Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hellboy: One for One

I haven't taken advantage of the $1 first issues that publishers have been putting out recently -- mostly because I haven't noticed them at my shop. Last week, I almost got the Sin City: The Hard Goodbye one dollar first issue because... well, Frank Miller, motherfuckers. I already have the contents of that comic, but still. I opted against it, but did take advantage this week when I saw they had the first Hellboy issue on the rack. A buck to check it out? That seemed more than worth it (I was also hoping the shop would have Usagi Yojimbo #1 since it also shipped this week, but, alas, it did not). Prior to this comic, I'd read exactly three Hellboy-related comics. That special from a few months back that Richard Corben drew and the two issues of Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain I reviewed for CBR. I've seen the first movie as well. Other than that, Hellboy is just one of those 'heard it was really good, so I'll pick it up when I have the money' books. Well, right now, the only way that seems possible is with a one dollar comic. Ah well, let's jump in anyway. (I was surprised to see John Byrne's name in the credits for scripting the book. I don't know why, it just surprised me.)

Hellboy: One for One by Mike Mignola, John Byrne, and Mark Chiarello (originally published as Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1 in 1994)

Right away, I was thrown by the amount of text on the first few pages. But, I think it works. Text on the left in its own nice column, Mignola's art on the right. The first two pages operate that way and it showcases the art somewhat. Bold, heavy drawings with lots of ink. Chiarello's colours are wonderful -- I love the orange/pink/red hues of the sky to denote dusk. Chiarello uses broad, solid colours with gradual hues. It's very refreshing and plays off Mignola's art style well. Since his drawings look so purposeful and static at times, so bold and contrasting, the colouring needs to match that. Lots of computer effects would muddle the art, but solid colours that pop off the page is exactly what's required. You know, Hellboy isn't various shades of red with special shifts in his face to suggest extra depth: he's one fucking shade of red that stands out on the page and makes you take notice.

I love the use of purples and blues for the Nazi ceremony... Mignola provides lots of shadows, but it never looks so dark that it's murky, because Chiarello colours the pages with the purples and dark, rich blues. The scene looking bathed in moonlight. Or, there's the panel where the explosion happens and it's just two figures in high contrast black (with some brown) against a yellow background. Not a bright yellow or a dark yellow, just yellow.

Goddamn, I could stare at these colours for days. They're so rich and bold... they're not consistent, though -- but that seems to fit. Chiarello alters the tones and hues to match the panel and changing setting. The shift of Hellboy's bright red skin to a duller shade as he moves into darkness... before it kicks back to bright red. Why continue that dull colour when all that's needed is one panel to establish the change in lighting?

Mignola does some interesting things with his art. Despite it being a very bold style that focuses on specific panels looking amazing, there's a nice flow to it. He moves in broad strokes with some smaller panels thrown in at times. There's an economy in his layouts. He uses the minimal amount of panels to get across the necessary information. Take the page where Hellboy is raised from Hell: five panels, three tiers...

Tier One: large panel of the small, red thing in the middle of some fire/energy, while a solider backs away, surprised. Hellboy is mostly in shadows, but enough is there to know what he is.

Tier two: three panels, the first takes up half of the tier. It has reactions from three people. The second panel closes in on Hellboy. The third has him named by a fourth individual.

Tier three: a photograph with the black of the rest of the panel around it. It's a photo of everyone there when Hellboy came to Earth, him in front of everyone.

Mignola handles his arrival, initial reactions, acceptance/naming, and suggests what happened next in one page with a minimum of panels/art. Really strong, economical storytelling.

Later in the issue, I love the fight between Hellboy and the Frog Creature. The panels where Hellboy uses his smaller, left hand to fight off the creature are drawn in a way to accentuate it being smaller than his large, strange right hand. Mignola uses shadows to give the impression that the hand/arm is almost sickly thin. The sort of arm you'd see on a person in a third world country dying of starvation. When you look closer, you can see that that's only part of the arm, but, initially, it looks extra thin. Mignola's art is very energetic in those pages. Hellboy and the Frog Creature are always moving or getting ready to move. When Hellboy kills the Creature, the sound effect of his gunshot is coloured red.

The writing is fine. It's not the sort of writing I expect from Byrne, but I imagine it's more Byrne helping Mignola out with the scripting duties than providing all of the dialogue/narration. There are hints given about things, but not a lot come out and said explicitly. Hellboy's dialogue suggests a much more subdued character than I expected given my (limited) previous experience. Where's the sarcastic, wise-cracking, rebellious Hellboy...? Not a complaint, just a surprise.

Now, the $64,000 question... does this make me want to read more?


While the writing isn't the star, the art is amazing. This makes me want to get the deluxe hardcovers. Well worth the dollar -- for me and Dark Horse, I imagine.