Hellboy & The B.P.R.D. 1957 - Family Ties Review

by Nick Devonald on September 14, 2021

Writers: Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson
Artist: Laurence Campbell
Colours: Dave Stewart
Letters: Clem Robins

The first adventure in Hellboy & the B.P.R.D.’s 1957 series has Hellboy and Susan Xiang on the hunt for a paperback copy of Gustav Strobl’s Witchcraft and Demonology. Strobl is a character who has recurred throughout many Mignolaverse titles, from Witchfinder, to Abe Sapien, and various Hellboy/B.P.R.D. adventures. His book, Witchcraft and Demonology, will be familiar to regular readers. And as readers know if it shows up trouble is not far behind. While on the hunt for this, a desperate housewife’s plea for help sends the pair on an unexpected adventure.

The issues title, family ties, gives away that this tale is centred around families. At its core it’s about a parent whose own mother has moved in with her, which has led to conflict. Of course, because it’s a Hellboy story things are never quite as clear cut as that and there is a heavy supernatural element, but at its core it is a family tale. And of course, it’s not a coincidence that Hellboy is joined her by agent Xiang, whose own family history has been hinted at since her first appearance in the pages of B.P.R.D., and while no answers are forthcoming here they are teased some more, and it can’t be long until readers learn more of her history.

Chris Roberson is becoming a frequent scribe in the Mignolaverse, and he always manages to tell tales with a different spin on them than readers are used to. His storytelling matches perfectly with Mike Mignola to tell supernatural stories which feel full of potential and not restricted by what has come before.

When Hellboy & the B.P.R.D. 1957 was announced Dark Horse released cover art for each of the issues, done by the talented Laurence Campbell. But Campbells involvement extended beyond just the covers, as he also returns to the fold for the first of these adventures. Readers will be familiar with his work during B.P.R.D.’s darkest days and final tales. It’s always a delight to see a fan favourite artist like Campbell return to the Mignolaverse, and he brings his signature heavy inks to create a gorgeous, stylised, and haunting foray into Hellboys universe. The deep shadows and silhouettes within the house tell an incredibly atmospheric story, and the horror elements are nicely done. Without giving away too many spoilers when the supernatural element makes an appearance Campbell has created a rather unique take on the typical demon appearance, it looks great, unique, and fits in perfectly with the story that Mignola and Roberson are telling here. Campbell has plenty of experience drawing Hellboy, as he was the artist responsible for telling Hellboys return during B.P.R.D.s The Devil You Know story arc, but this Hellboy is much younger and less jaded than that version and the differences show. Campbell’s work always stuns, and this issue is no different, hopefully this is only the first of many returns to Mignolas world.

Dave Stewarts colours always look good but the contrast between Campbells heavy inks, dark and brooding atmosphere, with some of the brighter panels and our heroes and villains silhouetted against them look stunning and both a natural fit for the Mignolaverse and something out of the ordinary as well.

The first entry in Hellboy & the B.P.R.D.s 1957 adventures is off to a fantastic start, dark and brooding atmosphere combined with a unique tale centred around a troubled family make for an excellent entry in the Mignolaverse. The Hellboy & the B.P.R.D. tales are in a unique position to both fill the gaps in Hellboys timeline, while also getting to see the evolution of a much younger Hellboy into the hero that readers are intimately familiar with. Roberson’s writing pairs perfectly with Mignolas, and Campbell’s art consistently creates some of the more atmospheric tales in the Mignolaverse.

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