In Review: B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know #6

I'm happy Hellboy is back, but I'm worried what further hells he's going to endure.

The covers: Two different covers to find that spotlight the return of Hellboy. The Regular cover is by Max and Sebastián Fiumara with Dave Stewart and shows four characters on the hill used to house the B.P.R.D. Headquarters: Liz in the foreground, Hellboy just behind her, Abe Sapien is just behind him, and sitting on a rock is Ted Howards, cradling his sword, blade up, with both hands. Seeing this many members of this team together is nostalgic, if one has been reading this series for some time, and looks cool. The Variant cover by Mike Mignola and Stewart was the one I had to pick up because it’s an extremely moody piece featuring Hellboy emerging from a haze. The background colors by Stewart give the image this hazy feel and the illustration by Mignola only shows elements of the character, with the rest hidden in the void. This is the slender version of the protagonist, but he still commands the intensity of his larger self. I saw this and had to own it. Overall grades: Regular B+ and Variant A+

The story: “Somewher in Hell…” no one can be seen. The streets are empty in the turn of the century European settings. Someone in the darkness says a name. “Hellboy.” Standing outside a building, Hellboy turns. “That you, Ed?” The spirit of Edward Grey appears with an apology. “I’m afraid so.” “I knew it was coming,” Hellboy says. “Just kind of got used to the quiet, you know?” Grey tells him there are two things left to do. He tried to do them himself, but “…It was always going to be you.” Someone appears behind the looming figure of Grey and reveals himself to be Roger the Homunculus. The two share words and a handshake, before transitioning to the the B.P.R.D. carrier. Five members of the team are talking, but Hellboy can’t hear them, sitting alone in a chair. They constantly look at him, but he sits in silence. What he’s going to do is a question writers Mike Mignola and Scott Allie leave hanging. There’s a lot of catching up Hellboy has to do. Unfortunately the world can’t wait. Cultists are a concern, which are watched by Abe and Howards, New York City is populated by zombies, while the demon Varvara continues to make plans with Kroenen and von Klempt. If the story isn’t maudlin enough for the reader, Page 19 is a heartbreaker, featuring the return of a past character. The issue ends on a double cliffhanger, with Abe going somewhere he probably shouldn’t and the B.P.R.D. discovering something extremely troubling. It’s impossible to read this book and not be on pins and needles waiting for the next issue, wondering, “Now what?” Overall grade: A

The art: The first three pages, which are set in Hell, are illustrated by Mike Mignola. This is appropriate given the setting. The look completely ties in to Hellboy in Hell and serves as an excellent coda to that series before Hellboy is fully reintroduced to the world. The remainder of the book is illustrated by Sebastián Fiumara. Helping create the dark tone of this book is his sensational character work. When the B.P.R.D. team is first shown at the bottom of Page 4 their faces are hidden in darkness. It’s a good introduction to them and a nice way to be, perhaps, looking at them as Hellboy does — as strangers. Their back and forth on 5 shows some solid intensity that ends with a close up on a sad Liz. She’s always been the one character that can break my heart with a look and Fiumara does that here perfectly and painfully. When the rest of the team is clearly shown at the top of 8 their faces show the conflict they have at Hellboy’s reappearance: they’re curious, concerned, and frightened. Abe and Howards make a great team and the pair look sensational. The character that draws Abe’s attention had me screaming “No!” at the visual, because this is just not right. Thankfully, Howards looks as though he’s thinking the same thing. As he follows from a distance, take notice at how his sword is always highlighted. I feel a bit safer for Abe knowing that his partner is ready to use his blade at a moment’s notice. The trio of villains look disturbing under Fiumara’s guidance. Herman von Klempt continues to be one of the most grotesque figures in comics, with his head floating around in that helmet on this body. Karl Kroenen appears all too briefly, but also shows how a well designed mask can create fear. Varvara continues to be the wolf in sheep’s clothing, a demon within the body of a little girl with long blonde hair. She’s absolutely adorable on 15, but her words make her a nightmare. Page 19 is a visual heartbreaker and that’s all I’m going to say about that. The final page is a good visual surprise that leaves more questions than answers; that upright hand is the perfect image to close out this visually creepy book. Overall grade: A

The colors: For new readers, the color scheme of Hell will probably be a bit disarming, but I’m sure that’s what colorist Dave Stewart was instructed to do. This Hell doesn’t have the fire and brimstone coloring one would expect. Hellboy’s control of the domain obviously has something to do with that. The European locale is given muted flesh colors and greens to age it. The only bright spots in Hell are Hellboy and Roger’s eyes. When the pair shake, a panel surrounding the panel is a given a creme, suggesting a bright light. The interior of the B.P.R.D. jet is lit by several monitors, inserting some muted colors behind the characters. I like that when Liz’s face is first clearly shown her eyes are a bright orange, suggesting the power that lies within her. The crimson on the character that attracts Abe’s attention had me shaking my head at his decision to go with her: that color never leads to anything good in a B.P.R.D. comic. The green of von Kelmpt’s tank increases the ick factor of his visage. The coloring of the character on 19 contributed heavily to my sadness in seeing this individual. The use of dead violets for the final page makes the reveal even more ghastly. Stewart always adds to the horrors of this series. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clem Robins is the issue’s letterer and he creates all the text which includes scene settings, dialogue, indecipherable dialogue, whispers, angry dialogue, transmissions, and a character’s name in computer text. I really appreciate the subtle difference between scene settings and dialogue, differentiating the two visually. The dialogue that Hellboy can’t understand is simply, but appropriately, done. After all, what else would it look like? The whispering of the B.P.R.D. team made me feel like they were betraying Hellboy by not speaking aloud to him and to Liz. I really enjoyed von Kelmpt raising his voice — if anything is going to upset him, it’s that! Overall grade: A

The final line: I’m happy Hellboy is back, but I’m worried what further hells he’s going to endure. Every page keeps me anxiously turning pages, trying to prepare for the next horror, while the visuals have me unable to look away. A tense read, but one worth taking. Recommended. Overall grade: A

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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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