Thursday, April 05, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #95: The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed by Mignola, Roberson & Grist

Stories are as fractal as you want them to be. It can be one big, sweeping story, or thousands of little stories happening at the same time. The only limits are the creators' imagination and the audience's patience.

Audiences have had a lot of patience with Mike Mignola's supernatural alternate history anchored by Hellboy, and he -- along with a small army of collaborators -- has had a lot of imagination. So that particular story has become very fractal, with individual sub-series hiving off from what seems like every even vaguely interesting character or situation in Hellboy.

Not changing the subject at all, here's The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed, a whole miniseries dedicated to the Figwit of Hellboy, that random alien guy who showed up twice and (remarkably) didn't try to kill Hellboy either time.

On the positive side, it has strong, distinctive art from Paul Grist, who is equally good at people and punch-ups. The story (by Mignola with his current major co-writer Chris Roberson), while inevitably episodic to cover The Vistor's whole career on "Ab-Juda Earth" -- did you think The Visitor would ever get a second miniseries? -- has real emotional resonance and depth.

Balancing that out is the fact that what we have here is five issues about a robot-looking alien dude with unexplained superpowers that seem to emanate from a flying featureless green-glowing PDA, who wanders around the edges of some Hellboy stories and repeatedly decides not to try to kill Hellboy. It is about as sidebar as a story can possibly be and still be a story.

I like Grist's work, and I like Roberson's work. And I like the Hellboy universe. I even like the human story the team wove around The Visitor hanging around for a few decades, while he was waiting to see if Hellboy would start the apocalypse and need to be killed. But I can't say this is a story that needed to be told, or that would exist at all if there weren't an insatiable need for more Hellboy-universe material to fill the Dark Horse publishing schedule.

If, like me, you're still reading everything even vaguely related to Hellboy and liking it, you will enjoy The Visitor. The rest of you would probably be better served by finding a book that tells its own story.

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