First off, this is not just another Hellboy comic. While it does contain many Hellboy staples (he falls down, says “Crap.” and fights monsters, for instance), this is not just another romp for Big Red. This is the culmination of all the mythology that Mike Mignola and his many collaborators have been laying down in the HB books for almost twenty years now. Has it really been that long? Yes, the Hellboy and BPRD books are in “endgame” mode and it’s exciting!
Mignola’s long awaited return to art chores is significant for this very reason. His signature use of heavy blacks and negative space has long been a means for him to focus on the characters rather than items he did not feel suited to drawing, but now he’s employing these devices as a means of storytelling along with many other tricks (often juxtaposed against Dave Stewart’s vivid colors or in concert with elongated or shortened panels). The experience serves to immerse you further into the story rather than to distract from it (as it often will in lesser hands).
One reviewer described the art as “Jack Kirby meets Fritz Lang” and that’s pretty appropriate. The fight scenes are very Kirbyesque, sheer displays of power and releases of energy, complete with Kirby Krackles, while the more quiet scenes do evoke an expressionist influence. There’s also the usual dose of Lovecraft tinged monsters lurking about. None of this is new to the world of Hellboy, but for this tale, it’s all on full display as Big Red goes home for the first time. This Hell is pure Mignola.
In one of the odder sequences of the book, Hellboy witnesses a puppet re-enactment of Jacob Marley’s Ghosts’ visitation to Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’ Christmas Carol. This is not just Mignola being cute and throwing in a whimsical nod to the upcoming holiday. This is a metaphor for elements of Hellboy’s life.
One reviewer posted a theory that Hellboy was represented by Marley, as he was already dead and in Hell. This might be true for most characters, but we must remember (as if we could forget!) that HB is a demon and thus, the usual rules do not apply. No, It is my belief that HB here is represented by Scrooge. Hellboy has throughout his life refused to learn, grow, and accept his responsibilities and deal with who he is. His refusal to do these things has repeatedly cost him and his friends and now the entire world a great deal. But like Scrooge on Christmas morning, there is still time for him to change and attempt to make things right. We’ll see if he is able to do so in this and subsequent series.