Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1956

We’re getting closer to the release of the Hellboy live action reboot, so I guess this is trying to build some anticipation for that. Does it manage? Well, yes. And no, somehow. But this series is still a recommend, with a few caveats.
As per usual, I’m not really up to date with the exact continuity on HB, I’ve been reading various things from the BPRD files over the years, including recently, and the main thing that drew me to it initially was the very specific art style (you know what I’m talking about), which is decidedly lacking in this and more recent renditions, but more on that later.

This is a very toned down HB entry when it comes to the bizarre I’ve come to expect from such a title, especially after the 1955 one-case issues or short series. It’s very much a slow boil setup, and while I found it an enjoyable one that lays out plenty of interesting hooks and characters, some may find it a bit slow and drop the series going forward. This intro page perfectly lays out what I’m talking about…

While that’s way more text than I’d normally like to slog through in a comic, albeit a #1 (well, #21 in a series… Note to self: read more HB comics), the way it’s posed here is thematic and instantly draws me into the setting, so I’m very much alright with the presentation (and no, it ain’t a 4-pager as the bottom right states).

The subsequent few pages see Hellboy gear up for a Mexican voyage where oogie-boogie things have begun going awry, more so than usual, and we get some heartstring tugging in the form of dead doggo. *single tear*
It seems like HB’s in a tough spot where he needs someone to talk to and nobody’s available. Boy, I sure that doesn’t come up to bite people in the ass in the form of bubbled up anger or anything…

We have a further few PoVs that deal with bureaucracy (Bruttenholm has to answer to higher ups), psych-evals (we have an interesting, clairvoyant mutant here), and diminutive, mad Russian scientists (as you do), which are very well laid out in bite-sized chunks that jump from one setting to the next and lay out the context that the series will conceivably fall into going forward.

The biggest issue I have with this, and what I bet will be my main gripe going forward, is the art… And it’s a difficult one to peg. As you can see from the above page, it’s got style. The line work is gorgeous and “heavy” for lack of a better word, the new team made up of Yishan Li, Mike Norton and Michael Avon Oeming have put together a very nice feel for the run.
But the thing here is that there’s really nothing spectacular to look at: most of the plot takes place indoors, which means drab, olive/gray backgrounds, lots of walls, straight lines, and not much else. The issue is also very static, with people mostly standing/sitting around talking to each other, with no interesting angles or particularly inspired panels, which doesn’t help break up the monotony either.

This feels a lot like the first 5 minutes of a blockbuster action flick, and I think that will have it suffering a bit to get going. Maybe longtime Hellboy fans will be able to find more of a reason this, but in my somewhat limited experience this kind of setup hasn’t always been the case, with adventure featuring front and center in previous entries.
I’m all in favour of the toned-down, slower take, but I feel like some opportunities were missed with this first issue, when even the villains themselves were set up as a looming, distant threat/dysfunctional family more than anything.

Bear in mind also, that there’s a ton of Hellboy-195x fare out there, a cursory search on Google will yield dozens of titles in that timespan which more or less tie into understanding the whole shebang, so it may feel daunting to just jump on at this point. That said, I don’t think it’s entirely necessary to go back and slog through the previous one-offs or series to enjoy this one.
A general knowledge of Hellboy and the mythos will do.

I’ll still be following through for the next ones, though, fingers crossed I don’t feel like I’m being duped, and going by the odd pages dealing with the heebies and the jeebies, it looks like I’m in for some fun stuff.

Thanks for reading, and have as nice a day as you deserve!