Hellboy: Being Human

Written by Mike Mignola

Art by Richard Corben and Dave Stewart

Lettering by Clem Robins

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Review by Jeff Marsick

Roger the Living Homunculus takes center stage in this one-shot when Hellboy liberates the mild-mannered golem from his single-room cell at BPRD HQ for a field mission to South Carolina. What’s supposed to be something of a milk run, just your average plantation estate haunting, winds up taking on greater significance for after an Obeah woman arrives on scene and Hellboy is effectively neutered by black magic. It leaves Roger to save the day and perhaps glean a little about humanity.

Roger’s an interesting character, weighed down with a few g’s of deed guilt and existentialist confusion. This story is backdated to 2000, so the resident test tube colossus is burdened by the (then) recent events of having put Liz Sherman into a coma and nearly incinerating Hellboy. Roger’s not even human: he came from mud, grew in a bottle and was abandoned by his creator in a lab deep below a castle. That’s the kind of stuff what makes a guy find refuge in a fifth of Jack or spend a few decades in counseling. Saying he’s got some self-discovery and a lot to prove to himself is an understatement.

So Hellboy on the sideline, maestro Mike Mignola gives Roger some lead to run, first throwing him against a zombie and later against the Obeah woman herself. It’s at the end where the story finds its disturbing heart, rising above the mission, above Roger’s heroics and ultimately becoming a statement about the human condition. Roger is pacifistic, either by design or because of his experiences since his awakening, but the solution to success against his obstacles is violence. Try as he can to avoid and rail against it (“I don’t want to!”), murder is the ultimate answer. And Hellboy, whose purpose is something of a voice of reason on this trip is equally blasé about Roger’s actions, saying “…it’s just the kind of thing a human being would do.”

Wow. That’s bleak. Yes, given what goes on in the real world Hellboy speaketh some truth, but for Roger’s sake I wanted him to try and think his way through the situations and fall upon violence as a last resort. It’s not just opposable thumbs that define humanity, and when you title an issue “Being Human” and feature a relatively blank canvas like Roger, you’d almost expect a little more exploration rather than an ending that pretty much requires either a laugh track or a sad trombone. After that last panel my first thought was that if Roger had any functioning brain cells (or the herbal equivalent) he’d rethink any desire to find humanity within.

Visually, it’s the same high level of quality you’ve come to expect from the Hellboy franchise. Great artwork by Richard Corben who gets his creepy on when rendering the black magic woman and the recently risen dead, and punctuated with moody colors by Dave Stewart. Clem Robins deserves a shout out for his lettering, especially during the zombie fight scene which had a couple cool moments.

As a story, I thought the ending was a little truncated and felt it was more a scene in the greater Roger mythology rather than a defining moment. I could have done with a little more, maybe made the story three-issues worth. I liked the book, didn’t love it, and as a Hellboy completist had to have it. Overall, I have to give it a B-.


Moriarty #1

Written by Daniel Corey

Art by Anthony Diecidue

Lettering by Dave Lanphear

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

I am sure almost everybody knows of Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty: one of the greatest literary rivalries of all time. Yet, what is a villain without a hero? Moriarty takes a peek at what happened when the fateful death to both Holmes and his arch-nemesis, turned out to just end Holmes and left Moriarty wandering for a purpose. In his travels and life without an adversary, the legendary professor has evolved into something that mirrors Holmes. The idea intrigued me and was immediately sucked in.

The book starts has an interesting timeline, and is set during pre-WWI, around the time of the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, and talks of his killing and the association with the Black Hand are the talk of the nation. We see Moriarty, now under the alias of Trumbold, working as a somewhat businessman that still carries some ties to the criminal underworld. Without Holmes, Moriarty has become complacent and a little bored.

It's not long before the government comes around and asks for his services to find Sherlock's brother, Mycroft. Who is he to refuse the chance to hunt down another Holmes? Better yet, they are aware of who he is and what he is capable of. This is where the story picks up its stride. We see inside the mind of Moriarty, we see his tactics, his self-imposed rules of getting things done. Doyle wrote Moriarty as the equivalent to Holmes and now we see why that is. The hung for Mycroft leads the reader and the old professor into a series of events that hint at a bigger picture, and the fact he soon as a shadowy figure of his own to conquer.

I do love the touch of knowledge Daniel Corey brings to the script, however, where I think the story falters, and this is me nitpicking here because I did rather enjoy it, is the actual narrative. To quote a line from Amadeus, "there are too many notes". While Dave Lanphear executes the lettering layout wonderfully, I think some things just did not need to be said as they were specifically shown via Anthony Diecidue's art. While I do understand that this is Moriarty's story, but at the same time, I think most readers could deduce what is going on.

Speaking of Anthony Diecidue's art, this is a perfect example of a great collaboration of story and artist. Even in the slower parts of the issue, Diecidue elevates the bits with his mysterious tone with heavy sketch lines and rendering that give this early Guy Davis vibe. The layouts and scenery in old London town have an edge of macabre with lots of shadowy effects that perfectly set the stage for a mystery.

Moriarty is a great example of something that is for people who are not really into superheroics or mega-events. With the Big Two both with event-heavy series, this could be the one for people who want to try something a bit different from the norm. I can't wait to see where this goes.

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