In Review: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1956 #2

Agents frustrated or missing, while the government is doing something against Bruttenholm's wishes.

The cover: A bottle of tequila is the predominate image on this cover by Dave Johnson. It’s the Luchador Bros brand of the drink and a knocked over shot glass and two limes are next to the bottle. Within the bottle is the reflection of an angry Hellboy. In the bottle’s shadow three Russian agents of Special Sciences Services can be seen and on the other side of the table is an image of Varvara whose eyes are a subtle crimson. This is a very smart way by Johnson to touch on two of the tales in this issue. If one is a major fan of Hellboy stories, the stopper in the bottle will make you smile and want one of your own. Overall grade: A

The story: Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson have several of their characters poking into places they shouldn’t in this issue. Assistant Director of Operations Margaret Laine has words with Professor Bruttenholm because he’s doing things, such as sending agents off, without telling her. When Hellboy’s disappearance in Mexico is brought up a phone calls cuts their conversations short, with Laine vowing to continue the conversation later. The call is from Susan Xiang who’s in Florida making contact with a man who is thought to be collecting Enkeladite for the government. Susan provides some outstanding intel for the professor, but she also has some visions she cannot identify, with the final one frightening her, but not worrying Bruttenholm. There’s a terrific scene at the Driftwood Grill where two characters dine and one gets to really vent. I’m very interested in the frustrated individual. Hellboy appears for just one panel in Mexico, doing what you would expect. The conversation in Brooklyn really had my complete attention given the history of the character from previous B.P.R.D. outings. After this conversation I find myself incredibly concerned for that individual. The final five pages of the book return to Russia at the Special Sciences Services Headquarters. Someone speaks their heart at a meeting and it doesn’t go well. WOW! I have no idea where this is heading, but I’m loving every part of this story. Overall grade: A

The art: Three different artists on this issue with each focusing on a specific agent. Mike Norton starts off the issue by doing Pages 1-3 and 10-17, which are the scenes that focus on Bruttenholm and Laine, as well as the two people out for dinner. There’s nary a supernatural element in the story, so Norton is the one that brings the reader into the book with a realistic look. His portion of the pages could have just been talking heads, but his settings are neat, especially the one on the opening three pages with some of the artifacts worthy of their own stories. I love Trevor’s worried look in the fourth panel on Page 2, showing that he’s not happy with what he has to say. The scene in and near the Driftwood is also very realistic: what an artist’s nightmare, though — two people sitting and eating dinner! Norton keeps things interesting by moving the point of view around and getting some great reactions out of the calmer individual. The final panel on 17 is awesome. Yishan Li is responsible for Pages 4-9. Like Norton, the art starts grounded in reality, but the two pages that show the intel she’s inquired will have the most hard core fan scanning what’s shown to glean any further information out of them. Xiang’s final panel clearly communicates how this character feels. Michael Avon Oeming gets the most visual fun of the book with Pages 18-22 because it’s in Russia and Varvara is involved. I like how these pages look, with Varvara being a particular highlight. It was a bit similar to a scene from Kill Bill, Part I with what occurs, but I like that part of the film and I like this. Overall grade: A

The colors: Dave Stewart is the book’s sole colorist and does a fine job with creating reality and fantasy with his work. The Norton’s pages are colored primarily in dark hues, such as browns due to the settings and light sources available. However, look at how well he shades characters’ faces to give them a three dimensional effect. Very nice. In contrast, Li’s pages are very bright due to the setting, which I can vouch for as being very accurate. The intel that Xiang receives is given a creepy green that making those visuals have an inhuman flavor. Very cool. The final story has the same dark browns as those of Norton’s pages, though Varvara as the one bright spot in the story, with her blonde hair and white dress. These colors make her an eye magnet whenever she appears, but some brighter colors appear when she makes a point. Stewart’s work is flawless. Overall grade: A

The letters: Also knocking it out of the part is Clem Robins’s text. He creates scene settings, dialogue, sounds, a telephone conversation, and a scream. Differing scene settings from dialogue is always good to see in a letterer’s work and I was doubly impressed that the scene settings were just different enough from the telephone conversation. Robins is not taking the easy way out with this book and doing one font for everything and having the dialogue balloons, boxes, and colorist differ them. There are only a few sounds in this book, with one being massive. The work isn’t showy for this issue, but it is solid. Overall grade: A

The final line: Agents frustrated or missing, while the government is doing something against Bruttenholm’s wishes. The tension is building toward a head as the characters circle around the truth. The story has me concerned for two agents’ safety. The visuals from three different artists are a wonderful change up from one artist producing an entire book and each illustrator brings their story to life wonderfully. This B.P.R.D. continues the thrills and drama of its predecessors. 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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