In Review: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #4

It has every cool element a comic should have, plus the best villains one could want.

The cover: Beautiful painted cover of Hellboy walking someplace he shouldn’t be. Bodies float in green-blue tanks, with some of the occupants missing limbs. Bolts stick out in several places from the corpses, if that’s what they are. The coloring is terrific on this, with the bright red of Hellboy making him an eye magnet among all the sickly green-blues. Excellent work by interior artist Alex Maleev. Overall grade: A+

The story: Archie has followed Hellboy and the pair have made their way into the old fortress. They were confronted with a stack of corpses last issue and they’ve since climbed them to see where they were dropped from. Hellboy opens the grate for a peek, with Archie asking, “See anything?” Big red grimaces back a “…Yup.” They’ve entered a room where several apes, whose brains have been modified as the one shown last issue, are cutting apart several corpses on tables. The room looks like a morgue attended by the simians. One of the creatures is even smoking. Their arrival doesn’t startle the animals, but the apes do leave the room. Upon close inspection they see that the bodies have been pieced together from several different bodies, “…like ‘Frankenstein’ school,” as Archie says. Walking through a door Hellboy enters a warehouse sized room filled with bubbling cylinders that contain bodies like the ones they saw the apes working on. “There must be a hundred of them in here!” Hellboy muses. This story by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi has it all: Hellboy on his first mission, the B.P.R.D., a creepy castle, smoking apes, reanimated corpses, and two famous Hellboy villains return. One of which is very alive and very capable of taking out the big guy. I was already won over by the story before Page 16, but once there I was in heaven with the bad guy and what he’s doing. Next issue concludes this story and I can’t wait. Overall grade: A+

The art: Thank the gods for having the stars align to make Alex Maleev get to illustrate this book. His settings are fantastic. A creepy castle’s basement leads to an eerie morgue, which in turn leads to a room full of bottled corpses, which in turn leads to Page 16, and I’m not about to spoil that for anyone. Page 4 should be the scene where readers realize our heroes are over their heads and it looks amazing. I almost didn’t want Maleev to zoom in closer to the tanks because I was afraid one of the bodies might jolt itself awake, but something much worse happens. Page 16’s setting takes the book in an entirely unexpected direction that made me gasp. It looks terrific and the design of the villain, whom I’ve never seen look like this, is great. He is grotesque, which only makes whom he is talking to even more loathsome. The fight scene in the middle of the story is exellent. No guns, just old fashioned fists and anything that one can grab. Absolutely primal and deadly. I love how Pages 12 and 13 introduce an uber villain while the protagonist is dealing with his foe-of-the-moment. What came out of the individual on 13 was disgusting, which is what is should have been. I love the look of this book. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Contributing his always considerable talents to this issue is colorist extraordinaire Dave Stewart. The bright first panel on the first page changes in two panels to the dim interior of the castle, and Hellboy is lobster red the entire time, always making himself the focus of a panel. The cool colors used for Pages 2 and 3 only made the morgue scene more antiseptic–I swear I could smell the artificial clean thanks to the coloring. The liquid that contains the bodies was a urine colored yellow, much different from the cover’s colors, but this was the correct choice by Stewart. It made what was going on much more perverse and wrong. The greens that begin on 12 were also “wrong” which only made them more right for the scene. The coloring in the flashback was a cool blue to denote the change in time, and the faded violets of the last page should elicit a disturbing reaction from readers. Stewart makes this book right by making it feel so terribly wrong. Overall grade: A+  

The letters: Dialogue, whispers, sounds, yells, and some non-English dialogue are done by Clem Robbins. I loved the whispers and the sounds on this book, with the latter being the right amount of realism and comic book cool. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is my choice for the book of the week. It has every cool element a comic should have, plus the best villains one could want. Highest possible recommendation. 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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