While portions of the Hellboy Universe continue at Dark Horse Comics, there hasn’t been a solid telling of what brought Rasputin and the Nazis together to bring Hellboy to Earth. Now that story can be told in Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon #1.
Writer: Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson
Artist: Christopher Mitten
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Hellboy: A lot. Heck, a lot of things happened even before Hellboy made it to our world. There are a lot of spooky things in the world, and fortunately we have Professor Bruttenholm and the B.P.R.D. to keep it all in check.
THE NEED FOR PREQUELS
A lot of people complain about prequels – especially in tales that give readers and viewers everything they need to know in the original installment. But, when those prequels are told in a way that is engaging, adds something to the mythos, and is well executed, then those prequels are completely necessary. In Hellboy, readers have bounced back in forth in time as the title character’s life unfolds to the point where there are huge gaps in Hellboy’s history we know nothing about. Those missing gaps give readers insight into what makes Hellboy the stoic that we all know and love.
In Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon #1 we are getting the ultimate Hellboy prequel – how Rasputin and the Nazis teamed, and how Professor Bruttenholm tracked them down. This is a prequel that makes sense. The issue is well executed, and expands the mythos in a positive way.
What makes this issue interesting is not the zombie that shuffles into a bar late at night, but rather the meticulous process of research, cross referencing of facts, following up on clues, and presenting ideas to supervisors in order to get approval to send a platoon to a location that may or may not contain enemy forces. I know that description sounds like a dull read, but in reality, I love learning more about the characters that inhabit this world. Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson have teamed on previous Hellboy Universe series, and the two work perfectly together here. The duo capture a look and feel of the time period – or at least the look and feel of the time period as I (and other readers) assume is accurate. Tales of the occult, secret societies, and Axis spies add up to a chilling tale that is an engrossing read from cover to cover.
DEAD BODIES AND ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDES
Artist Christopher Mitten illustrated Rise of the Black Flame – a brilliant tale of murder and cults in colonial India, and Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon marks another series featuring Mitten’s work alongside Mignola and Roberson’s story. What made me love Mitten’s work in Rise of the Black Flame, kind of put me off in this issue. I think it may be that Mitten’s art looks fantastic in high contrast situations, where shadows and lurking horrors combine to make the book feel horrifying, but in well lit situations, the art feels… flat.
This issue has several examples of what works and what doesn’t – at least for this reviewer. When a shuffling zombie arrives at a bar in the last part of the issue, or when we see three shadowy figures in the graveyard at night, and when readers discover the grisly remains of the cemetery grounds keeper, the panels and pages pop with life (ironic, I know). However, pages that have Professor Bruttenholm in a well lit environment look dull. It’s a shadow thing to be sure. Still, I loved Mitten’s style on Rise of the Black Flame, and I really like it in Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon #1.
BOTTOM LINE: A LOT LESS RASPUTIN THAN TITLE IMPLIES
Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon #1 doesn’t feature Rasputin very much. The villain shows up at the beginning of the issue, and his presence is felt later in the story, but in reality, this tale is about the good guys trying to figure out what the bad guys are doing – and I like it. A lot. If you are a fan of Hellboy and the world Mignola and company have built up over the last 25 years, then this is an issue that is a must read. If you are casual about the character and universe, then I think this is an issue you will enjoy enough to come back for another helping next month.
I’m giving Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon #1 a strong buy recommendation.