HELLBOY AND THE B.P.R.D.: 1953--THE WITCH TREE & RAWHEAD AND BLOODY BONES
Review by Paul Fiander
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Ben Stenbeck
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Cover Artist: Mike Mignola
Letterer; Clem Robbins
Published by Dark Horse
This two parter follows Hellboy and Dr Bruttenholm and their adventures in England. The main story is called The Witch Tree which is also the title of the issue with a smaller story called Rawhead and Bloody Bones making up the second part of the issue.
We still have the younger inexperienced Hellboy as our focus and even with the presence of “Father” his youthful exuberance is evident. This is one of the main attractions to this series as Mignola helps to bring a different Hellboy to the page both in narrative and with the skills of Ben Stenbeck in visual styling as well. This is a lightweight Hellboy, who although tall lacks the physical presence we have seen in previous stories outside of this series. Stenbeck is coloured by the fantastic Dave Stewart and the two of them create a visual feast that deserves a lot of plaudits. The foes we meet are beautifully drawn generally consisting a startling appearance with a varied palette of colours to complete the effect.
On the letters side Clem Robbins creates an easily identifiable script to read. The thin letters have a slight flair but can easily be consumed even on a smaller (7 inch) tablet though my preference is for a larger screen. This point can often be overlooked but an easily read lettering system is hugely important to the creation of a great reader experience.
The stories themselves are investigations into the occult as you would expect. They have some similarities and end on a surprising note, thankfully although short they do not feel rushed even if Rawhead only consists of 6 pages. Infact I could easily see the Rawhead story in Dark Horse Presents which is probably where Mignola has honed this type of short form storytelling.
It's wonderful to see the series in England, you can feel the history of the country flowing through the pages from the townsfolk to the landscapes. Mignola uses a historical figure for the Witch Tree to help explain its presence giving the story some weight. Whereas the second story is set in a pub and apart from a distinct lack of rain I'm not sure how much more English you can get than that.
If you are new to Hellboy then this acts as nice one (or two as the case may be) and done, though at this point I will say come on this is one of the most accessible characters and series in comics. For those who already appreciate this fact you will find a refreshing look at Big Red that acts as a very nice post Halloween tale of things that go bump in the night.