Beyond the Fences’ is the latest instalment in Mignola’s young Hellboy series, ‘Hellboy and the BPRD’. Now well into 1953 and in the second year of his employment, the latest book commences a mini-series that delves into a spate of mysterious disappearances in Rosemead, California. Within a week, the situation escalates from missing pets to adults and rumours of a strange beast in the woods abound. With the worst outcome expected, Professor Bruttenholm sends Hellboy, Susan and Stegner to investigate.
The book has a murder-mystery vibe, featuring your stereotypical ignorant law enforcement (of course it’s a lion) and a couple of shady characters who may, or may not, have had a hand in the disappearances. Whilst events unfold in a somewhat predictable fashion, this allows Mignola to place a real focus on teasing out different aspects of his main cast. The interplay between Hellboy, Susan and Stegner is light and fun, peppered by deeper moments exploring the impact of Susan’s burgeoning psychic abilities.
Whilst a mere 9 years of age, Hellboy is very much his usual self; although Mignola does feature a nice fatherly moment between Bruttenhom and Hellboy, as the Professor warns him about making a good impression. My only critique would be the over-use of ‘kid’, which feels a tad heavy-handed in emphasising the character’s youth.
Other than the characterisation, the real selling points of the book are the Riveras’ artwork and Stewart’s colouring. Their depiction of Hellboy is on-point, particularly the magazine-shot of his younger self. His expressions, and those of the characters generally, are carefully rendered and the best I’ve seen in a long while. The art is nicely supported by Stewart’s colouring; his use of dull shades not only contrasts well with Hellboy’s vivid colouring, but also gives the book an aged feel consistent with the time period in which it is set. A shout-out is also deserved to David Mack, who has provided a gorgeous watercolour version of Hellboy in the variant cover.
Whilst there are references to prior books in the series, the nature of BRPD allows easy access to fans and strangers of the subject material alike. With the character-driven nature of the book, I would say that ‘Beyond the Fences’ will likely have greater appear to the former rather than the latter. However, it’s still worth a look-in if you fancy a change from your standard purchases.
The writer of this piece was: Claire Stevenson
Claire Tweets from @cookie___raider