So clearly this is one of my favorite comics, but I’m worried that after so many years of consistent high quality, that people are forgetting about the Hellboy universe that Mike Mignola has created. This is a changing, almost real-time world where there are consequences in each and every story. The world is physically changed (usually not for the better) as the result of the BPRD’s adventures over the past few years.
Now, with huge monsters releasing spores into the atmosphere that turn humans into monsters, with horrifying demons crawling up out of the earth at random, and with the “normal” villainy of the Hellboy universe, things are very dire for humanity. But instead of letting the reader become overwhelmed by the post-apocalyptic world that is the status quo; Mike Mignola and John Arcudi spend this trade focusing on smaller stories. Focused narrative beats that keeps the horror from becoming hopeless, because even a few men with guns can still do some good.
The first story in the collection is A Cold Day in Hell. It follows Johann and a small team of BPRD agents as they try to track down what happened to a previous team sent in to stop a cult in Chicago. Complicating factors include the aforementioned monster spores and tunneling demons. When the team’s chopper goes down outside Chicago, the BPRD folks have to hoof it in on their own, meeting up with a few stragglers of the apocalypse along the way.
Again, society has collapsed. There is almost no one left alive for the agents to encounter. Yet they persevere and maintain their humanity as they complete their mission. With one possible exception. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be as suspicious of Johann as I am… the ghost man has no face, after all, but he just seems… off. There is one important scene where I’m not sure if Johann isn’t allowing someone to die so that he can complete his mission. The other agents are all well realized and it is easy to root and grieve for them, even after only a few pages of exposure.
The second story focuses on newer lead characters. The Russian Occult Sciences Division has an important mission to complete, with the help of a few stranded BPRD agents. It’s an excellent glimpse into the history of the Hellboy world, but it also shows one of my favorite aspects of the line. While accomplishing his mission, the Russian director has teams out saving civilians. Unlike Superman in Man of Steel, Director Nichayko remembers that if everyone is dead, winning doesn’t matter.
Dark Horse continues to maximize its artists too. Laurence Campbell knocks it out of the park in the Chicago sequence. His agents look memorable and recognizable, and dang if I’m not looking forward to seeing Agent Howard do a lot more. It still pays to have super-heroic agents on the team after all. Peter Snejbjerg is an old hand at this stuff, so his chapters look fantastic too. I particularly enjoyed how well detailed the Russian town felt as the team accomplished their missions.
This is an EXCELLENT comic. Don’t forget about it just because it has been coming out for years.