In Review: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: The Beast of Vargu

Hellboy learns if his life is his own or if fate merely pulls the strings.

The covers: Two to choose between for this one-shot. The Regular cover by Duncan Fegredo has Hellboy leaping from the top left corner towards the Beast which is flying forward fiercely from the bottom right. They are ready to beat the tar out of one another as leaves fall about them. The background is composed of a wizened gypsy woman, complete with cigarette in her mouth. Her gnarly ringed hands are held up as if casting a spell or controlling the pair. Excellent! The Variant cover by Mike Mignola with Dave Stewart has the title character at the bottom center holding a candle. Behind him are giant puppets fighting — one represents him and the other the Beast. Leaves are falling everywhere and the title character has some blood on his shoulder. It’s Mignola and Stewart, you know you need this! Overall grades: Both A 

The stories: This was a surprise to me: there are two stories in this issue, both by Mike Mignola. The first eighteen pages are the main story that opens Somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania in 1962. Hellboy has been sent there by Professor Bruttenholm to investigate reports of missing people for over 700 years, the latest occurrences happening now. Hellboy tells Bruttenholm via phone, “Six people missing here so far, and this morning I found two arms and a foot.” Instructed where to find Castle Vargu by the locals, without them going along, Hellboy hears a growl and pulls his gun and turns, only to have the giant flying furry panther swipe at him from behind. The battle begins and Hellboy is not doing well. There’s a transition on Page 8 that leads to the introduction of two characters that provide some care for the title character as well as some entertainment. The show that he witnesses gives him some backstory on the beast he’s fighting and a possible way to beat it, even though events on 14 don’t look promising. Another transition occurs at the end of this page and the battle is rejoined. The ending is pure Hellboy. “The Secret God of the Roma” is another story that Hellboy is told, with an ending that is more to his liking. The formats employed to give Hellboy his information are neat and I’d love to see this genre used again for another story. Overall grade: A

The art: Duncan Fegredo makes this book look ominous on the first page with Hellboy entering an environment and exploring it. The large panel that shows the ground and the broken walls is sumptuous. I love the third panel that shows the hero walking past the markings in the stone. And I couldn’t help but smile as he does some work at the bottom of the page with a cigarette in his mouth. Though he’s only in the issue for four panels, Bruttenholm looks as one would expect him to be at work: hunched over his desk examining a large tome. As Hellboy talks to his mentor he’s getting stared at by patrons in the tavern and they, as well as this setting, look outstanding. The Beast is terrific, with it being a panther with wings that can stand upright, but is just as comfortable racing about as a big cat. The battle between it and Hellboy is amazing, with quite a bit of blood spilled, not to mention a pair of terrifying panels on Page 7. The two characters that appear on 9 have neat designs, with the older individual recalling Maria Ouspenskaya. The progression of time shown in three panels on 10 is awesome. I love Hellboy’s reaction at the bottom of 11. Pages 12 – 14 tell a story to the hero and the imagery is incredible: if Dark Horse doesn’t make these items they’ll be committing a crime. I really like the last two panels on 13. The reveal on 16 was unexpected and how it plays into the story’s climax is killer. The last three panels of this tale are outstanding. The second story has Hellboy watching a similar show, but a different tale. The characters in this show look great, with its climax on 21 a major surprise. Overall grade: A 

The colors: The age of the castle and its surroundings is increased by the browns and flat greens of the setting and the orange sky by Dave Stewart. These colors allow Hellboy’s fiery flesh to pop in every panel he appears. I like how the scene settings’ boxes are set off by being in a pale violet. The Beast is in black, but not so darkly colored as to lose his body or shape for the reader. However, being this color and being so large has him overpower any panel he’s in by creating a dark void on the page that wholly represents evil. Notice how the skies go a calming green on 9, soothing the hero and the reader from what’s just occurred. The shows Hellboy watches are colored with faded yellows and oranges that also age the proceedings. I like how the third panel on the final page of the first story has Stewart using a bright gray to draw the reader’s eye — clever. The final story had a lot more crimson in it than I was expecting, with a smattering of orange on the final page for something damnable. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clem Robins is responsible for this issue’s scene settings, dialogue, sounds, whispered text, yells, and the title of the second story. I cannot praise a letterer enough for correctly differing scene settings from dialogue and Robins does that. The sounds not only add to the ferocious fighting, but add considerably to the bizarre proceedings, such as the CLAKs that echo through my head every time I look at this book’s cover. The whispered text is smaller than the dialogue, but just as easy to read. The first time it’s employed it’s for a humorous moment on Page 4 and becomes painful on 6. The title of the second story looks classy, foreign, and old. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Hellboy learns if his life is his own or if fate merely pulls the strings. The story is a good action yarn spun around a bizarre show. The new characters and creature are cool and Hellboy remains the charismatic slugger. Fegredo’s illustrations are detailed and thrilling. If any flaw can be found in this comic is that it’s only a one-shot. Recommended. Overall grade: A

To order a print copy go to https://www.tfaw.com/Comics/Profile/Hellboy-And-The-B.P.R.D.%3A-The-Beast-Of-Vargu-One-Shot___599687

To order a digital copy go to https://digital.darkhorse.com/books/30adeae13267491ba9e980bc1ea8f826/hellboy-and-the-bprd-the-beast-of-vargu-one-shot?utm_source=dh&utm_medium=referrer&utm_campaign=profile&utm_term=on+sale&utm_content=Hellboy+and+the+B.P.R.D.%3A+The+Beast+of+Vargu+one-shot

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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