|Review by Clay N Ferno|
Hellboy embarks on his first mission with the B.P.R.D. Team and wouldn’t you know it, there are demon monkeys, drunken priests and someone out to get the Big Red One.
Returning to Hellboy for the first time since 2003 is frequent Bendis collaborator Alex Maleev for art duties on this Mike Mignola & John Arcudi penned tale set in 1952.
Of course, regular Hellboy colorist Dave Stewart joins the fun on this fantastic adventure.
Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1952 is part mystery, part adventure story and explores some growth and development to how Hellboy came up in our world.
The 5 issue series is collected in one volume to hit shelves next week. This is a highly recommended addition to your Hellboy collection and also a great introduction this world as it focuses on a younger Hellboy and Maleev’s art fits the world of the B.P.R.D. so well.
Hellboy fanatics have likely grabbed these issues in floppy form, or perhaps are waiting until this trade drops to line up the spines perfectly with their other Hellboy volumes. However you end up consuming this (Dark Horse is finally on ComiXology, FYI), be prepared for some familiar faces as well as some creepy introductions.
Mignola admits to being a bit of a control freak when it comes to other artists drawing his stories. What evolved from tweaking camera angles on Alex’s initial sketches eventually became Mike sending his own thumbnails to the artist. I’m sure the two got along fine, however. The pages and storytelling have the patina of classic Mignola Hellboy tales or old vampiric horror movies. You know how you feel when you read Hellboy Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction? You feel the same here.
I consider myself a Hellboy fan, I enjoy the movies and am crossing my big red fingers that Ron Perlman can influence Hollywood to revisit Hellboy III (though at a panel I moderated in 2013 for Mr. Mignola, he insisted that Hellboy III either can’t or won’t happen). I am by no means a completist of the Hellboy or B.P.R.D. oeuvre.
That’s entirely OK, you don’t need to be either.
For someone to have created a world/universe what have you for his most famous creation, Mignola seems to still subscribe to the ‘every comic is someone’s first comic’ attitude. I’ve never been lost reading a Hellboy story arc for lack of research.
I suppose that could be sort of obvious with this one, as the story is a prequel. Longtime fans still have Easter Eggs and spooky occult characters they recognize as well. Vavara, a sweet little girl demon that is impressed by Professor Bruttenholm appears twice, bookending the story and hinting there is more to come.
The big bad reveal is another familiar face, dare I say head, goose-stepping an army of undead creepoids onto our small team that was sent to Brazil by the B.P.R.D..
Hellboy has his first and fateful swig of booze (though I’m sure he’s snuck into Bruttenholm’s stash once or twice) in Brazil and also has to deal with people not liking him overtly as he is out in the field. There is an interesting team dynamic where he has allies in Archie and Susan Xiang, but he’s got tension with teammates Jacob Stegner and Bob Amsel.
There have been a series of murders happening in this small Brazilian village. An older caretaker woman Miss Isadora sets up the team with a place to stay and Cachaca, while the village priest is suspicious of the team’s activity in the quaint town.
Another outside operation is in full swing in the village, as Sergio Vega is producing movies in a 17th century Portuguese prison converted into a soundstage. This prison also becomes the backdrop for action later in the book.
Young boy Olavo of the village makes fast friends with a young Hellboy (who at this point is fully grown, I assure you) that has been ordered to wear a B.P.R.D.- issue t-shirt that looks more ‘Ramones’ than government issue (far be it from me to point out a punk rock anachronism in a beautifully drawn comic about demons, Nazi’s and the occult, this should be furthest from my mind!).
Like all good mysteries or police procedurals, this book reveals what may be hidden it’s shadows when you least expect it and clues to the mystery and what is fishy about filmmaker Sergio Vega comes to light.
I hope this magical team of Mignola & Arcudi/Maleev and Stewart continues to tell more of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1952 era and beyond. Mike left himself plenty of time gaps from World War II to the present day to cover and revisit and successfully has done so.
The trade comes with a new trade dress cover by Mignola and Stewart, original Maleev covers as chapter introductions sans logos, and a decent amount of the aforementioned backwater with sketches (even a reveal of Mike requesting ‘green Lovecraftian goo’).
For first timers and those into the long haul with Hellboy, here is a highly satisfying story with amazing art, dying to get onto your shelves.