In Review: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #2

In the present, he's dead and in Hell, but in 1952 Hellboy is just starting and it's enormously enjoyable.

The cover: The top third of this cover is dominated by an anchunga–“According to the Tapirape people of central Brazil, a particularly evil demon.” It’s like a baboon with a white mane and very long talons. Standing atop a mound of numbered gravestones swarming with snakes is Hellboy holding a torch. His image and the smoke from his light overlap some of the anchunga, eventually becoming the creature’s ashy mane. He looks fantastic. The hero and the monster are spotlighted splendidly. This image is by interior artist Alex Maleev and has me excited to get started with this installment. Overall grade: A 

The story: At night in Brazil, a priest, berated last issue by local woman for his lack of effort to thwart the evil in their village, walks the long walk with a boy to an old graveyard so that he may redeem himself and kill the beast that has killed so many. The boy is afraid, but the priest is confident because “The cross keeps us safe.” That’s when a growl sounds and it appears atop the tallest landmark. The creature roars as it leaps down. The priest’s screams wake Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. agents, while Isadora, the woman that spurred the holy man on, prays, “No…No, please.” The priest is dead and the boy missing. Hellboy is sent away from the scene for a good reason, and one agent gets a psychic imprint from something at the location. Two new characters are introduced, Sergio Vega and his driver. They are obviously holding information back, and readers learn more of their relationship than the agents do. The highpoint of Mike Mignola and John Arcudi’s story is the confrontation between Hellboy and the anchunga. You’d think that something so small wouldn’t pose a problem for the hero, but this is this first adventure with the B.P.R.D., so this is new territory for him. His comments during the battle are classic Hellboy and his action after the conflict perfect. This issue ends with one heck of a cliffhanger as something else is going to do harm to the lead, and no one saw this coming. Outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The art: The visuals by Alex Maleev are like looking at stills from a film. The first page establishes the quiet village at night, then moves to show the B.P.R.D. agents asleep before moving to the church, whose doors are open, with one frightened altar boy emerging with a candle. The second page is composed of three vertical panels that establish the priest and the boy, then their progression through the town, before arriving at their desolate, final location. The emotions on the characters are great. I love the looks of apprehension on the pair. Hellboy’s rock of a face is given emotional depth by his body language, such as at the end of Page 6. When he’s shown in close-up, on 13, readers know something bad is going to happen. The battle between him and the anchunga is awesome, with the creature clearly in control of what’s going on. Isadora also emotes excellently, especially as she and Hellboy have a conversation and when she’s trying to escape the wrath of the demon. The last two panels of the book had me mirroring Hellboy’s expression. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Completing the cinematic quality of the artwork are the colors by Dave Stewart. I was happy to be able to see what was occurring in the opening evening scenes because Stewart didn’t go for a natural black, but used blues and violets to create the night. I really liked the subtle brightening of the panels as the sun rose beginning on 5. The use of green on 8 was a great way to show readers something major had just happened. Hellboy’s reds and the demon’s browns stood out in every panel they were in, visual cueing readers in to how they are not part of the natural colors of the world. Stewart is doing super stuff. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins provides dialogue and sounds for this book. Words are placed in italics for characters’ emphasis in their speech, but when they’re yelling, as Hellboy does in the fight, the font becomes thicker to show that their dialogue is now a powerful yell. Loved that. Overall grade: A+

The final line: In the present, he’s dead and in Hell, but in 1952 Hellboy is just starting and it’s enormously enjoyable. If you’ve been tempted to read Hellboy, but felt there’s too much to take it, start here and you’ve missed nothing. Overall grade: A+

 

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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