In Review: The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #1

A science fiction strand running throughout Hellboy's life makes his supernatural saga stranger.

The cover: The title character has his prism floating above his left hand as he looks upon something in the distance to his right. He looks very alien, wearing a spacesuit with several protruding knobs around his face, while his arms have several coils around them. He looks like a creature from the 1950s, but he is much older than that. Below this illustration by interior artist Paul Grist is the title of this book in a font that extends the iconic alien feel of the art. The colorist on this is Bill Crabtree and his muted colors make the seem aged and distant, which suit this character completely. This cover is the right introduction for what can be found within. Overall grade: A

The story: December 23, 1944, Hellboy is summoned to Earth and his arrival is greeted in three very different ways. One man states, “Shoot it! Kill it! It’s a demon from hell come to destroy us all!” A soldier, who’s far from the action, holds up a rectangular green prism, which begins to build up energy. He grits his teeth as another person says, “Doesn’t look too dangerous to me, professor.” This is revealed to be Lady Cynthia Eden-Jones who continues, “It looks…like a little boy.” The energy continues to build in the soldier’s prism, but he powers his device down when Professor Bruttenholm looks at the creature and calls it “Hellboy.” A photograph is taken of the soldiers and scientists alongside their newfound demonic friend, but no one notices the soldier with the prism has disappeared. He’s made his way into the woods, changed his clothes, and used the prism to contact his people, revealing that he is an alien. This has got to be one of the most unexpected Hellboy series created. Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson are exploring a side character from Hellboy’s origin, showing why he stayed behind to watch the hero and what he did while he remained on Earth. The justification the Visitor gives for not killing the “destroyer” is one that any reader can relate to and instantly humanizes the character. The story follows Hellboy’s growth, showing incidents in 1947, 1948, 1950, 1953, before finally ending up in 1954, which is the longest time period focused upon. There’s an incredibly slick visual element that begins the book and ends the issue that ties the past and the “present” together, as well as setting up the future. I’m interested to see how far the Visitor will travel will Hellboy and if he will secretly intervene on his behalf. Overall grade: A

The art: The look of this book is great. Paul Grist is the aritst of this series, continuing the visuals he began in the HellboyWinter Special 2017. The element that begins and ends this book first appears in the second panel on Page 1 and look familiar, yet alien. The Visitor, in his soldier persona, looks a little more gaunt than the soldiers near him, which is a subtle visual clue to the reader about his true form. The arrival of Hellboy on the second page has the Visitor moving to the shadows to do his dirty work, but when the young hero appears it’s explosive nature rattles this book’s title character. The build up of energy in the prism is neat, and when it’s powered down it makes the Visitor’s decision plain to any reader. The design of the Visitor and his colleagues is very cool. They are the perfect combination of futuristic-retro-science-fiction, with a healthy dash of Jack Kirby thrown in. Page 9 introduces a tiny element into the story that grows as the tale progresses. It’s dark and mysterious, yet is a seed of things to come. The human look that the Visitor adopts had me thinking of Fred Ward or Robert Forster. The clothes that the character adopts are appropriate for the time, yet simple. When he appeared in this garb I got a very SteveDitko vibe from the character. Watching Hellboy age was neat, but it’s the final time period’s action that a reader will most likely remember. The location is cool, the action good, and the conclusion terrific. Grist is making gold for the hero in red. Overall grade: A

The colors: Continuing in the pale palette used in previous Hellboy adventures, Bill Crabtree does a strong job on this book. The color of the “visual element” (Yeah, I’m going to keep this a surprise until you buy the book) is the perfect counterpoint to the first panel on the opening page. Hellboy’s entrance is a bright splash of supernatural yellow and orange, but it’s contrasted excellently with the alien green that the Visitor’s prism emits. The true form of the Visitor is an extremely pale shade of blue, giving him and his cohorts an almost deathly visage. The colors used for space are an excellent violet, making the setting cosmic. I particularly liked how the Visitor gained a warm flesh color when adopting his human disguise that he would use for the remainder of the book. This color helped to make him relatable to the reader and had him standing out from any setting. The choice of color for his clothes as he appeared throughout the book was sensational: normal, but just a tad off to stand out from others. Crabtree does excellent work on this book. Overall grade: A

The letters: Mignolaverse regular Clem Robins provides the text of this issue, creating dialogue, sounds, transmissions, scene settings, and yells. The sounds on this book are terrific, with some necessary ones provided as the Visitor contacts his ship and Hellboy battles something in the final setting. I also like the challenge issued in the final panel on Page 17, which suits the character wonderfully. Overall grade: A

The final line: A science fiction strand running throughout Hellboy’s life makes his supernatural saga stranger. Each reader that stays with this Visitor will witness a hero’s journey. Perfect reading for new or veteran fans of Hellboy. 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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