Feature: Giant Robot Hellboy #3 Reviews 

Mignolaversity: “Giant Robot Hellboy” #3

By | January 3rd, 2024
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

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Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo’s “Giant Robot Hellboy” wraps up with a bang (or should I say boom?) in this final issue as we finally meet the true titular character. And yet this story leaves a lot of dangling threads. This is clearly the beginning of something much bigger. As usual, this being a review for the final issue of a miniseries, it is packed full of spoilers. If you haven’t read “Miss Truesdale and the Fall of Hyperborea” yet, there are spoilers for that story too.

Cover by Duncan Fegredo
Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Duncan Fegredo
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Clem Robins

Giant Robot Hellboy goes rogue, leaving both the island and the laboratory in explosive chaos!

Inspired by Mignola’s viral-hit pencil drawings from Mike Mignola: The Quarantine Sketchbook, Giant Robot Hellboy gets his own story in this 3-part miniseries from Mignola and longtime Hellboy artist Duncan Fegredo!

I get the feeling James, who reviewed the previous two issues of “Giant Robot Hellboy,” had a very different experience reading this story. He was reading issue by issue, month by month, whereas I had the pleasure of reading all three issues in a single sitting. And I know he wanted something specific from the kaiju-like fights that he wasn’t getting in issues #1 and #2. In issues #1, Hellboy was stumbling around, struggling with his new “body,” then in issue #2 the combat is almost entirely leaning on the artillery with Hellboy only properly taking over when that was exhausted. But issue #3 is an entirely different beast. Here, we finally meet the titular character. Giant Robot Hellboy fights like a half-wild warrior, using his own dismembered arm to bludgeon his opponents like a club. It’s a much wilder issue.

The entire visual language of the comic changes too. Just look at issue #1 and how after Giant Robot Hellboy’s initial reveal, the framing is often treated rather flat. There’s an awkwardness in it, which reflects Hellboy’s awkwardness in the robot body. In issue #2, the artillery combat is framed dramatically, but there’s still an awkwardness to the physical combat. And whenever panels emphasize scale, it’s not about how big Giant Robot Hellboy is, but how small he is compared to his opponents. It emphasizes his flimsiness. James noted in his review for issue #2 that Giant Robot Hellboy has a puppet-like quality to the way Fegredo draws him, and with the whole story in mind, that strikes me as an extremely purposeful choice.

The awkward physical combat in issue #2, which makes Giant Robot Hellboy look like a puppet.

Looking at issue #3, suddenly Giant Robot Hellboy looks powerful. The point of view drops to lower angles to emphasize his scale and power. Even when he’s small in a panel, the panel is staged so that he’s at the top of the panel, above his enemies.

One of the few panels in issue #3 with Giant Robot Hellboy comparatively small. Still he’s the dominant figure.

Even with only one arm, even when his face is getting smashed, Giant Robot Hellboy looks powerful. Fegredo’s choices emphasize that we are looking at a different character than the one we were looking at in the prior two issues. The difference is striking.

I think I also went into this series with very different expectations. While I didn’t know anything about the story when I picked up “Giant Robot Hellboy,” I did already know a little about the process that brought it to the page. Back when Mike Mignola first started thinking about “Giant Robot Hellboy,” he self rejected the idea, then the COVID lockdown happened and with it the quarantine drawings, which reignited the idea. My read on this was that something about the idea had become inevitable. My first thought was that maybe this was somehow tied to the history of Ako Quantum Systems from “B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth—The Broken Equation,” which in that story had successfully solved the Condensed Energy System Equation and used it to connect to a parallel reality. (This all began in 1979, so “Giant Robot Hellboy” predates this by over a decade.) My second thought was that “Giant Robot Hellboy” was tied to Enkeladite—and it turns out my second guess was correct!

Continued below

Back in “B.P.R.D.: 1948,” it was suggested that Enkeladite was able to bridge realities, and in “Giant Robot Hellboy” that suggestion is finally confirmed as fact. Throughout Occult Cold War stories of “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” we’ve seen Enkeladite having adverse effects on animals, so everything we see in “Giant Robot Hellboy” just feels like a natural extension of that.

But I also went into this story with a very clear idea of what we wouldn’t see. Hellboy has no memory of piloting a giant robot and neither does the rest of the world, so I wasn’t expecting to see a kaiju battle in a city. Not only would that feel like a retread of ‘The Broken Equation,’ but it would undermine the whole end of the world, when the Ogdru Hem walk the Earth once more. That moment has to feel like something the world has never seen before to maintain its gravitas. So setting this on a mysterious unnamed island wrapped in fog just made sense.

That said, I was so focused on the possible Japanese connection to Ako Quantum Systems, I never even considered the London connection. Could the robot have been built by the Foundry? Looking at Giant Robot Hellboy’s design, I can’t help but think it looks like their handiwork.

