Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. head to the sleepy, suburban town of Rosemead, California to investigate a number of missing persons. How does it fare?
Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1953: Beyond the Fences #1 sets up an intriguing, supernatural mystery and detective story. Writers Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson do an excellent job of teasing out the story while focusing on Hellboy and his interaction with the B.P.R.D. agents and the general populace. It also shines a spotlight on his detective nature.
The pacing of the book is done really well albeit it might be a little slow for some due to the lack of action in this issue. However, in place of the action is a general increase in tension throughout the story. You find yourself moving closer and closer to the edge of your seat in anticipation of discovering what could be behind the missing persons. The majority of the tension is built through Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.’s investigation. They methodically discover new evidence and take notice of aberrations in the neighborhood. It gives the book an almost creepy, foreboding feeling that continues to escalate as you continue to read, leading up to the release of tension on the final page.
Mignola and Roberson keep the story mostly linear, but they do incorporate a number of flashback scenes. The way they incorporate these scenes really aids in the flow of the story. They usually will insert one or two flashback panels and then return to the present (1953). It flows seamlessly because the flashbacks give us depictions of what the team is talking about in their dialogue.
The characterization in the story is also well done. You can see the cynical nature and dry humor of Jacob Stegner coming through with Roberson and Mignola’s dialogue. Hellboy’s outgoing and caring nature is seen in his interaction with a young, troubled child who he encounters in the neighborhood. Artist Paolo Rivera captures the skittish nature of a scientist as he pulls at his collar and hunches over as he sneaks around his lab at night.
The characterization also extends to the relationship Hellboy has with his fellow B.P.R.D. agents. You get the impression they all care for each other even though they might have disagreements. It creates an interesting team dynamic and keeps the dialogue refreshing and entertaining.
Rivera’s artwork is truly amazing. He uses a number of different camera angles to keep your attention. The camera angles also progress nicely from panel to panel making it clear what exactly is happening. For instance, when Hellboy is walking around the neighborhood he notices a boy sitting alone in the grass. The first panel is a shot from behind Hellboy with the boy taking up the center of the panel. The next panel uses an over-the-shoulder camera angle with the boy in front of Hellboy. In the third panel we get a full close-up of the boy. The panel sequence tells a complete story even without having dialogue to read.
Rivera does get to stretch his creativity a bit with a double page spread full of exotic monsters. The creatures are grotesque and fearsome. Not only are they fearsome, they are enormous. Rivera subtly shows the size of these creatures as one carries a soldier in their claws.
Dave Stewart’s colors do a great job of setting the tone of the book. He is able to transition the sleepy, idyllic suburban town into a creepy, scary world. I especially enjoyed his use of lighting towards the end of the book with the flashlights only highlighting certain parts of the panels and keeping others in shadow. It does a great job of increasing the tension. Stewart also maintains the feel of the B.P.R.D. universe using subdued colors throughout the book, making it feel like there is an underlying darkness.
Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1953: Beyond the Fences #1 is an excellent jumping on point to the Hellboy and Mignolaverse. Mignola and Roberson are able to seamlessly introduce the characters and create an intriguing mystery and detective story that increasingly builds tension with every flip of the page. Paolo Rivera’s artwork is solid and he is able to easily tell the story without any dialogue. I absolutely love the way he zooms in to focus attention on certain characters. This was a solid book in what looks to be an entertaining new series.
- Excellent sequential artwork
- Good characterization and team chemistry
- Great pacing, building the tension with every flip of the page
- The book lacked direct action scenes