Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artwork: Duncan Fegredo
Colours: Dave Stewart
Letters: Clem Robbins
Release Date: 19th June 2019
Romania, 1962, somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains. When rumours of villagers going missing, occasional discoveries of pieces of them being found near the old castle, and sightings of a huge monster reach the desk of Professor Brumenthal, there’s really only one person he can call on.
Hellboy gets all the best jobs…
I’ve spent the last 25 years (has it really been that long?) following the adventures of Hellboy and the myriad offshoots of the Mignolaverse, and I’m always pleased to see whatever the next instalment is that Mike and the team produce.
The Beast of Vargu continues the saga of the early years of Hellboy‘s time at the Bureau For Paranormal Research and Defence with a self-contained story of Romanian folklore and gypsy legends. I’m always amazed by the sheer variety of tales that Mignola produces, but some of these stories have inevitably become recycled ideas from earlier works. This is a familiar tale, one we’ve seen aspects of over the years, featuring demonic contracts, the occult, help from an unexpected spectral source, and, of course, a puppet show; but as always, Mike Mignola delivers it with such charm and, enough of a twist in the tale to keep thing fresh and interesting.
This is a self-contained story in two parts and it contains one of the things I’ve really come to love in Hellboy stories, the puppet show. I think the first time I properly took notice of the puppet show style wasn’t in the comics, it was the first time I saw the film The Golden Army, and I fell in love with the style immediately. I think as a narrative device it works really well in this particular story, blurring the lines between reality, and adding aspects to the tale that would otherwise be lost if it were just one long action sequence. It also allows for a seamless segue into the second part of this story, The Secret God of The Roma, which is also delivered in the form of a puppet show.
Duncan Fegredo’s artwork is beautiful as always. I know there is an established style that a Hellboy artist has to adhere to but Fegredo manages to create some wonderful details and stamp his own personality on one of the most recognisable characters in the comic book world. I know I’m harping on about the puppets, but they are so integral to this story, and the life that Fegredo breathes into these little wooden figures is fantastic.
What can I say about Dave Stewart that hasn’t already been said? For me, Stewart will always and forever be the godfather of colourists. I don’t think the man has ever phoned a job in, and this is no exception. What Stewart does with the simplest of pallets is just a joy to behold, and whilst often imitated his work is never equalled.
While I don’t think this story was particularly new or innovative, it still ticks all the boxes on the checklist of what makes a really good Hellboy story, and the artwork alone makes it well worth your time and effort.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek