Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #1 is not an origin story (For Hellboy or the B.P.R.D.). The reason I’m getting that out of the way so early is so you can avoid any preconceived notions about how to approach this particular issue. Hellboy’s origin (glorious though it may be) is a story that has already been told. In fact, roughly 30% of the entire series finds it’s focal point at how Hellboy’s origin ties in to Armageddon. Instead, Mike Mignola tells a much more personal story that finds Hellboy during the 1950’s when he’s a teenager (though actually the size of a human adult) on his very first mission for the B.P.R.D. It’s far from typical Hellboy fare, opting for a much more quiet plot driven story, over the usual big set piece banter fests. Both are great, and the detraction comes as a welcome change, but only due to the rich publication and fictional history of the character. It’s interesting to see Hellboy during his most formative teenage years as he comes to decide who he is and what he’s going to do with his immortal life. The story fits neatly in to the Hellboy timeline, and gives some insightful glimpses in to Hellboy’s future as well as his past. Hellboy spends most of his time in the background, so you won’t be seeing the big gruff baddass with the big gun and the bigger mouth just yet, but the other characters, as well as their discussions relating to Hellboy are what really make up the volume as they throw different perspectives back and forth creating lots of meaningful dialogue. The inclusion of a little bit of history about Bruttenholm will also be invaluable to fans of the series.
All in all, Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. is really small in both scale and plot. Everything is very centralized and personal, but Mignola’s very natural sounding dialogue, about the unnatural, is hard to mistake as everything free flows in to each scene with such a smooth transition that you might even believe that you’re watching a movie rather than reading a comic book. Alex Maleev and Dave Stewart are really focused on what makes the story tick, maintaining very tight and consolidated angles and colors that create the sense of boith closeness and grit that reflects the tone of the story. Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. is off to a quiet, yet proficient start as audiences are treated to a side of Big Red that they might not be used to seeing, but it still feels authentically Hellboy in both look and tone. An impressive and downplayed beginning, though who’s to say that all hell isn’t about to break loose?