Hellboy In Love #4 Review

Writer: Christopher Golden

Artist: Matt Smith

Colorist: Chris O’Halloran

Letterer: Clem Robins

Cover Art: Matt Smith

Publisher: Dark Horse

Price: 3.99

Release Date: March 29, 2023

Hellboy and archeologist Anastasia visit an excavation in Bursa, Turkey. That night puppet shadows attack the workers. Hellboy and Anastasia confront the puppet shadows only to get catapulted six hundred years into the past. What happens next, you ask? Let’s leap into Hellboy In Love #4 and find out!

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In 14th Century Bursa’s marketplace, Hellboy and Anastasia notice characters on a frieze drawn in the style of Turkish puppets. A local puppet maker tells them that Karagoz and Hacivat– two laborers whose humorous antics distracted their fellow workers–died a couple of months ago. Realizing their interest in shadow puppets, he directs them to a puppet theater. When Hellboy bounds in like a bull in a Turkish porcelain shop, the puppeteer casts a spell on him. He and Anastasia join Karagoz and Hacivat on the man’s puppet stage!

Initially, Christopher Golden’s character dialogue confused me. On the first page, Liz Sherman tells Abe Sapien that Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm are angry at each other. In the second, Anastasia asks Hellboy about something in which she has far more experience. I also felt that as no one had ever heard of or seen Hellboy in 14th Century Turkey, his appearance should have shocked and provoked the locals. A second reading of Hellboy In Love #4 brought welcome clarity. I realized Liz felt abandoned, and Anastasia wanted Hellboy to feel like a partner. Given the page-length limits of the comic, I can also understand Golden’s decision to gloss over Hellboy’s appearance in service to his overall story and leave the locals wanting to lynch the stranger in their midst for another story arc.


Like Michael Golden, Matt Smith throws a lot at us in Hellboy In Love #4. Only on my third read-through did I notice that Abe Sapien delivered an envelope to Liz. But then, Matt packs ten panels into that page. Liz’s expression changes as she greets Abe, reads Hellboy’s letter, and realizes how his growing interest in Anastasia could affect her future. Hellboy and Anastasia’s transformation is also worthy of note. While Golden has the characters talk us through their change, Matt shows them become fanciful Turkish puppets. Hellboy and Anastasia look like they belong on the stage with Karagoz and Hacivat: two doomed souls cursed to reenact scenes of comic violence throughout the centuries.

While Matt Smith inks in shadows, Chris O’Halloran provides mood and nuance with his coloring. Liz Sherman and Anastasia look expressive and lifelike (except when the latter becomes a puppet), while Chris gives Abe glowing blue eyes and richly colored green skin. He loads the Turkish marketplace with personality (although perhaps not as much as the Troll Market in Hellboy II: The Golden Army). Hellboy’s skin color changed more understandably throughout Hellboy In Love #4 than in the previous issue and never transformed from red to blue. I enjoyed walking through his 14th Century Turkish market packed with colorful fabrics and hand-painted puppets.

There’s plenty to read in Hellboy In Love #4. Occasionally Clem Robins shrinks easy-to-read uppercase dialogue to eye-straining tiny letters when characters lower their voices. Words grow louder to express shock, and spherical dialogue balloons change shape to suggest outrage or confusion. Clem Robin’s colored narrative boxes locate us in time and space. Colorful sound effects provide contrast and energize fraught action scenes.

Final Thoughts

Before reading became the norm, oral storytelling grounded people in their cultural history. Cosplayers provide a modern equivalent by dressing up as their favorite characters and reenacting scenes from popular movies and TV shows. As society changes with the times, so do the stories it celebrates. Hellboy In Love #4 reminds us how popular stories shape our outlook and influence how we relate to others.


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