Friday, October 30, 2015

Review - Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953--The Phantom Hand & The Kelpie (@DarkHorseComics)


"Whose hand is it?"

Hellboy's persistence as a phenomenal character brings with it plenty of great stories. One would think that continuing to follow a demon investigating other demons would get old, but fortunately for readers it doesn't. That trend continues in Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953--The Phantom Hand & The Kelpie from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Mike Mignola, illustrated by Ben Stenbeck and colored by Dave Stewart.

Hellboy is joined by Professor Bruttenholm in the field to fight the phantom hand of a murderer and a demonic water spirit. Just in time for Halloween, this is Hellboy's first ghost story. Lucky for him, he's joined by Trevor Bruttenholm and Harry H. Middleston.

The core of what makes Hellboy tick is his unflinching demeanor when faced with all manner of the supernatural and it's what Mignola emphasizes yet again in Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953--The Phantom Hand & The Kelpie. Hellboy is along for the ride so to speak with Bruttenholm and Middleston, but his trademark impatience and propensity to start beating things is what serves as the catalyst for the Phantom Hand to reveal its true nature. Mignola infuses the remainder of the book with everything you'd expect from a Hellboy tale and it's welcome to see him do so with Hellboy so young in his paranormal research career. The pacing of the first story is fantastic, picking up the pace as it proceeds until Hellboy is squaring off against yet another opponent in a physical, knockdown dragout battle. In contrast, the story of the Kelpie is significantly shorter, but does a lot to delve into Trevor's past and some of the the emotional hardships he had to endure in order to become to paranormal investigator that he is now.

Stenbeck's work in Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953--The Phantom Hand & The Kelpie maintains the Hellboy flair that previous books relied on to depict Hellboy squaring off all manner of supernatural foe. The gridlike layout very cleanly follows along with the action as it escalates from simple investigation to fight. Stenbeck does a fantastic job of illustrating the disparities between the investigators and the supernatural characters against the creepy mansion atmosphere. His renderings of the demon and the Kelpie are pretty terrifying with Stenbeck relying on vague depictions of the characters to evoke the fear of the unknown in the reader. Stewart's colors are on point where Hellboy's stark red cuts against the gloomy, gray exterior of the countryside and the mansion itself.

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953--The Phantom Hand & The Kelpie blends together the appeal of folklore with Hellboy's propensity to smash that folklore in the face. The case they're investigating gives a young Hellboy early glimpses at the life he's getting involved in, as well as references the knowledge that he has the potential to be the destroyer of worlds. Mignola maintains the Hellboy mythos well in the one-shot, giving readers plenty of familiar hooks while still managing to craft a story that feels new. Stenbeck's illustrations are simple yet effective, offering up a scenario where the reader can better immerse themselves into the legend. Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953--The Phantom Hand & The Kelpie is a great one-shot that fans of Hellboy will definitely need to check out and those unfamiliar with the character will likely find something great here as well.

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953--The Phantom Hand & The Kelpie is in stores now.

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