With such an extensive tenure as lead writer on Hellboy, it would be easy to say that if you’ve read one Mike Mignola Hellboy story, you’ve read them all. But is familiarity such a bad thing? Instead of falling into the ill-fated category of “repetition breeding contempt,” I fully support the notion that “repetition breeds liking.” That is a long-winded way of saying Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: Her Fatal Hour one-shot treads familiar ground, and the story is all the better for it.
All the Hellboy boxes are checked on this one: a concise yet intense narrative pace, stories steeped in real-world history/mythology with a Mignola twist, A dark tone with a mixture of humor and adventure, and Hellboy at his “Hellboy-iest” best (It’s a word). Her Fatal Hour is an enjoyable ride that welcomes new audiences while simultaneously calling back to past adventures for the long-standing fan. Granted, the story doesn’t move the needle or have a significant impact on the world of the B.P.R.D, but it’s a fun read. What more can we ask for?
Image comics describes the issue as:
Gone, but not forgotten! Years after Hellboy’s ill-fated tangle with the Beast of Vargu, the Romani women who helped him need that debt repaid. Claimed by a demon in a romance gone wrong, the younger woman reaches out to Hellboy through the power of a familiar old puppet, and a supernatural confrontation full of magic and mayhem ensues! In a second short story, Hellboy goes head to head with a phantom who is looking for an object completely unknown to the living people the ghost is terrorizing. Master of horror Mike Mignola is joined by artist extraordinaire Tiernen Trevallion and award-winning colorist Dave Stewart to bring you the follow-up to smash Hellboy hit ”The Beast of Vargu”!
The issue is broken down into two distinct stories, Her Fatal Hour and The Sending. The bulk of the pages are taken up by Her Fatal Hour — roughly two thirds of the issue. But neither story feels too short, and Mignola never lets a panel or page go to waste.
After a myriad of stories involving Hellboy, Mignola has the character down pat. His nuances, quips, and honest-to-a-fault cadence have become staples of the titular character. So much so that readers have expectations of Hellboy, but Mignola always delivers. At no point does it feel like Hellboy is acting out of character; his very essence flows from Mignola’s pen, or more appropriately, his keyboard. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the supporting characters in either tale (save for one). However, that isn’t so much a foible of Mignola’s as it is the very nature of a one-shot: terseness.
Mignola does his absolute best to adapt to the brevity of pages allowed him, but there is only so much to glean from either story despite these efforts. Let’s start with the bad news first: Don’t expect in-depth characterization or an allegory for something greater. The stories are short and sweet, but it ends there; three acts punched up as best they can be. Good news time: Mignola pulls all the tools from his writer’s box to tell the best stories he can.
Every panel moves the story forward while setting the tone. Set in 1979, Her Fatal Hour finds Hellboy summoned from his dreams to Romania by Nadya, granddaughter of Violca. If Violca’s name seems familiar, you know your Hellboy — she saved Hellboy in the classic tale The Beast of Vargu. Nadya is doomed to have her former lover/fiancé/demonic presence return for hand in marriage, whether she wants it or not. At the stroke of midnight, Ferko will come. Nadya’s narration fills in the backstory via flashbacks leading up to the present. Thankfully, the exposition-heavy narrative isn’t forced. Instead, Nadya is briefing Hellboy, and in turn the audience, of the story thus far. Most readers wouldn’t take notice of the tact Mignola takes, and it blends in almost seamlessly.
The most striking aspect of Her Fatal Hour is how Mignola chooses every panel’s perspective. Most notably by regularly cutting to a close-up of a large clock, with onomatopoeia “Tics” resounding each time. This begins from the very first page in the story with no context, but it all becomes clear once Nadya’s story comes to a close; each Tik was foreshadowing the pending darkness to come; Ferko is coming.
In the end, we all know how things turn out, but the joy is seeing how we get there.
The Sending uses all the elements from Her Fatal Hour, only in a fleeting way. It opens on a crime scene with Miss Bell, the former library’s owner, giving Hellboy the lowdown on what happened. Sound familiar?
Set in England in 1991, Hellboy is in the vestiges of a library containing spell tomes that have been destroyed by a Sending, an Icelandic Ghost. The entirety of the story takes place in two primary settings. With Ms. Mills summarizing the first act, the second act is the Sending’s arrival, followed by a prompt closing act of finishing off the Sending. I did say it was short, didn’t I?
Thankfully, the one outlier here is Harry, a resourceful older man who provides Hellboy with the information he needs to finish off the ghost. He even insists that Hellboy tell Trevor of his exploits. Mignola also applies real-world history and lore to his tales, with a fictional twist. Here, he references an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria. It’s fun little touches like this that bolster the story.
Hellboy’s art is distinct from other books on the shelves — heavy on shadows, dark tones, and an overall design that is more of a caricature than photo realistic. All those tell-tale signs are here and mark Her Fatal hour with its unique fingerprint. However, that can be a double-edged sword. As much as I enjoy the exclusive Hellboy style, some panels from Tiernen Trevallion are so disproportionate that the action in the frame may take a moment to become recognizable. In Her Fatal Hour, Ferko pulls himself from the fireplace with disfigured limbs and a twisted body. I had to look again to figure out if this was subpar art or literally the demon in a deformed state. It doesn’t necessarily detract from the story overall but is worth noting.
There aren’t any surprises when it comes to Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: Her Fatal Hour one-shot. The stories are remarkably succinct, Hellboy is Hellboy, and as the majority of Mignola’s work, the issue is strong outing. Is this a game-changer or a must-read? Probably not. Is this worth adding to your pull list? Yes, particularly if you’re a Hellboy fan.
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