A mysterious favor called in late at night, a mad dash across the world, a vibrant locale, and a giant horse man and bull Minotaur! Just another day in the life for the crew of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1954 in issue one of the new story, Ghost Moon. Once again Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson, and Dave Stewart explore the early days of the eponymous hero and the department he calls home, this time with Brian Churilla on art duties.
Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1954: Ghost Moon #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
As with past story arcs, Ghost Moon shows us what Hellboy and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense went through as Hellboy was growing up, this time with a two issue jaunt to China. As usual, things quickly go sideways by way of the occult soon after meeting their contact, Roland Childe. From there, Hellboy and company are whisked into action, adventure, spirits, and the aforementioned Horse and Bull Minotaurs (Just to be really clear by the way, there’s a horse-man and a bull-man, not some sort of half horse, half bull situation, though Mike, that’s something to consider for next arc. Anyway.)
The story is Hellboy in his element. Despite being a character that has rich, intricate, engaging story weaved throughout years of content, sometimes it’s kinda great to just watch Hellboy punch the crap out of dude with a horse head. It’s uncomplicated and to the point, quickly getting to the meat of the story, a classic set up in the world of the B.P.R.D. Bad guy doing spooky shit? Call in Hellboy and let ‘im crack some skulls!
Churilla’s art doesn’t miss a step either, and he channels Ryan Sook in a way that keeps his version of Hellboy on model in a really satisfying, unifying way. This story feels very much in the same world as the larger series it builds on, and as someone who is sometimes jarred by the amount of variation between contributors to these series, I appreciate that Churilla’s art felt familiar. Of course, Dave Stewart’s colors always help keep things on track, and he guides the tone of the art with his usual aplomb.
While I do appreciate that this book cuts to the chase in a way that Hellboy doesn’t always do, it doesn’t quite work out all the way. So much of the fun of throwing Hellboy into an exotic locale is hearing about the local ghost stories, and while Hellboy has always relied on a cadre of experts to guide him, this issue winds up leaning on the coincidence that Susan just so happens to know everything about the exact situation they find themselves in.
To be fair Susan, for a San Franciscoian who’s never been to China, you DID turn out to know a lot about what’s going on…
While this certainly isn’t the first Hellboy book to include “Guidebook to the Strange” passages instead of dialogue, it does make it feel like a compulsory lecture you need to get through quick before the monster punching can start. And I understand; it’s only a two-issue story, Mignola and Roberson can’t belabor the plot, but even with its thicker page count a lot of the mystery and spooky horror elements that make Hellboy stories so fun have to be cut for time, and the storytelling gets hurt because of it. If this had been even a three issue series, I think it would have had the chance it needed to breathe a little and flourish a bit more.
That said, Ghost Moon is a fun book. It hits all the high points of the best Hellboy stories; there is some fun history and cultural background throughout, some spooky spirit talk, and a couple of cool baddies to smash. Although it reads a bit fast, if you’re looking for solid Hellboy comic to drop into, check out Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1954: Ghost Moon.