Anyway, this is my very long winded way of saying I went into “Giant Robot Hellboy” expecting mysteries and very few, if any, answers. And that’s exactly what I got. I feel like this story is going to play a big role in stories for several years to come.

Where my expectations were subverted was how the story relates to its title. I just assumed “Giant Robot Hellboy” meant Hellboy piloting a giant robot; I did not expect Giant Robot Hellboy to be a distinct entity from Hellboy himself. That was a really nice touch, and I’ll be interested to see how this plotline evolves in future. It reminded me a little of “Sledgehammer 44” (another story which was clearly connecting to a lot of things in the past and teased more than it answered). I think this entity survived the explosion at the end of the story, but I’m curious to see if it will still be a giant robot when it returns.

The other subverted expectation was that Hellboy wasn’t the protagonist of the story—he was a catalyst. The protagonist is Jian. I can’t believe this is Multiversity Comics’ third review about “Giant Robot Hellboy” and this is the first time we’re talking about the central character.

Jian is as much (if not more) of a mystery as Giant Robot Hellboy. We know she’s Chinese and that her mother is someone significant, and we know that she’s determined enough to go to an island full of kaiju-like monsters alone and actually come out of it alive. Rather pointedly, the story ends not on Hellboy, or Giant Robot Hellboy, but on Jian.

The question of her parentage is overtly called to the reader’s attention. Is her mother a character we’ve met before? If so, I can imagine several candidates, but considering the extreme danger she puts herself in, I have to imagine it is someone who could be just as impressive in such a situation, so the primary candidate on my list is Shengli, a secret agent of the Juntong capable of holding her own against the Crimson Lotus.

Mystery is the primary drive of “Giant Robot Hellboy.” This is a story that is meant to be discussed, one we’re meant to have fan theories about. I get the feeling that the upcoming 1960s “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” Occult Cold War stories will be feeding into this story. We know the Russian Special Sciences Service (S.S.S.), the British Special Intelligence Directorate (S.I.D.), and the American Center for Defense, Research, and Development (C.D.R.D.) are all chasing Enkeladite. In the case of the C.D.R.D., they are explicitly researching ways of weaponizing the paranormal to a reckless degree, which will lead to a catastrophic disaster in 1958 involving the Lance of Longinus (see “B.P.R.D.: The Dead”) and later their Colorado headquarters being decommissioned in September 1962. Could the secret laboratory seen in “Giant Robot Hellboy” be connected to the C.D.R.D.?

Continued below

Clearly, I enjoyed being teased and I love all these questions. And because this is setting the stage for much more, I have to admire the work Fegredo is doing here. Just take a look at Hellboy’s mysterious abductors. We’re probably going to see these characters again and there’s a good chance that other artists will be drawing them at some point too, so Fegredo has made sure that these characters are distinct. They’ve each got some visual element that makes them pop. They’ve got a distinctive uniform that visually unifies them, and is worn differently by the woman in charge to reinforce the hierarchy of their group. Fegredo isn’t just doing good visual storytelling for “Giant Robot Hellboy,” he’s creating a strong foundation for other stories with other artists.

Fegredo intimately understands the way Mignola tells stories. The trilogy of “Darkness Calls,” “The Wild Hunt,” and “The Storm and the Fury” worked so beautifully because Fegredo wasn’t just drawing the story, he was also consciously drawing chapters in a larger story, and I see that in his work in “Giant Robot Hellboy” too. This is a pulpy romp of a story, but there are also moments that command gravitas, and Fegredo deftly switches between these two modes and even blends the two at times. Our final moments with Giant Robot Hellboy are absolutely iconic. I am not forgetting this panel anytime soon.

Of course, the biggest lingering question is the one that ties into “Miss Truesdale and the Fall of Hypeboria,” the idea of Hellboy’s past lives (which is reminiscent of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion). “Giant Robot Hellboy” seems to imply Koshchei, Ted Howards / Gall Dennar, King Arthur, and a mysterious cowboy character are also prior incarnations. I’m not convinced this is necessarily the case, but that just seems to be where this narrative is leaning. And we are meant to be thinking about that cowboy. Mignola’s mentioned before that he’s wanted to do a western, and it seems that desire is still very much alive.

Final Verdict: 8 – “Giant Robot Hellboy” is a story full of questions with very few answers. That’s not going to be for everyone, I know, but as someone that loves digging into the mysteries, this was so much fun. It’s a lightweight story in terms of character, but heavy in terms of worldbuilding—I expect we’ll be feeling ripples from “Giant Robot Hellboy” in the Hellboy Universe for years to come.

//TAGS | Mignolaversity

Mark Tweedale

Mark writes Haunted Trails, The Harrow County Observer, The Damned Speakeasy, and a bunch of stuff for Mignolaversity. An animator and an eternal Tintin fan, he spends his free time reading comics, listening to film scores, watching far too many video essays, and consuming the finest dark chocolates. You can find him on BlueSky.


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