In Review: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953–Beyond the Fences #3

A slam-bang conclusion that sets the stage for more adventures in the 1950s.

The cover: Pulling himself free from a white picket fence covered in blood, Hellboy does not look happy. Adding insult to injury is that just below him is a “Beware of Dog” sign. Great, fun cover image by interior artist Paolo Rivera that reminds the reader where Hellboy was left in the previous issue. The colors make this image pop with the demon hero’s reds standing out like a lightning rod against the clean white fence. Overall grade: A

The story: School has let out and all the children go bolting out the doors. Julian Boucq is picked on by another since his father was arrested last issue. The bully’s merriment is brought to a halt by a girl who asks, “What’s that…?” The entire students turn to see a hellish looking dog the size of a semi-truck running down the street, knocking over telephone poles and cracking concrete. The children run in terror, with Julian frozen with one word on his lips: “Buddy…?” Could this horror be his dog? The teachers try to direct students out of the monster’s path, several bolt over a fence, but one little girl isn’t fast enough. The creature’s horrific jaws open and just as it is about to clamp down on the child, Hellboy punches the creature in the side of its head. With the youngster safe, Hellboy gets ready to give the beast another blow. Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson have Hellboy going back to his roots in this old school tale, with a big ‘ole monster battle. It’s terrific and Hellboy’s exclamations as he battles the beast are wonderful; it’s hard not to hear the voice of Ron Perlman’s voice during this smackdown. However, when the battle has ended there are several teasers of things to come, such as all of Page 16, what the future of the pair on 18 and 19 is to be, the scream worthy final panel on 19, and what’s in the bag on 21? This book closes out well, but has enough threads dangling to keep Hellboy’s early adventures comin’! Overall grade: A

The art: One of the beauties of Paolo Rivera’s pencils and Joe Rivera’s inks is that they’ve captured the look of the 1950s flawlessly. The first page looks like stills out of Leave It to Beaver: the school, the clothing, the haircuts. This pair has captured the time period. With a turn of the page and the entrance of the the poochie from Hell, they’ve completely warped the status quo of the past. The dog is a nightmare incarnate, and Julian’s reaction to it would mirror any child’s. The chaos of the children and the teachers trying to escape the creature’s path is perfect, and as the beast hones in on the little girl it’s like witnessing a car crash in slow motion: you want to look away, but you just can’t. Hellboy’s arrival on Page 3 is the perfect super hero entrance, out of nowhere — like a miracle. As he punches the beast, the children scatter, with one individual making a misstep and breaking his leg. This panel is the last of the fifth page and it’s brutal to look at; sure, Hellboy is fighting the monster dog, but watching a leg snap like that is something so real it will create a shudder in a reader. Something not seen often enough in B.P.R.D. comics are characters doing science (Okay, the world is going to Hell, but before they got their own monthly), such as on Page 15. Granted, it’s only four panels of someone getting a specimen, but it’s enough to bring this fanciful tale back to reality, and it’s just flat out neat to see the technology of the time. Page 16 contains no text and is fantastic; it hints at things to come. The smile on Hellboy’s face in his final panel is the cherry on top of this outstanding looking book. Overall grade: A

The colors: Due to the setting being in the quintessential suburbs of the 1950s, the colors by Dave Stewart are really bright. The opening page has vivid green shrubbery around the school, the students’ clothes are brightly colored, even the sky is a pleasing blue-green. This is a terrific set up for the arrival of the mutated dog, which is a grotesque pink-violet: its colors show it to be a blasphemy against the rest of the normal world. Hellboy is positively scarlet against the serene colors. When his stellar reds appear he is the instant focus of every panel. Even subtle inclusions, such as orange for flames on debris, are a shock against the palette of this typical neighborhood. The arrival of a new character into the fight shakes up the colors even more: the absence of colors on this character has it taking focus from the title character. The color green is used toward the end of the fight and just after to create an unholy sense of decay — and boy, does it! Stewart is making the visuals shine. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Clem Robins creates dialogue, sounds, yells, whispers, and sinister laughter. Robins never fails to deliver the goods and the monster of this issue has him creating some of his biggest sounds yet, with the monstrous dog sounding, rightfully, like a Tyrannosaurus. Pages 12 and 13 are doubly spectacular with Robins’s sounds. Overall grade: A

The final line: A slam-bang conclusion that sets the stage for more adventures in the 1950s. Before the world went to Hell, these were young Hellboy’s untold tales and they are fantastic. Overall grade: A

To find more information on Hellboy and his adventures go to http://www.darkhorse.com

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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