Long-time readers of “Hellboy” (and “B.P.R.D.”) will know Roger the homunculus well. Introduced in “Hellboy: Wake the Devil,” his transformation from evil artifact to fan-favorite supporting character is a fun story arc, and when he finally came to his demise in the pages of “B.P.R.D.” it was a shock to most readers. One of the joys of all of the “Hellboy” one-shots, though, is that they take place in the past, outside of the current storyline. What better place, then, to see the return of Roger?
Well, “return” is perhaps too strong a word. “Hellboy: Being Human” takes place in 2000, when Roger had only recently been taken in by the B.P.R.D. (having restored Liz Sherman), and the agency is still clearly trying to figure out what to do with him. Enter Hellboy, and the next thing we know the two are on a “field trip” to what looks like a simple, low-level paranormal experience. Of course, anyone who reads “Hellboy” will know that nothing seems to go according to plan with Hellboy and company.
It’s a sweet little story, with Hellboy trying to serve as a mentor to Roger as the homunculus struggles with the concept of what it means to be human. Mike Mignola ably has Hellboy point out that he’s hardly human in his own right, but of course nothing is quite that simple (or so easily resolved). Roger’s story, of course, continued in other comics already published so Mignola can’t progress it too terribly far. But there’s still a small journey that Roger goes on here about trying to understand if he has any humanity. And, of course, undead creatures and corpses and monsters from Hell, too. In many ways it’s the action sequences that end up being the more entertaining, perhaps because Mignola can create a definitive story here that begins and ends in the pages of this one-shot. It’s the sort of script where you can empathize somewhat with the villain, even as you keep thinking, “Oh, that’s not going to end well if you keep doing that.” It’s nice to have a villain that isn’t just mustache-twirling evil, but has a real, human motivation that’s tied into a lot of pain and suffering.
Richard Corben continues his excellent streak of “Hellboy” illustrations here. Roger’s emotionless face looks perfect in “Hellboy: Being Human,” drawing him in a way that emphasizes his manufactured self. The main setting of the one-shot also looks great, from the sunken tombstones in the cemetery to the amount of decay and debris in the house itself. And as for the flashbacks explaining the deaths in the house? Brrr. It may not be excessively gory, but Corben knows how to make it look awfully creepy.
“Hellboy: Being Human” is another winning one-shot from Mignola and Corben, and I’m delighted that they still have more collaborations to come. With comics like these, the wait for “Hellboy: The Fury” doesn’t feel that long at all. This is just fun from start to finish.