“Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” #2 — and the miniseries in general — is an idea that sounds dynamite right from the start. Set in 1952, it follows Hellboy as he joins the B.P.R.D. for their first mission together. While Alex Maleev’s art doesn’t fail to dazzle, Mike Mignola and John Arcudi’s story feels more than a little slight and misses anything else to make up for that issue.
The basic look of the comic is exactly where it should be. Maleev’s inks are thin and fine, carefully carving out characters with sharp edges while still looking expressive. Maleev is especially good when it comes to the settings in “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” #2; from old churches to crowded town streets, everything feels like it’s a real place instead of something conjured up by the imaginations of Maleev, Mignola and Arcudi. His work with Mignola-favorite Dave Stewart has a nice level of synergy here, too; the soft colors mesh perfectly with Maleev’s art. The demon in this comic is the only place where the art doesn’t quite live up to its surroundings; it looks more like a deranged monkey than anything to actually be feared. Its leaps are energetic, but there’s no real sense of terror in the way that the characters act.
The story from Mignola and Arcudi, though, is where we have some slight problems. The first is that none of the members of the B.P.R.D. have any real discernable personalities here; they all blend together and it’s hard to get a grasp who each of them are as individuals. Over time, that will hopefully get fixed a bit more, but for now it’s more than a little frustrating because it’s Hellboy and a sea of generic agents. The second problem, which looms a bit more, is that the story feels very insubstantial. That could very well be fixed with a bit more atmosphere but, for the moment, there’s nothing that startling, nothing creepy about this story to offset the lack of anything terribly exciting. In the past, both Mignola and Arcudi have shown us their ability to nail a dark and dangerous atmosphere, so the lack of one here is more than a bit disappointing.
“Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” #2 looks nice, but — and I say this as someone who’s been reading “Hellboy” comics ever since “Hellboy: Seed of Destruction” #1 — if I came into this with no background love for the character, I’m not entirely sure I’d be dying for the next chapter. Mignola and Arcudi are normally much more reliable in working together, which makes this a little frustrating, especially considering how great of an artist Maleev is. With three more issues to go, hopefully things will pick up a bit. For now, however, it’s yet to shift into high gear.