Story By: Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson
Art By: Ben Stenbeck, Michael Walsh, Paolo Rivera and Joe Rivera
Hellboy is one of Dark Horse’s cornerstones and keeps proving just how great of a comic series it really is. This collected trade is a treasure of the early years for Hellboy in the B.P.R.D. as he explores England with his adoptive father, Trevor Bruttenholm. Together they encounter some ghouls, ghosts, witches and save the world from the evils of hell. Mignola has constantly provided us with great adventures for Hellboy issue after issue. In the second half of this collected Trade, we get to read Mignola sharing the story with Chris Roberson who has flexed Hellboy’s Right Hand of Doom to really explore Hellboy’s “Bull in a China Shop” approach to nearly every situation.
Artist Ben Stenbeck illustrates the first four short stories in this collection. I found that seeing Hellboy experiencing the paranormal for the first time was a lot like the reader’s experience here. Not knowing the legends of “The Phantom Hand” or the “Witch Tree”, I let the art create that creepy undead feeling that just made the stories really come alive (pun). With the additional Sketch Book in the rear pages of this volume, we get to see not only the formative years of Hellboy’s B.P.R.D. beginnings but also Stenbeck’ s formative process for the creatures our red fisted hero encounters.
Shifting artistic visions slightly for the last two stories “Wandering Souls” and “Beyond the Fences”, the artists showed Hellboy in the light of day, literally. There wasn’t much of a creepy dark overtone to the stories, even though the B.P.R.D. team faces off against unnamed monsters. The action rampages through suburbia and the theme of the stories becomes not “what is it” like most paranormal stories but more of a “how to stop it”.
This Trade is perfect for any comic fan and worth the pick up. Long time Hellboy fans will get the same great story we have come to expect from Mike Mignola, and new comers will get to see a variety of stories showcasing the more paranormal defense that is the heart and soul of Hellboy. All along the way, each chapter is linked like the overall theme of Hellboy, by the fear of everyone who knows the myths about what our hero and his large fist might one day become, but defended by his adoptive father that his boy is a hero and not a destroyer (unless it’s a China shop).