In Review: The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #4

An outsider has learned the best and worst of humanity in an outstanding story.

The cover: Paul Grist and Bill Crabtree, the interior artist and colorist, have created another neat cover for this series. The Visitor is surrounded by three photos. The two at the top feature the individual whose exploits he’s following: Hellboy. The first shows him in the iconic photo taken when he came to Earth during WWII, with the second showing him in the 1950s, sporting a B.P.R.D. shirt and a trench coat as a Nazi banner burns behind him. The book’s logo is in the center left of the cover, with the Visitor on the right. Next to him in the bottom right corner is a picture of his partner, Ruby Mathers. This smaller picture seems an unlikely addition to this cover, but once the reader begins this story he or she will see that it’s incredibly important. An excellent cover with excellent coloring. Overall grade: A

The story: It’s now 1992 and the Visitor has returned home from observing “the subject” take on another incursion. He’s in his human disguise, and after taking off his hat and coat he’s taken aback by what he sees: a much older Ruby in the kitchen, wearing a housecoat and holding a knife, blood is in her palm. She came into the kitchen to make a sandwich, but she can’t remember what she was going to do. He takes the knife from her gently, saying, “Everything is all right, honey. I’m home now.” He helps her down the hall and gets her into bed. “O-Okay, I’m okay. I just need to rest a while, I suppose.” In the reports he keeps, the Visitor states, ‘I have developed strong attachment in my time here. One in particular that I — No, protocol be damned. Who knows if ever these reports will even be filed? Let me speak the plain truth of the matter. Ruby. Her name is Ruby Mathers. She is my wife.’ In this statement Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson have brought the unaging protagonist to a human level. Because of Ruby’s conditions, he’s unable to go out as often as he used to, helping Hellboy covertly or venturing out solo to stop those who do the world harm. One instance of this is shown on Page 5, and thankfully the people called listen. After this moment comes the most wonderful summary of the ultimate outsider reflecting on what his relationship with Ruby has given him. As one would expect, it’s the best and worst in humanity. On Page 15 the Visitor shows the lengths he’s willing to go for his wife, which include a interesting peek into his past. The final three pages of the book continue to give me goosebumps. The conclusion to this issue says much about the Visitor as well as the humans around him. Overall grade: A+

The art: Paul Grist is a terrific artist for this book. He’s able to capture the normal world of a man and his older wife, living their lives. When the Visitor takes Ruby back to bed on Page 3, the text is wonderfully complimented by the visuals. It’s impossible not to have the same smile on one’s face as the text of the final two panels is read. On 8, the Visitor is called by Ruby and he goes to her quickly, worried that something has occurred. The fear of possible trouble on his face is one that any spouse, child, or parent has had when someone they care for calls out. The look of warmth on his face on 9 relieves all the tension. The next two pages are each a full-page splash. They neatly summarize what the couple’s life has been like. Take note of each of their faces at the bottom of 10 and how they have very different reactions to what they see. 11 is a painful trip through America’s past, with Ruby summarizing all of it visually and textually. Pages 21 and 22 have very little text. The visuals from Grist expertly show the reader what’s occurring and a majority of the emotion comes from them. As I said in regards to the story, I’ve read them several times and they continue to have an impact, with the visuals hitting hard. Now if a reader wants something more fantastic, Grist also goes there. Hellboy, Abe, and Liz are in action on a few pages, acting on anonymous tips, but better are the flashbacks to the Visitor’s past. Though only three pages, they show his people’s path to becoming the individuals that this series has teased. Grist is the perfect fit for this tale. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Helping to set this story in the past are the colors by Bill Crabtree. The colors of the first page provide a good link to the previous issue with its pale colors for the Visitor’s home. The cut that Ruby has accidentally giving herself isn’t large, but it stands out on the page for being a stark color. When the scene goes to the bedroom, the pale blues and tans of the kitchen move to faded violets, making her room seem aged, to be sure, but much more warm than that of the kitchen. Hellboy’s appearances are marked by his fiery skin, making him the focus of each panel he appears in. The pages that comprise the Visitor’s flashbacks use many shades of one color, giving his world depth, but also a very alien color scheme. The final page has colors, but they are very passive, suggesting that joy has left the world. Nicely done. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clem Robins is responsible for this issue’s scene settings, narration, and transmissions (all three are the same font), dialogue, a growl, and sounds. This issue doesn’t call for many sounds, so there aren’t many. What this book does have is a lot of narration, and Robins places it perfectly in each panel. I do wish that there had been different fonts used for the settings, narration, and transmissions, rather than the color of their balloons differed. Overall grade: A-  

The final line: An outsider has learned the best and worst of humanity in an outstanding story. This penultimate issue has the title character closer to being human and closer to his fate. An outstanding read. 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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