First published as a standalone title in 1994, in the past two decades, the Hellboy franchise has become synonymous with Dark House Comics. Hellboy has spawned two studio feature films (Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army) with a combined box office of over 250 million dollars; animated movies and numerous spin-off comics featuring the supporting characters of the Hellboy universe.
Twenty years of stories has created a vast, layered, complex mythology in the current Hellboy continuity that taken the character literary to Hell and back.
Perhaps for this reason, in 2015 Mike Mignola launched Hellboy and B.R.P.D.: 1952, a five-issue mini-series and followed it up with this five-issue mini-series starting with Hellboy 1953: Beyond the Fences #1, consisting of two one-shot story collections and a three issue story arc.
“Prequel” is an imperfect word for this mini-series, given that Mignola has not been afraid to feature characters in comics that are set in the recent and distant past of the Hellboy universe: B.R.P.D.: 1946, Lobster Johnson, Witchfinder, Sledgehammer 44, Baltimore. Rather, 1953 seeks to show a different aspect of Hellboy: a rawer, more idealist version of the character. 1953 plays to the Hellboy franchise’s strengths: a solid ensemble of supporting characters and strong action orientated narratives.
Artists Paolo and Joe Rivera use the retro setting to showcase dazzling colors and clean art deco lines. The overall effect creates bright panels that are unlike the heavily shaded artwork of the classic Hellboy run. Hellboy and the B.R.P.D.: 1953 is a fresh interpretation of a well-loved, established character.
Hellboy and the B.R.P.D. 1953: Beyond the Fences #1, written by Mike Mignola, art by Chris Roberson, Paolo and Joe Rivera. Published Feb 24, 2016.
Review by Euell Thomas.