I'll admit I was skeptical when Mike Mignola announced he was no longer going to draw "Hellboy," and was bringing in a new artist. Mignola's gorgeous artwork had always been part of the "Hellboy" experience, and the idea of someone new seemed wrong. Even once the book finally settled on Duncan Fegredo, I wasn't sure this was a good idea. Then we got "Hellboy: Darkness Calls" and I was sold. "Darkness Calls" and "The Wild Hunt" have formed the first two parts in a trilogy of stories from Mignola and Fegredo, and the third book now begins with "Hellboy: The Storm."
(A word to the wise, though. While "Hellboy: The Storm" is running three issues, it'll only be the first half of that final book. After a break it'll conclude with "Hellboy: The Fury" which is also scheduled to run three issues. It sounds like it'll be a logical breaking point between the two halves, and it lets Mignola and Fegredo hit their deadlines. So really this is the first of six issues, not just three.)
Now that we're here? I'm sorry to see the conclusion on the horizon, and not just because of Fegredo's gorgeous art. Mignola's story involving dead kings, witch women, wild hunts, and the new monarch of England has been a blast and a half, and "Hellboy: The Storm" #1 is a reminder of everything good he's brought to the table. Mignola paces this issue well, giving a brief recap of everything that led up to this moment as well as a quiet and slightly introspective opening to this book. A scene involving opened crypts in a church seems like it would be a chance to go creepy, but instead Mignola goes for an almost peaceful mood over those pages. It lets the reader ease back into Hellboy's world, and when the bad stuff does show up it becomes that much more jarring.
And of course, since this is an issue of "Hellboy," bad stuff does come calling. When the attack finally erupts, Fegredo and colorist Dave Stewart make it as moody and unsettling as ever. From the deep red hue that lies over the flashbacks that echo through Hellboy's mind, to the fight itself, Fegredo commands the reader's attention. Fegredo isn't afraid to use Mignola's signature visual hooks in the story, from a tight close-up panel of a blood-red eye, to the host of leaves fluttering through the air as Hellboy fights his attackers. Fegredo still has his own artistic touches that he's added to "Hellboy," though; the wrinkles he adds under eyes or in fabric, the crumbled look he brings to the trashed hood of the car, the way he draws the almost spherical trees in the background. I know this is the start of the end for this sequence of Fegredo-drawn "Hellboy" stories, but I hope it's not the end of Fegredo on the book as well.
"Hellboy: The Storm" #1 is another strong comic from Mignola, Fegredo, Stewart, and Dark Horse, and with "Hellboy: The Wild Hunt" recently collected into a trade paperback, it's a great time for readers who just can't wait for the conclusion. Most of the titles from Dark Horse's short-lived "Legend" imprint are over, but it's great to see "Hellboy" not only still being published, but at such a high quality to boot. Moody, dark, exciting, even a little loving; it's all here. Good, good stuff