Welcome to the debut of ONE OR DONE; a review column where I take comics favorite thing to do, #1 issues or one-shots, and tell you if it’s worth your hard-earned currency. We’ve got something special for our debut, Dark Horse Comics The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #1. A new series in the Hellboy universe.
THE VISITOR: HOW & WHY HE STAYED #1
STORY: MIKE MIGNOLA, CHRIS ROBERSON
ART: PAUL GRIST
COLORS: BILL CRABTREE
PUBLISHER: DARK HORSE COMICS
Through the various comic series and a couple of Guillermo Del Toro films, the story of Mike Mignola’s crimson heavy-fisted redeemer has become well known among its fans. You probably think there’s nothing meaningful left to say in Hellboy’s tale, you’d be incorrect. The Visitor:HAWHS has a dual purpose. This new limited series, co-written by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson (iZombie), does more than move the camera on the panels of events we’ve already seen in an attempt to rehash feelings for the books fans have read. As a reward for longtime followers, the mini-series is one of the first comics in recent memory to really make you, the reader, feel participant rather than a spectator in Hellboy’s storied history. All without the cliche of shattering the 4th wall. While new readers won’t come away with that feeling, the book welcomes them in its own way through an easy to digest look at the moral lesson the character has always been: You can’t judge a book by its cover.
Remember the aliens seen briefly in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction way back in 1994? We’re going to get answers as to who they are and where they were during key moments of the Mignolaverse. Issue one of The Visitor pragmatically goes through some early moments of Hellboy’s life beginning at the moment he was conjured by Nazi warlock scientists as a weapon for Hitler. We know Hellboy arrived and was cared for by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. However, this time around watching events unfold is a mysterious “Visitor” sent to destroy Hellboy, whom this stranger’s people believe to be Anung Un Rama or as they translate it, the great destroyer. The Visitor’s own fateful decision on that moment in 1944 turns him from an assassin into a voyeur watching for the slightest hint of evil in the Hellboy we love. Hopefully, he’s not watching every moment of –adolescent discovering himself–Hellboy. Sorry, my mind wanders sometimes.
The Visitor: HAWHS is symbolic of looking through a long-forgotten photo album. One that evokes a proper mystery. Who is this character? What in his backstory made him decide that a monster most people would use as a weapon deserves a chance at life. The first issue is giving me all these touching and kick-ass Hellboy moments with the burning question of “why” from this stranger’s POV. If Dark Horse is intent on doing it right; the publisher will let this series play out to its end and allow the final pages tell you what’s coming instead of reading it on USA Today. Which brings up the question of this series’ end game.
You’ll hear some complain that the issue has no real set up or direction into whatever event this series will lead towards. To you, I say nay good sir or madman. Far too often these days we’re consumed with the instant gratification brought by Netflix or knowing what “things will never be the same” event is coming before the one we’re reading even has a chance to climax. Aren’t you tired of premature happenings? Hell, by the time Civil War II ended I already knew so much about the post universe that I didn’t care whether Tony Stark was alive or downloaded his consciousness into a Keurig coffee brewer. Let a story guide you at the pace it needs to and don’t worry about knowing what’s coming down the line.
As comics go, The Visitor’s first issue is solidly constructed in script, pacing, voice and especially the all-important looks department. This book does its best to mimic the minimalistic impact Mignola did in Seed of Destruction and it f**king nailed it. Artist, Paul Grist along with colorist Bill Crabtree comprehend what some artists who dabble in these Mignolaverse titles don’t; these books are at their strongest when they give the audience room to interpret details to their own tastes. Leaving out certain details in a frame or surrounding innocent looking objects in darkness; these are the touches I’ve always appreciated about the look of this world. Also, the art team don’t do a half bad job of illustrating the various looks of Hellboy throughout his life. Particularly when he’s walking his dog and those last panels. THE FEELS!
The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #1 is lightning. Something beautiful and mysterious that leaves us in awe. This is only its beginning and I, for one, can’t wait to see more of it.
We’re doing something The Beat hasn’t really done before. ONE OR DONE is all about telling you what’s worth your favorite currency and that means we’re scoring books on the scale of 1 or DONE (DONE being sh** and 1 meaning this is a must try). None of those 1-to-10 with half points or that 3 stars out of 5 middle ground rubbish. It’s all or nothing here. Either a book is worth your attention or, at best, fit to line the bottom of a nervous stomached hamster’s cage. Throughout the year we’re going to tastefully scowl a lot of #1 issues that deserve scorn but this just ain’t one of them.
THE VISITOR: HOW AND WHY HE STAYED is a firm 1 (which remember is good), buy it when it lands in stores February 22, 2017.