In Review: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1955–Secret Nature

This serves as a good introduction to Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., containing solid characterization, good action, and some timely commentary.

The cover: Hellboy has his pistol out and a protective hand covering B.P.R.D. agent Woodrow Farrier in the woods. Unfortunately for both of them, the trouble is coming from behind them in the form of a gigantic hand. Good representational cover from interior artist Shawn Martinbrough with interior colorist Dave Stewart. This image is good tease of what’s to be found within without spoiling any of the fun or chills. Overall grade: A

The story: Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson start this one-shot small with a rancher in Oregon telling the two B.P.R.D. operatives about a neighbor who lost half his cattle to something, while another had his entire henhouse cleared out. However, he’s the only one to see the predator, stumbling upon a mutilated steer before seeing the thing tear into another. He emptied two barrels of buckshot into it, but it took off. Farrier has questions for the rancher but is dismissed with the man asking Hellboy, “You government folks always bring negroes along with you on this kinda job?” This upsets the title character, who begins to go off on the man, until waved off by Farrier. As the pair search the nearby woods, each shares what they think the creature will be, with the loser buying drinks for the other. This moment of levity is stopped when Hellboy asks, “Does it ever get to you?” That’s a fair question and Farrier’s response expands his character considerably. As he states his feelings and gives a little bit of information about how he was recruited, they come upon something that sets up the remainder of the issue. Page 8 makes plain what’s happened and 10 solidifies it. The fight that occurs is good, with Hellboy’s commentary during it fun. It was good to see a B.P.R.D. agent in action and not being killed immediately by the threat. The reaction at the bottom of 18 was unexpected and gave a nice bit of depth to the character. Even after all the action, it was good to bookend the tale by returning to where it began. The final line on 21 was painful, but it was good to see the heroes walking off together a little closer, ready to bond over some brews. Though there is the hint of more to come with that final panel…This serves as a good introduction to Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., containing solid characterization, good action, and some, sadly, timely commentary. Overall grade: A

The art: Shawn Martinbrough creates some great visual emotion for Hellboy. The first page has him making a gesture to show some consideration, which leads to some excellent silent stares on Page 3 when the rancher shows an ugly side — that final panel on that page absolutely sizzles! When the agents hit the woods, there’s a terrific amount of foliage to create some excellent shadows on them to make the setting more real. The first panel atop 7 had me thinking of a classic Sam Raimi film, and I wasn’t disappointed; the setting screamed “Don’t go in there!” The clues in the fourth panel were nicely done, and the point of view in the final panel was really cool. The reveal on 8 was appropriate and I was glad to see that something more needed to be shown on 9. 10 features an outstanding reveal, with the action that follows on 11 great. The visuals following this went back and forth between the protagonists, with each involved in a race against time. 18 and 19 have something very powerful occur and it was illustrated exceptionally well. It’s not often that this sort of action occurs in a B.P.R.D. book, so to see it done so strongly made it extremely memorable. The penultimate panel of the book is like something out of a classic film, with the heroes in silhouette against a beautiful skyline. And that final panel nicely teases that Mignola and Roberson may not be quite done with that item. I’d be more than willing to have Martinbrough return to illustrate Hellboy’s exploits. Overall grade: A

The colors: Dave Stewart opens this book with some coloring that clearly cements the setting, with pale greens and tans for the rancher’s farm. Against such colors, Hellboy’s stark crimson skin is like an explosion on every page, drawing the reader’s eye every time he appears. His orange eyes were really awesome, especially when he stared at the rancher. When Hellboy and Farrier enter the woods, Stewart gets to really show off his skills with some excellent shadows on the pair. There’s also some good work done on 8, with the tilted light on the wall making the sick surroundings even more skewed. 9 also has some great work, with a strong gray being incredibly important. The sounds are doubly loud thanks to Stewart giving them some bright colors. What can’t Stewart do well? Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins creates narration, dialogue, sounds, and yells. I’m grateful for the narration and dialogue being different fonts, and the sounds make this book’s action incredibly epic and always fun to read aloud. Robins is a consistently strong contributor to Hellboy’s chronicles. Overall grade: A 

The final line: A terrific self-contained tale that will please long time fans and serve as an excellent introduction to new readers. With the conclusion, I found myself wanting more of Hellboy and Farrier’s outings. And I want to see Martinbrough illustrate them. I can only hope that there are many more adventures to tell featuring this pair. Recommended. Overall grade: A

To order a print copy go to to http://www.tfaw.com/Comics/Profile/Hellboy-and-the-B.P.R.D.-1955—Secret-Nature___543492?utm_source=darkhorse&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=darkhorse_buy&utm_term=buy+Hellboy+and+the+B.P.R.D.%3A+1955–Secret+Nature

To order a digital copy go to https://digital.darkhorse.com/books/0561cd132a684540a5a0b1691d7a1c66/hellboy-and-the-bprd-1955-secret-nature

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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