In Review: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1956 #5

This isn't really a conclusion, merely a pause before the next year's exploits are told.

The cover: This cover looks deceptively simple, but artist Dave Johnson has packed a lot into this frontpiece. First there’s the glorious image of the inebriated Hellboy hoisting a bottle of hooch up with a major smile on his mug. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy on a cover. He’s sitting atop Mexico — poor Jalapa! The east coast of the country features the visage of a Mexican wrestler. In the Golfo de Tehauntepec the logo of the B.P.R.D. intrudes. This is fantastic and desperately needs to be a print or tee shirt. I love this! Overall grade: A+

The story: It’s October of 1956 in Jalisco, Mexico. Agents Hinojosa and Gustafasson have been dispatched to bring Hellboy home. They haven’t found him, but get a lead from a local child for a few pesos. They’re directed to go to the Cine Prado where a movie is being shown. They look about the theater but don’t see the big guy. Gustafasson looks at the picture playing on the screen and is stunned. It’s Hellboy dressed as a demon rushing at someone. The agents are shocked, but the children watching the film are thoroughly entertained. Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson’s conclusion to this series then travels back to August of the previous year, documenting how Hellboy made it into movies. Not helping during filming is the hero’s constant alcoholic state, which provides quite a bit of humor. Back in the present, Hellboy is shown in a familiar place, but during an unexpected day. The conversation on 18 – 20 is great, with the last words spoken on 20 having an unintentional consequence. Russia, now free of Varvara’s threat, is briefly visited to show two characters readying themselves to strike at someone, while 22 shows that Susan Xiang will not let something go. This isn’t really much of a conclusion, but a pause in these characters’ lives. I loved seeing how Hellboy got home, but it’s the last page that holds the promise of something more to continue the discovery begun in this series. I would love to read more about Susan. Overall grade: B

The art: As with the previous four issues, there are three artists on this book: Mike Norton (Pages 1 – 20), Michael Avon Oeming (Page 21), and Yishan Li (Page 22), However, Norton gets the majority of the issue because the focus is on Hellboy. Norton’s work captures Jalisco at this time period well. If the agents had walked about the entire issue, I would have been more than happy to see the sights created by him. The reaction by Gustafsson at the bottom of Page 3 is a good tease to the reveal at the top of 4, which is hilarious. I love that the agents are confused and the kids are in heaven. Hellboy’s drunken antics are funny on the set, with his costume being over the top awesomeness. It looks as though fans now have a new Hellboy action figure to wish for. The setting on Pages 9 – 14 is fantastic. It’s a scene often visited in books, films, and programs, but Norton makes it real. There’s a nonspeaking character that comes upon Hellboy and this individual’s actions with the title character are wonderful. I would love to see this sequence in a movie one day. The action in the fourth panel on 16 is excellent and the reaction from the agents perfection. I love the physical guilt Hellboy has on Pages 17 – 20: even when he’s not speaking, he exudes so much pain over what he’s done down South. The head turn at the bottom of 17 is so cool. The last two panels on Page 20 are the perfect payoff for Hellboy not being in a majority of this series. Page 21 introduces some killers into the Hellboy Universe and they’re shown to be very deadly. Though the last page features Susan, it’s Bruttenholm that commands the page, looking disheartened at what he hears. I like this book’s visuals. Overall grade: A

The colors: Dave Stewart completes the stunning sites of Mexico with his work on this book. The skies on the first three pages are a beautiful orange-yellow, giving the book an instant southern flavor. I love how the agents’ gray uniforms have them stick out against the people and the buildings of Jalisco. The shading within the theater is well done, looking like a dark interior, but allowing every bit of the art to be clearly seen. I love the blacks and grays used to color the film Hellboy is in. The title character stands out in every panel he appears due to his vivid crimson skin. I like the bright oranges used to highlight two panels during filming where a character is stressed. Pages 9 – 14 are Stewart’s best work on the book, making every bit of the setting and all the characters joyful to look upon. When Hellboy is back in his bedroom, notice how all the colors of Mexico, all the hallmarks of life, are gone. They only appear in the photo he looks at, increasing his regret. Stewart is a go-to colorist. Overall grade: A

The letters: This issue’s text by Clem Robins consists of scene settings, an editorial note, and transmissions (the same font), dialogue, sounds, and yells. The first three forms of text are in italics and they all work. The first two are forms of communication to guide the reader smoothly through the book and the final is a unique form of communication that should sound different from dialogue. Every character’s speech is easy to read, even the nonhuman one. The sounds are fun, especially when Hellboy is drinking. Overall grade: A

The final line: This final issue gets Hellboy back to America, while another character has a new focus. The story is fun, though I found myself drawn more to Susan’s tale, and she’s only on the last page! This isn’t really a conclusion by any means, merely a pause before the next year’s exploits are told. Enjoyable, to be sure, but the story peaked in the previous issue. 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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