A new series starring Hellboy is kind of a big deal, especially since he’s in hell and all. The participating writers/reviewers of Comic Bastards will give their thoughts on the issue along with a score. Before that though, here’s what the issue is about from Dark Horse Comics: A bizarre series of murders and rumors of something worse lead Professor Bruttenholm to send a young Hellboy to a Brazilian village on his first mission. Hellboy and a small group of agents uncover something terrible in the shadows of a sixteenth-century Portuguese fortress . . .
Hellboy and all byproducts thereof constitute a significant blind spot in my nerd cred. That’s exactly why I wanted to check this book out, seeing Hellboy’s first B.P.R.D. mission as a rare opportunity to start catching up. Not being able to compare this to much else Hellboy-related, I really enjoyed this first issue, not because there’s tons of action (like I expected), but rather because of how eerily normal this world, not to mention Hellboy’s place in it, feels. Thanks in large part to the brilliant use of color by Dave Stewart over Alex Maleev’s alternatively stoney and soft art, Hellboy pops out in this story like a fresh wound you politely don’t point out. The story simmers similarly in setup, with characters that are well-formed, but act mostly as a backdrop against which Hellboy will grow into his own. My only real problem is that the issue seems to end about a page or two too early; on a cool panel, sure, but at an underwhelming point. Still, with solid writing, great art and an incredible use of color, I think I finally found my portal to the Mignolaverse.
Outside the view BPRD issues I’ve read for this site, I haven’t spent much time in Mike Mignola’s Hellboy universe. However, when I saw this entry point, I jumped at the chance to get in on it. The fact that Alex Maleev was also on this was just a nice bonus. What makes Maleev such a great artist for this story is that you cannot look at his work without as not taking place in the real world, suiting the tone of Hellboy’s first mission, which seems to exist at a time when Hellboy is one of the very few supernatural beings known about in the world. Interested in showing how Hellboy becomes an active BPRD field agent, I really liked how Dave Stewart’s washed out colors made Hellboy standout whether he’s in a study or in the back of a truck, illustrating Hellboy as the oddity much of colleagues view him as.
This issue doesn’t provide much of a sense about the mystery surrounding Hellboy’s first mission, but I was happy enough with Mignola’s depiction of Hellboy’s intereaction with his father and colleagues. With great efficiency, we’re introduced to the full team, and provided a sense of each of their personalities through their dialogue, and more specifically, their treatment of Hellboy. Interestingly, Hellboy has hard any dialogue himself, and his personality seems purposefully ambiguous at this term, Maleev covering him in shadows at times to make him appear menacing. Although there are other hints that this story might further explore Hellboy’s demonic origins, I hope that this series doesn’t simply rethread material about whether he’s inherently evil or not.
I definitely thought I would like this issue more and honestly it’s not bad, it’s just not great. The only problem I really had with the issue was the pacing. The pacing kills the story as we jump between numerous moments in Hellboy’s history and unlike other Mignolaverse stories you really need to know where in the timeline this moment’s fall in order to have a grasp of where in the lore it’s taking place.
I did really enjoy the dialogue though as it was believable and captured the era. There’s also something really cool about a young Hellboy on his first mission. You know he’s going to mess up, but it’s going to be a hell of a ride.
Alex Maleev is an interesting addition to the stable of artists that have worked on the universe, but he brings his craft and look to the series and it works. His style kind of spoils you with the skill and level of detail. Not to mention that his Hellboy is just cool looking. The issue definitely could have been better, but really it was the pacing more than anything else. Once they nail that I see good things in this series’ future.
To say I’ve been excited for Hellboy and the BPRD for a minute is an understatement. I think Alex Maleev is one of the finest artists working in comics right now and he has been for a decade. Plus, one of the biggest things that bothers me about Hellboy is the fact that it’s not chronological--we skip from Hellboy showing up during Project Ragna Rok to him being gruff and old and badass. I wanted to see that character development, here it is.
My problem with it is that it’s crazy boring. We are told an unbelievable amount of information, instead of being shown. I think the biggest action piece in the entire issue is a vision Prof. Bruttenholm has of Hellboy as a demon over burning Paris--that’s on the fourth page. After that, a whole lot of dudes (and one lady) standing around talking about how Hellboy probably isn’t ready. The issue ends on such a non-cliffhanger as to not even be an appropriate issue break... They have an artist of Maleev’s character and they’re afraid to show the killings they’re investigating? I mean, shit, Hellboy himself is only in probably six panels total? Let the guy work.
This is all not to say that I won’t be back for more issues. When they (hopefully) inevitably reveal the monster and Maleev gets to draw it in its full splendor, I wanna be first in line for that. But if it’s going to be a comic where people tell each other things we should be able to pick up through action, while there ISN’T really any action? I’m out soon.
Writers: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi Artist: Alex Maleev Colorist: Dave Stewart Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 12/3/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital