldier Major Singh. (At a time when the sun never set on the British Empire, more comics that dug into the realities of imperialism through the paranormal would be interesting.)
I love how this series hits upon themes of history and cycles repeating. And of late, I have been thinking a lot about how long people’s direct hand on history lasts. We think about the 1950s a particular way, long divorced from the Victorians. However, many a Victorian (the era lasted 1837 to 1901) would have been still alive, and their influence still strong through their children and grandchildren. The past is always a lot closer than we think.
This hardcover collects Hellboy: The Silver Lantern Club #1–#5 and then tosses in new, original art plus a character sketchbook and some process breakdowns of issues from mini-sketches to pencils to overlaid inks and finishes.
My favorite bits are how, in every story Simon tells issue by issue, the case always turns on some comically relatable bit of human business.
Chapter 1 has a great example of “unplug it, and plug it back in” as a solution. Or, in Chapter 4, meet Sir Edward Grey’s friend who is a Russian werewolf hunter and needs barrels of booze to function because, what, you’d rather fight a werewolf sober?
Each story gives the reader more insight into these characters, from Grey’s obsessions with the Heliotropic Brotherhood of Ra, to Singh’s dutiful practicality, to breakout character Jewell’s boldness and sharp-witted insights. In Chapter 2, for instance, she’s the only one who goes and canvasses the women around the area of investigation while the men stand around and theorize.
I don’t want to give much more away of these tales. Go forth and seek them out for yourself. They would well for folks even barely familiar with Hellboy, which makes them all the better as “universe” expansion.