Overview

Hellboy: Being Human

Review

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Hellboy: Being Human

Credits

  • Words: Mike Mignola
  • Art: Richard Corben
  • Colors: Dave Stewart
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: May 11, 2011

Every once in a while, if we’re very fortunate, we’re reminded of life’s simple pleasures. For me, one of the little things I miss most about reading comics is the stand-alone issue. A bit of a forgotten art, though not totally lost to the ages, the stand-alone issue always represented for me the iconic comic book form. Tight, driven, action-packed adventure, a perfect marriage between words and pictures – this is the ideal comic book.

This week, I was reminded of the joy I felt upon finishing such a work of art, when I read the final panel of Hellboy: Being Human. Perhaps, more properly a one-shot than a single issue in a series, I’ll lump it in with the stand-alones thanks to handy numbering on the inside cover. Apparently, we’re at 54 in a series. More of a cycle of limited series and one-shots than a typical serialized comic, Mignola’s interpretation of the traditional comic book series is inspired, allowing him to explore the finer points of the form.

Being Human is Mignola at his storytelling best. His bent take on genre conventions is scattershot and unpredictable, gleefully combining disparate elements of sci-fi, mythology, and the occult. Although he often takes Hellboy’s adventures into an unabashedly epic direction, it is within the narrow confines of the stand-alone issue where Mignola’s singular brand of storytelling is at its most refined. Chronicling an untold adventure from the past, Being Human focuses on supporting cast member Roger the Homunculus and Hellboy’s good-natured attempts to bring him out of his shell. Dragging the stoic Roger out on what should have been a routine field investigation, Hellboy is quickly incapacitated, leaving Roger to fend for himself against a mad voodoo witch and her pet zombie. A touching tale of self-acceptance, Mignola succeeds in relating the inevitable moral of his story free of condescension or self-righteousness. This is simply a tight, character-driven little tale sharing a bit of insight into a fan-favorite cast member, who many thought wouldn’t be seen again in the Hellboy universe.

Aiding Mignola in realizing another genre-bending masterpiece is the legendary Richard Corben. I’ve loved Mr. Corben’s work ever since I first laid eyes on his lush artwork in the pages of Heavy Metal when I was a kid. Recently, I’ve begun to build a deep, abiding appreciation for his pencil and ink work as well. Robust, clean, and highly stylized, Corben’s style complements Mignola’s storytelling sensibilities exceedingly well. Mignola’s ability to attract top talent from around the world to his Hellboy franchise continues to amaze but really reaches above and beyond when he brings in the likes of Corben.

Always driving towards its conclusion with streamlined efficiency, the stand-alone issue is the comic book equivalent of the prose short story. In Being Human, Mignola and Corben craft a tight, poignant tale that adds more depth and richness to the Hellboy universe without being tied down to an overriding, epic storyline. A refreshing, rare little gem, Being Human comes highly recommended for anyone exhausted by company wide crossovers and extinction-level events.

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