Since "The Devil You Know" there has been a definitive ending for all things Hellboy and his co-stars—so for some time now. Fans still hunger for more stories though, which has previous lead series creator Mike Mignola exploring the earlier years of his character's life in various one-shots and minis. Now Mignola and company are dialing things back even further with the release of Young Hellboy, a new series that explores those very early years where the little devil is still reading Lobster Johnson comic books and not quite ready for field work on his own. With the release of the series Mignola has found a new piece of this world to develop and it’s unlike anything else in the line to date.
Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land is set in May of 1947 when Hellboy is about 3 years old (but since he ages quickly, he appears roughly a 10 year old) and sees him and his father figure Trevor Bruttenholm off to South America for an adventure. Mignola co-wrote the new series with another frequent Christopher Golden collaborator, Thomas Sniegoski, and this version of the character remains a treat to read. Though the older, seasoned Hellboy is always relatable, the small, adventurous Hellboy really feels like the younger version of that same character, rather than being something else entirely. His presence alone elevates this comic over other prequel tales in the universe.
In terms of content, Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land has all the things you really want from a Mignola comic: Hellboy being sassy, danger overcome in unexpected ways, giant monsters, giant gorillas, plus a healthy serving of new characters, unexpected additions like dinosaurs, and perhaps a tie into the larger world (that remains to be seen, just my theory for now). To that end you can see the things that have frequently influenced Mignola in the past still at work in this new story. It is a testament to Mignola's ability to continue finding new and interesting means of exploring his influences.
The most exhilarating thing about the Young Hellboy series though is the artwork by Craig Rousseau. Somehow Rousseau has been able to infuse a softness to the comic, giving it almost a picture book feel which is wholly appropriate for “Young Hellboy,” but also feels different from the out-of-continuity "Itty Bitty Hellboy" comics by Art Baltazar. However, there are designs for characters and monsters in this first issue that feel as though he’s channeling Mignola himself, further cementing this story’s place in the canon of Hellboy tales (aided, naturally, by frequent colorist and collaborator Dave Stewart).
The fidelity of Young Hellboy himself from earlier B.P.R.D. titles to this one remains consistent too, as well as the look of Professor Bruttenholm, which is always a plus; but the new characters and settings make this one stand out. Frankly, the only thing that feels out of place in the comic's visuals are the rare handful of panels that have a flat spread of jungle foliage colors together with character silhouettes in the foreground. These are few and far between and get lost in the fantastic panel-to-panel action that Rousseau does so well, but when they're present they bring the rhythm of the story to a halt as they do stand out.
Young Hellboy: The Hidden Lands is a fun read and something that feels worthy of continuing the character's story. It requires very little (if any) knowledge of what comes before or after, making it an easy jumping on place for readers. Hopefully, the series will continue beyond Hidden Lands and this softer side of the beast of the apocalypse can forge its own destiny in the larger Mignola-verse because for once in Hellboy's life the future looks bright.
Published by Dark Horse Comics
On February 17, 2021
Written by Mike Mignola and Thomas Sniegoski
Art by Craig Rousseau
Colors by Dave Stewart0comments
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover by Matt Smith