Friday, January 06, 2017

Hellboy and the BPRD: 1953 by Mike Mignola and others

So Hellboy is dead in 2016, as we all know. But there's a whole lot of his career from 1945 through 2012 or so that hasn't been told, and a whole lot of people who would be happy to buy regular comics and books about Hellboy punching things without caring much about what year the punching took place. And so now there's a continuity-insert series, which will presumably move forward at about one year per year, filling up all of those gaps and giving us many more Hellboy stories from now until its theoretical end with Hellboy and the BPRD: 2010 in the year 2074. (Written by Michael Mignola III, I suppose, and pictographed by the All-Encompassing Robo-Brain.)

Even if we don't go that far, we do have Hellboy and the BPRD: 1953, collecting the miniseries of the same name along with some related short stories. (Actually, "related" is just in time; the closest thing to continuity here is that Hellboy is with Prof. Bruttenholm in England for the first group of stories.) The four shorter stories are written by Mike Mignola with art by Ben Stenbeck, but Mignola adds a co-writer, the redoubtable Chris Roberson, for the longer pieces, and those are drawn by Michael Walsh (certainly not the Michael Walsh I'm thinking of right now) and Paolo Rivera.

This is a young, impetuous Hellboy, still jumping in without thinking a lot and trusting his natural toughness to keep him going without serious damage. And that's still working out pretty well for him; these are mostly monsters that can be defeated by punching and other forms of physical violence -- and the ones that can't are in the stories where Prof. Bruttenholm is available to supply a more intellectual response.

The last, longest story here -- "Beyond the Fences" -- sets up what I expect will continue in 1954 and subsequent years, with a team of Russian agents sent by Varvara (the demon-in-creepy-little-girl-form that runs the USSR's equivalent of the BPRD) plotting their own nefarious schemes and lurking near the BPRD operation. At some point, Varvara gets overthrown by her department and imprisoned for the next fifty-some years, so that may be coming up in this series. (Maybe not for a while: I don't remember exactly when that was supposed to have happened.)

This isn't full Mignola, and it's all continuity insert, so it feels less important. These are fun Hellboy stories, but I doubt this series will ever substantially change anything we know about him and his world. That's absolutely fine; if it leads to some more spooky stories about Hellboy in odd corners of the world facing off against quirky folkloric monsters, that will be a nice bonus.

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