The book offers a very interesting mixing of talent with Mike Mignola sharing writing credits with artists Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. For me, the end product really broke a lot of preconceived notions that I had regarding the relationship between the Hellboy universe and its creator, Mr. Mignola. I had always been under the impression that any time another artist tried to recreate the look of the B.R.P.D. universe, its characters, and settings, they would fail and the end product as a whole would be missing a unique Mignola visual style that is so critical to his mythical themes. I have also always felt that changing artists mid-story or shifting back and forth throughout the story would compromise the final results.
This creative team proved me wrong on both accounts.
The line work chores are shared by both artists, and each owns a specific realm of the story, so that their different artistic looks reinforce the different worlds that they create. Fabio Moon’s lucid brush work is ideal for his dreamy portion of the story. Gabriel Ba’s crisp, simple line work snaps us back into our world. It really works to great effect and helps to reinforce the tone and the domain of the main characters. Furthermore, both artists are spectacular in their own right. I can’t say enough about the quality of their work. Let me just hit on a few highlights:
- Amazingly nuanced detail in each background and panel. I found myself looking at some of their layouts over and over again, searching for new and interesting details.
- Endless use of new and engaging camera angles.
- Absolute mastery of line art – brilliant use of solid blacks and line weight to create incredible images that are charming, inviting, and haunting at the same time.
- Wonderful character design. Every single character in the book is uniquely drawn and even the less critical characters have great energy.
Ba’s work to me is particularly compelling. He has so much expression and gesture in his brilliantly simple choices. Furthermore, everything appears to be drawn without the aid of a computer. Even the panel frames are drawn by hand, and I have a real appreciation of the ink bleed dabs at the corner of each panel where the artist has finished his line. You can just image these two great creators, framing out their artwork like old masters with pencil and t-square. Helping this is roughly 20 pages at the back of the book showing rough layouts and character development sketches which I think are always a wonderful bonus.
The story is excellent. It is what you would expect from something Mike Mignola supports. The narrative patiently uses all 125 pages to pull us into this intriguing journey that has wonderful depth and structure. It is an interesting combination of vengeance leading into madness which is incredibly compelling. Furthermore, there is something quite grounded about stories based on mythical characters such as vampires, witches, and the like. Mike Mignola’s practice of dipping back into time for these villains, referencing historical locations, and using old paintings and newspaper clippings gives a fictional credibility to his characters that is very unique. He has me convinced that vampires are real and were in cahoots with Nazis.
The story has a wonderful finish. I would not call it an ending, per se, as the reader is left with a haunting coda that leaves the reader yearning to know where these characters will show up next . . . and you definitely want to be there when it happens.
I strongly recommend this trade paperback. This is a creative team that is currently putting out timeless content that you will probably end up reading several times. You will need to reread it so that you can digest every detail, every nuance, every bit of the greatness they have crammed into these pages. I would like to give it 5 out of 5 stars, but without a little more back story on our protagonist, I was missing out on a deeper empathy for him.
Overview: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Creative Team: Story by Mike Mignola, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. Art by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. Colors by Dave Stewart, Letters by Clem Robbins.
Publisher: Dark Horse
Click here to purchase.