Reviews: Hellboy & the BPRD 1955 – Occult Intelligence
Hellboy & the BPRD 1955: Occult Intelligence,
Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson, Brian Churilla, Dave Stewart,
(cover artwork by Paolo Rivera)
The “young Hellboy” series that began with Hellboy and the BPRD 1952 (reviewed here) continues, much to my reading delight. With the main Hellboy story arc wrapped up after twenty-odd years these small mini-series runs of his first years as a field agent with the BPRD are a nice, occasional treat for fans. In the first issue of Occult Intelligence We have Big Red and his colleagues landing, travel-weary, at a US airbase in the Marshall Islands. They’re en-route back home after completing a case in Australia, and that, even today with jetliners, is a long, long flight – in a 50s Dakota it’s even longer.
His colleague Archie is actually pleased at this break in their journey – he had been stationed in spots like this as a bomber pilot during the war. And then to his delighted suprise, as he disembarks their transport he spots one of his old comrades, Hampton, now a major in the Air Force, still stationed at this base, and naturally the two start catching up, then introducing the others to their conversation. Archie shows suprise at how much activity there is on the base during peacetime, including a large contingent of civilian contractors, who mostly keep apart from the Air Force personnel. With time to kill before the rest of the journey, HB, Archie et al gladly go for a drink in the mess with Hampton, who starts to fill them in on some unusual goings-on, strange tests of some weird weapon. Not an A-bomb, those have been tested nearby before, this is something new, and none of them know what it is. And then there are the missing men and strange things, just glimpsed…
Meantime there’s another story arc going on, on the other side of the world, as Professor Bruttenholm pays a return visit to his mother country, also bringing Suan Xiang with him. The professor is met by an old friend and comrade from the British occult investigation team (now disbanded), while Susan is going on to work with Dr Sandhu in the Insitute of Psychiatry in London. Thousands of miles from Hellboy’s location, but obviously something strange is going on here too, even in quiet, post-war Britain. The government team disbanded, the professor’s friend Harry now carries out occult investigations by himself, while most of their mutual wartime comrades seem to have gone to ground. Except… Except Harry is noticing that someone else is investigating cases he is following, and he doesn’t know who, or to what purpose…
As with all of this run, this is a good burst of fun and adventure, and, like many of the other 50s-based Hellboy series, it allows Mignola et all to indugle in referencing and paying homage to a lot of period favourites. We’ve had post-war secret Nazi bases and riffs on The Thing in an Arctic base before, and now we have that great staple of 50s sci-fi, hugely influenced by the nuclear weapons tests of the era, the super-secret weapon, even more advanced than the H-Bomb, and the spooky side-effects it may create, and hints of forces or creatures stirred by those tests as Man pokes his nose into places he should never have trespassed upon, while the British scenes have a pleasing whiff of Quatermass to them.
Churilla and Stewart give us bright pages for the Pacific island scenes, creating a feeling of bright, warm, tropical sunlight, while the scenes in London are darker, muddier and moodier. Churilla’s art captures some nice character moments, plenty of close ups of expressions to give us a good, instant insight into the character’s thoughts and moods (lovely reaction from Archie pal to meeting HB for the first time, for example), and later he gets to let loose with some fun action sequences which burst out after the smaller, more personal panels of character interaction.
I can’t really say anymore without risking blowing some spoilers for you, so I will just say this is a lovely fix of Hellboy, and I can’t wait for the next issue!
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