Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Artist: Alex Maleev
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release: December 3, 2014
Hellboy may have died and gone to Hell, but that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of his Earth-bound exploits. We’ve grown accustom to seeing the demonic hero as the seasoned paranormal investigator, referencing past globetrotting adventures and mystic escapades, but now we get a peak at his formative years. It’s 1952, and the young Hellboy has been sent out on his first field assignment to investigate a string of mysterious deaths in Brazil.
Put bluntly, not much happens in this first issue — the height of the action is a bumpy truck ride. That’s not to say that this issue comes up lacking; necessary groundwork is laid as we meet the B.P.R.D.’s first squad, whose interactions with Hellboy will no doubt shape him into the sarcastic demon with a heart of gold we all know and love. These early pages excel in choreographing how Hellboy struggles with his place in the human world. We see the red one receive barbed comments with a shy passiveness, his human peers reminding him he doesn’t belong. He may be a hell-spawned monster prophesied to bring about the end of days, but is a little acceptance too much to ask?
New artist Alex (Daredevil, Scarlet) Maleev hews close to a creator Mike Mignola’s tone, building on that drama with ink-heavy, high-contrast visuals. Whether it’s shadow-streaked figures or ominous landscapes, the deep black that blankets these pages ultimately lends a touch of surrealism to the art. Faces vividly pop against a pitch background, and silhouettes are all the more haunting.
Even though creator/showrunner Mike Mignola has mentioned plans for Hellboy in Hell to run for years, those issues are looking awfully sporadic, so it’s nice to have a new series offering us up another supernatural fix of his inspired universe. It was only a matter of time before we got into Hellboy’s early years, and this series stands to be a very welcomed take on the Right Hand of Doom — even if it does sound a bit like Smallville...just much, much better.