Comic Picks By The Glick

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1952

September 18, 2015

You know, it’s been… *goes to check the publication date on “Hellboy vol. 5:  Conqueror Worm”* thirteen years since Hellboy quit the B.P.R.D.  It’d be quite an understatement to just say that a lot has happened in that time, but seeing the title character reunite with the organization he grew up with is not likely to happen ever again.  Which is why we have “1952” the first in a “series of miniseries” detailing the exploits of a young(er) Hellboy and his first mission for the B.P.R.D.  Said mission takes him and four other members of the organization down to Terroso, Brazil, where thirty-three villagers have been murdered by an apparently superhuman creature.  Arriving in the dead of night, the team gets the cold shoulder from the local priest but soon finds themselves face-to-face with the Anchunga.  Encountering and taking down just one demon would’ve made this mission a virtual milk run for Hellboy and company.  Problem is that not only is there a much more ancient evil lurking in the shadows, a face -- or rather, a head -- familiar to the B.P.R.D. is looking to co-opt it for his own ends.

In addition to Ancient Evil, we’ve also got laboratory-enhanced monkeys, humans frankensteined together into unfeeling killing machines, Nazis, and the return of the cutest little Russian girl ever to come out of the pits of Hell.  So “1952” doesn’t skimp on the weird supernatural stuff you’d expect to see in a “Hellboy”-related comic.  However, it does feel a bit warmed-over at this point with a lot of familiar plot points -- like Hellboy’s role as the Beast of the Apocalypse -- getting name-checked here for good measure.  Co-writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi also throw in a lot of callbacks to other stories in the Mignolaverse, but the dynamic of seeing Hellboy as part of a team helps set this story apart.  Even if it’s not the focus, it’s still fun to see the title character interact with experienced professionals in this kind of weirdness Never mind the fact that one of the crew is out to kill him...

Still, the real selling point for me here was the art from Alex Maleev.  I’m used to seeing good art from creators I’ve never heard of on most Mignolaverse titles, but Maleev is probably the highest-profile artist on a Mignolaverse book.  He also lays down the lines like he’s been working on “Hellboy” titles for years.  It’s clean, confident work that isn’t too far removed from Mignola’s precise, evocative linework.  Yet the artist’s shadowy detail and strong design sense -- look at that crazy Nazi tech -- makes me wish he was doing more than just this volume.  The story may be familiar, yet it’s comforting and elevated by Maleev’s art.  An easy purchase for fans/followers of the Mignolaverse.

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