On the basis of the couple issues of Superman Family Adventures I've enjoyed (exponentially more than the actual Superman book, though that's a comparison designed to skew positive if ever there was one), and the bright-eyed enthusiasm of Tiny Titans devotees I've known (think evangelists with puppy dog eyes), I was all set for some Itty Bitty Joy. This despite being neither an 8 year old, nor responsible for one.
Undeniably cute and colourful (witness Johann sneezing himself out of his containment suit, into a gig as shortstop, and back into said suit, albeit now chicken soup and cracker-filled), Baltazar & Franco familiars won’t be disappointed in the tone, though I confess to feeling the whole comic had the polish of a team working within familiar parameters, and not necessarily looking to redefine them, the "Fort Wars" exchanges feeling particularly hackneyed. I remember Baltazar & Franco's DC work being more involved, the artwork more detailed, where this felt more like what you’d expect of a successful creative team asked to work their usual magic on yet another licensed property. But will an eight-year-old think that? They'll probably be too busy laughing and turning pages as the structure of multiple 4-6 page stories, each with their own pay-offs and pratfalls, whips the reader through the picket fenced yards of Itty Bitty Hellboy's world.
There are moments of real quality, like the nearly two pages of Johann struggling (spoilers?) to control his newly liquid form, in which Baltazar & Franco's physical comedy chops are front and centre. Particular mention should go to Roger the Homunculus's casting as the group's friendly, bush-dwelling "weirdo", his propensity for losing his pants both endearing oddity and Nazi-pranking gold. Roger's consistent, unconditional friendliness anchors the book in real goodwill when it risks getting mired in "Hellboy smash" territory, as too many times the skits follow similar rhythms to red right hand pay-offs.
The key to this book becoming a true all-ages title lies with Roger, the as-yet unused Abe, and the wealth of other truly bizarre supporting characters the Hellboy cast contains. Hellboy himself in strictly one-dimensional in this issue, but making him straight man to a cornucopia of cute kook might not be a bad plan. It worked for Mignola, after all.