Wednesday saw the release of “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953–The Phantom Hand & The Kelpie” one-shot from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is well suited for Halloween as it features the first ghost stories of both Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm. Both tales are written by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola with art by Ben Stenbeck (“Frankenstein Underground”) and colors by Dave Stewart. Mike Mignola also supplies the cover.
The lead story has a young Hellboy travelling to England with Bruttenholm as they assist Harry H. Middleton, a private occult investigator and long time friend of the Professor. Middleton recounts his research into the hauntings of the Phantom Hand, as the trio investigates the home of Albert Gurney, an 18th century lord. What is generally described as a simple severed hand turns out to be quite a bit more when it manifests itself here.
The backup tale, “The Kelpie,” picks up some months later with the threesome still in England. During a bit of downtime, Bruttenholm and Middleton reminisce for Hellboy the story of their first ghost hunt. Back in their school days, one of their classmates and fellow ghost club member, “Old” Bill Connolly, convinced them to travel to Scotland to track down a headless monk. The chums soon learn that ghost stories are much more serious in the field, than they are back at school.
In just two short tales, Mignola is able to reveal two pivotal moments in the early career of Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. In “The Kelpie,” he learns that these are much more than mere stories and that if he is to pursue the supernatural there are very real consequences at stake. He then has to make a choice, whether to live in fear of those consequences or face them head on. The tale also finds Mignola once again pulling from real folklore and incorporating it into the Hellboy universe, a staple of early Hellboy tales, which instantly brings some familiar depth to the world. “The Phantom Hand,” more of a “Year Two” tale for Hellboy in the B.P.R.D., shows Bruttenholm, for the first time, the utility of having Hellboy as a part of the organization and it goes beyond just his grit and strength.
Stenbeck’s art is the perfect proxy for Mignola’s signature style. It is true enough to Mignola’s style to create a consistent look with the other “Hellboy” titles. Stenbeck adds a level of detail that enhances the presentation. Figures are crisper and more defined. His panels are fully realized with detailed backgrounds with subtle touches that bring depth to the story. Take a before and after look at the fireplace in “The Phantom Hand” for one such example.
“Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953–The Phantom Hand & The Kelpie” delivers two satisfying and truly self-contained stories that give significant insight into the pasts of Hellboy and Bruttenholm. The issue is available now. If one is attending a Halloween Comicfest event at a local comic shop this weekend, this “Hellboy” one-shot would compliment those offerings well. It is also available via digital outlets.