In Review: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1955–Occult Intelligence #1

Two continents of supernatural delights for readers to be swallowed by. Recommended.

The cover: A seagull unknowingly rests upon the scaffolding that’s holding up the e-bomb, the newest force of destruction created by the U.S. government. In the foreground is Hellboy holding a gun. The world can breathe a little more at ease knowing that he’s watching this weapon of mass destruction. Underneath him is Reynolds Air Force Base, located in the Marshall Islands. This cover shows reader the protagonist, the setting, and the device that will drive this series’ plot. This painted cover resembles both a paperback cover and a movie poster. Heck, I’d purchase a print of this if it were the dimensions of a poster. Outstanding job by Paolo Rivera. Overall grade: A

The story: September 1955 in the Marshall Islands of the South Pacific, a crab watches two soldiers heft a heavy object using a scaffold. The larger man notices that the bomb doesn’t look anything like an a-bomb. The thinner man says that he heard some of the “eggs” back at the base talking about it, but he doesn’t get to finish his sentence because they hear a noise. They turn and a giant shadow envelopes them. They run as quickly as they can, but it’s no use, they’re knocked down. The sounds SHLURRK, CHOK, and SPLAT come from off panel, with their blood splattering the bomb. Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson’s story then turns to Reynolds Air Force Base where Hellboy complains that it’s taking forever to get home. B.P.R.D. agents Woodrow Farrier, Jacob Stegner, and Archie Muraro emerge from the plane behind him, with the latter telling Hellboy and Woody to find someone to refuel their plane. Stretching their legs, Jacob and Archie have words about Archie’s personal life, but this line of conversation stops when Muraro sees an old friend. The relationship reignited, the men go where soldiers tend to hang out on a base. The story then temporarily moves to England where Professor Bruttenholm and two other individuals touch on time and the future, with the professor pondering something. Back at the base, Archie’s old friend recounts some tales of mysterious events that pilots have witnessed, while a background character reveals himself to be something much more than others think. The start to this series is great, with the characters easily introduced, a mysterious threat of gargantuan measure shown, and a foreign power that’s nipping at the heels of those on the base. The scenes in England see a character’s power growing and the professor suspect something hidden at home. If one were to think that this only sets up the pieces, a threat comes ashore on the final four pages to make the title character’s life hell. This is how to start a series. Overall grade: A

The art: With stories set in the past, any artist that works in Hellboy’s early years must be able to create a believable environment in addition to creating arcane horrors. The first page has all the hallmarks of a John Ford film: a pacific island, some local fauna, and two military men working on “something.” The shadow that blackens the pair at the top of Page 2 is set up as sweetly as a film director. This also goes for the final page two, as carnage is occurring off panel, though blood splatters on the bomb, which is slowly brought closer to the reader. This exciting tease transitions to a neat panel of the airbase, ultimately falling on a glorious image of Hellboy. Each member of the cast is then clearly revealed to the reader, which is the way character should be shown in the opening installment of a series. Take a look at the fourth panel at the bottom of Page 4 and how the characters are standing; their posture adds much to their dialogue. This posture really contributes to the dialogue on the following page, with recognition, a handshake, a sizing up, a bit of embarrassment, and a shock showing that artist Brian Churilla knows exactly how to make the visuals match the art. The final panel on 8 foreshadows concern that will have a major impact on this story, much in the same way fifth panel on the following page does so without dialogue. I really like the change up in art styles for the friend’s recollection on 10 — it looks like the art from a 1950’s war comic. The top of 14 has an excellent shocking surprise, which is countered by a supernatural occurrence at the bottom of the page. 20 introduces the antagonist of the issue and it looks great — familiar enough to readers, but with enough changes to make it surprising and deadly. Yeah, Chruilla is acing this book’s visuals. Overall grade: A

The colors: As with the art, the colors assist the story smartly. The first page starts with the faded colors of a distant island, becoming just a bit brighter as the focus pulls into shore. The men raising the bomb stand out well against the light green foliage. The action that takes them out in the third panel on Page 2 is bright, but not as bright as their life fluids which speckle the bomb, accompanied by ill colored orange sounds. Hellboy is the brightest object in this book from colorist Dave Stewart. He’s a bright crimson that instantly catches the eye. The men and the setting around him are the washed-out colors of a military base: tans, greens, and browns. London’s exteriors are wonderfully brown, creating a sense of fog even if he hasn’t been penciled in by Churilla. When the threat appears at the book’s end, the colors go bright and bold in the best of classic comics. Stewart always does good work. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clem Robins creates scene settings and character summaries (the same font), dialogue, screams, and sounds. I’m always happy to see a letterer use a different font for character summaries and narration, as they are two different forms of communication, they should look differently. Having the font be the same for the scene settings and these character explanations makes perfect sense since it comes across as a narrator providing the information. The sounds in this book are great, starting with the off panel violence of the second page and blossoming into full-on monstrous action on the final pages. Overall grade: A

The final line: A story smoothly presenting characters and problems combined with visuals that create an authentic and fanciful past make this perfect reading. Two continents of supernatural delights for readers to be swallowed by. Recommended. Overall grade: A

To order a print copy go to https://www.tfaw.com/Comics/Profile/Hellboy-and-the-B.P.R.D.-1955—Occult-Intelligence-1___545874?utm_source=darkhorse&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=darkhorse_buy&utm_term=buy+Hellboy+and+the+B.P.R.D.%3A+1955–Occult+Intelligence+%231

To order a digital copy go to https://digital.darkhorse.com/books/27035709878d4cb2800d240bdf37a53d/hellboy-and-the-bprd-1955-occult-intelligence-1

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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