Mike Mignola may have stepped away from writing and drawing Hellboy, but that has not spelt the end of the Mignolaverse or the World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator. Far from it.
The Hellboy In Hell series ended last year, but Mignola is still very much involved in the development of his universe. Spin-offs like BPRD: Bureau For Paranormal Research And Defense, Lobster Johnson, and Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder are still going on, and earlier this year, we got the excellent Hellboy: Into The Silent Sea original graphic novel as well.
Hellboy’s solo adventures may be over, but his backstory is getting suitably padded through the ongoing Hellboy And The BPRD series, which features his early days with the BPRD. Starting in 1952 with his first mission, the series is now into 1955, with Hellboy more or less established in his methods but still learning the ropes when it comes to other things.
In this particular case, he and BPRD agent and biologist Woodrow “Woody” Farrier (previously seen in Hellboy And The BPRD: 1954 – Black Sun) head to the backwoods of Oregon, where a missing group of teens have summoned a demonic horror with origins similar to his own.
As far as Hellboy stories go, this is pretty straightforward, featuring Hellboy handling the punching and Woody helping out with some of the more mystical mumbo-jumbo. Shawn Martinbrough’s artwork gives the story (and Hellboy) a dose of kinetic energy that is the hallmark of his regular Thief Of Thieves series, and it is further enhanced by master colourist Dave Stewart.
It’s the build-up and the focus on Woody that I found most interesting here. The 1950s was a tough era for people of colour in the United States, and the story features people who are more accepting of a “big red guy with horns and a tail than they are a black man”.
It’s a shrewd message about racism and discrimination that doesn’t just apply to the 1950s, but also to these modern times.
But Woody’s involvement goes far beyond being a statement on racism: he also proves his worth as a field agent and backup for Hellboy.
For me, the main draw of this series is also how it adds to Hellboy’s history, giving him more layers of complexity and experience, and even justifying some of the decisions he makes in his solo stories. Secret Nature doesn’t really do that for Hellboy per se, but his BPRD teammate gets that benefit this time around.
I wouldn’t hold my breath for an ongoing Woody series anytime soon, but sometimes, it’s nice to get to know the people who helped shape Hellboy into what he becomes later on in his career/life.
Besides that, it’s also fun to see the big red lug without any excess baggage to weigh him down and being free to focus on punching alone.
Hellboy And The BPRD: 1955 – Secret Nature
Writers: Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson
Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
Colourist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics