“Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” #1 offers readers a ground-floor opportunity to join the adventures of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense as Hellboy takes on his first field mission in this adventure written by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, with gritty, realistic art from Alex Maleev. As Hellboy’s twentieth year at Dark Horse winds down, this is absolutely the best comic Dark Horse could offer up to invite new readers into the dark corners of the world.
Like peanut butter and chocolate, Maleev and Hellboy are a nice happenstance that needs to exist more and often once you experience it. Fans of Maleev from his work on “Daredevil” and “Moon Knight” will find the rough, photo-based art Maleev has championed throughout his career. In “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” #1, Maleev’s art shines as a brilliant cross-section of tribute to Mignola’s vision and custom-ordered creepy, shadow-soaked waking dreams that follow Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, the Director of B.P.R.D., as he sends a crew down to Brazil. Each of the characters cuts a distinct profile, a strength of Maleev’s art that is nicely revealed in this chapter. Dave Stewart’s colors describe the inky corners with believable authenticity, giving readers a true sense of standing in the briefing room with the B.P.R.D. crew as they hear their orders from Bruttenholm.
The story from Mignola and Arcudi opens with a flashback to 1946 before leaping into April 1952. Once in that present-day, this pseudo-period piece introduces B.P.R.D. agents Archie Muraro, Jacob Stegner, Susan Xiang and Robert Amsel to the readers as they learn about their assignment. Joining them on their mission is Hellboy, who serves as the perfect prism through which the writers define the personalities of the B.P.R.D. quartet. Hellboy himself doesn’t get much in the way of description or definition, save for his antsiness to get going and to do something. Readers can certainly relate to the eagerness inherent in investigating a new place for the first time, but Hellboy’s anxiety is magnified given that this is a mission, not just a simple field trip. This issue is pure setup, but it isn’t drawn out or unnecessary. The writers put all the players on the board and give readers a descriptive analysis of all parties, providing just enough to allow readers to form their own connections and theories.
“Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” #1 truly is a magnificent introduction to the universe Hellboy occupies. The creative team does a brilliant job of describing the situation, introducing the cast and building anticipation as the issue ends with Hellboy looking towards a very uncertain future. It isn’t every month that one of the more critically acclaimed new franchises created in the past twenty years offers readers a chance to climb in on a new ground floor, but “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” #1 provides just such an opportunity. If you’ve missed out on Hellboy, or lost track of the adventures of the B.P.R.D., now is your chance to join Hellboy on his first adventure.