In Review: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: Saturn Returns #3

This looks much better than it reads.

The cover: Hellboy falls out from the top of the cover, accompanied by skulls, flowers, and quite a bit of wood that served as a floor. He’s falling into a forest clearing that looks covered in snow. Neat cover, with the combination of death (the skulls) and life (flowers) always cool to see. Using pinks as the background colors gives this an almost romantic flavor. Very atmospheric frontpiece from interior artist Christopher Mitten. Overall grade: A

The story: This concluding chapter was very unsatisfactory. It seemed as if writers Mike Mignola and Scott Allie wanted to have a story that focused on young Liz, but needed a horror component to sell it. One or the other would have been better than putting the two unrelated tales together to create a disjointed read. Hellboy is leaving Tatoskok Falls to get Liz who’s run away from B.P.R.D. headquarters and is causing trouble in New Haven. This has the issue split between Agent Kinsley and Special Agent Oates trying to find and stop the creature that’s killing citizens and Hellboy looking to find Liz. The former story is the more enjoyable of the pair, but that’s been the case of this series from the beginning. There’s a surprising scene on Page 4 that beautifully takes a romantic turn on the following page. The revelation at the top of 10 is terrific; once it’s stated it’s obvious that’s what has been occurring — I love when stories do this. The confrontation between Liz and her pursuers goes as one would expect with help arriving just in time for an explosive ending. Better is the trap laid in the woods that isn’t wholly successful. When all is said and done, the heroes are where they belong, though has anything really advanced them beyond what long time readers already knew? The story in Tatoskok actually would have been a solid read without Hellboy present, who only added to the story in the second issue. What I did take from this series was a huge appreciation for Agent Kinsley whom I need to see in other B.P.R.D. outings. Overall grade: B-

The art: The book opens with a one-paged flashback to 110,000 B.C.E. which looks cool. I was hoping that this might play into the story more, it looks so good, but it sadly is minimal. The first six panels of the next page are a clever way to set the reader up visually for one story’s conclusion. I am a huge fan of shapes in the dark with glowing eyes and there’s a beauty of a panel on 3 that precedes the stalking of a familiar character. Artist Christopher Mitten makes the five final panels on this page very suspenseful. Page 4 is frightening and grisly goodness. I love the faces of the characters on 5 that gives them some terrific emotions that make their dialogue ring as true. The first panel on the next page was perfect and humorous. The build on 7 is excellent with the reveal on 8 sad. Mitten gives Hellboy excellent looks of concern as he searches for Liz, such as at the top of the ninth page. The smile on 10 is killer and the setting that’s revealed at the end of this page is great, with the addition of the owl ominous. The action is incredibly smooth on 12 – 14, with Liz quite the power. The action in the second panel on the latter is shocking, but appropriate. It’s rare to see Hellboy do this to a human and it’s a good reminder of how strong he is. I love the action on 16 – 18 which is more to my liking since it’s supernatural based, with the bodies flying about thrilling. It’s neat to go inside of one character’s room on the last page. The final panel is a warm and fuzzy way to end this series. I wish that Mitten had been given more horror than drama to illustrate. I’m hoping he gets another shot at a Hellboy tale. Overall grade: A

The colors: This comic should be mandatory reading for anyone that wants to color comic books. Brennan Wagner is able to create dark settings on the page without overpowering the art. The first page in the past is very dark, yet browns and grays are used to create the somber tone in the forest. The pink tint on the first six panels on the second page make everything calming, which is a great disarming feature before the horror kicks in. Look at how Wagner makes Page 3 dark, but every element of the art can be seen. I love this! When the attack occurs on the next page the background goes a radiant orange to increase the shock. Very cool. I love how the leaves in the final panel are somewhat similar to the color of all the blood. Notice that the shocking orange is reused on 5 for the interior of a person’s room. A nice continuation of the horror, because that’s what someone is studying. The light source in the final panel on the page makes a character’s face incredible. Notice how bright the setting is on 7, yet when the reveal occurs on 8 the colors dim to match the falling of a character’s heart. Hellboy and Liz’s hair makes each character pop when they appear and it shows a visual link between the two. Smart. This book just has incredible coloring that keeps everything seen while showcasing dark horrors. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, sounds, ancient outbursts, yells, and whispers are crafted by Clem Robins. Italics set the scene settings apart from the dialogue and they’re easy to tell apart not only for their font but for the balloons and boxes that contain them. The ancient outbursts come from the creature that’s terrorizing the town. They’re in a large font and come off as wonderfully frenzied when uttered. The whispers are in a smaller font than the dialogue, with extra space in the balloons surrounding them, but they’re still incredibly easy to read without straining one’s eyes. The sounds are outstanding, from keys dropping to gunshots. They contribute powerfully to this book’s read. Overall grade: A+ 

The final line: This looks much better than it reads. Two separate tales that shouldn’t have been combined conclude with strong visuals. I was disappointed in this conclusion, with the horror in the woods considerably more entertaining than Liz and Hellboy on the streets. Perhaps this suffers from prequel storytelling, much like popular films; for example, Star Wars: the reader knows where these characters end up, so is there any tension left in telling an adventure from the past? Readable, but not wholly satisfying. 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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