30th Aug2019

‘Hellboy and the B.P.R.D: Saturn Returns #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie | Art by Christopher Mitten | Published by Dark Horse Comics


I still can’t believe that Hellboy first appeared way back in 1993, a full 26 years ago. Being one of the more ahem, classic, fans I remember when the character first appeared (I still have that book by the way) and what a breath of fresh air he was. While everyone else was publishing violent characters with big guns and bad girls with big boobs, Mike Mignola for some reason felt it the right time to launch his own very different character. Hellboy sort of trod spiritually in the footsteps of Marvel’s seventies horror characters like Daimon Hellstrom and Satanna, though with a much stronger focus on horror rather than superheroics. He proved popular, I still remember that initial buzz being huge, and a whole mythology spun out of it. The Bureau For Paranormal Research and Defense. Abe Sapien. Liz Sherman. etc. Let’s take a look to see if Hellboy is still the star of the show he once was.

Being a casual fan of Hellboy I tend to dip in and out, and I’m always impressed by the fact that because stories are released in small series they are accessible to both new readers and old. The books tend to feed into a larger narrative, but are also self contained and can be read as such. I like that. This story starts in 1975, in New Hampshire, when a large grave full of bodies has been discovered. Not only that, but some bodies seem to date back decades and the walls are daubed in supernatural imagery. No surprise then to find Hellboy and B.P.R.D Agent Kinsley present, plus Special Agent Oates. Bizarrely none of the satanic imagery seems legitimate, perhaps scribbled up as a cover, and all the bodies seem to have had their hearts removed. Human serial killers? demonic activity? something else?

It’s becoming clear from the reactions and comments of some of the townspeople that this small town has had an ongoing problem with disappearances for a long time, and some well deserved anger is being directed at the authorities and Police. The case of Billy Appleton especially seems to be a recurring theme. Everyone starts arguing over how the disappearances and murders didn’t arouse more suspicion, though it seems the fact they go back to 1925, and have little common factors involved, mean no one can really be blamed. Everyone is stumped still. Witchcraft? shape changers? vampires? This is a world where people are happy to consider any and all possibilities, because this is a world where anything and everything can happen. All while this is going on, back at the B.P.R.D Liz Sherman is not happy with Hellboy, as he has not been back to see her at the institute. Despite the best efforts of Professor Bruttenholm, she goes on the run…straight into trouble.

On balance, this was exactly what you expect from a Hellboy story. A slowly, unfolding, intriguing story and mystery, good characterisation and dialogue, and trademark murky colours and slightly loose art style. Personally, I really enjoyed this, felt like an X-Files episode, but I’m not sure it would bring in any newer fans as essentially very little happens. A crime scene is discovered and everyone theorises over what could have happened. True to life of course, but modern attention spans don’t lend themselves to a low build up very often. The story promises a good pay off though, so patience will be worth it. I assume Mignola plotted and produced this, and the actual scripting was done by Scott Allie, but it’s a solid script, and the art by Christopher Mitten is textbook Mignolaverse stuff. He visits a lot, so he knows the right artistic buttons to press.

Perhaps not the most thrilling of opening issues, but a slow burner that should help deliver a solid storyline and payoff down the line.

**** 4/5


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