Mike Mignola and Olivier Vatine’s “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: Night of the Cyclops” is a curious mix of familiar and different. Familiar because we’ve seen Hellboy wander into mythical worlds before, yet different because we haven’t seen it quite like this. . . (Oh, and just so you know, this review contains many spoilers.)
Written by Mike Mignola and Olivier Vatine
Illustrated by Olivier Vatine
Lettered by Clem Robins
Just as he finishes up one job in Greece, Hellboy is detoured into another adventure by. . . a goat? Join Hellboy in a strange hidden land of treachery and togas as he takes on the wrath of a jealous god.
Featuring the storytelling genius of Mike Mignola and Olivier Vatine, with art by Vatine and letters by Clem Robins, the Mignolaverse meets classical mythology in this new one-shot!
In December 1993, three months before the debut of “Hellboy: Seed of Destruction,” Hellboy appeared in the pages of John Byrne’s “Next Men” #21 leaping across a double-page spread to attack a monster in a sewer. It’s strange to look back at now, in part because the “Hellboy” series doesn’t really do double-page spreads. Sure, they appear elsewhere in the Hellboy Universe (especially in “B.P.R.D.”), but “Hellboy,” “Hellboy in Hell,” and “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” simply don’t use double-page spreads. So in “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: Night of the Cyclops,” when Hellboy finds himself in what appears to be mythological ancient Greece, this double-page spread is the perfect way to show the transition from one world to another.
In some ways this is familiar—Hellboy has found himself in some very strange places over the years—but when I think back to those stories, with Hellboy in Baba Yaga’s Russia, or Dr. Carp’s laboratory in 1902, or England after it has been separated from the rest of the world, they were all very Mignola places (whether they were drawn by Mignola or not). But that’s not what we have in ‘Night of the Cyclops.’ Here, Hellboy wakes up in a very Vatine ancient Greece. When looking at the pages in the modern world, the shadows are heavier, whereas the mythic world more often relies on hatching. Interestingly, Hellboy brings the heavy shadows with him, so that even as he walks through this world, he feels apart from it. He almost feels like a tourist in Vatine’s world.
That’s purposeful though. At this point in Hellboy’s career, he’s been a Bureau agent for ten years. He’s no longer the kid on the team; he’s got experience, which see even in the opening pages with Agent Dryades calling him “sir.” We see it demonstrated too, when Hellboy decides to trust his instincts and stay behind alone to continue to investigate, which is what leads to the whole story happening.
However, once the story gets rolling, he moves beyond his experience. We’ve seen Hellboy in these sorts of situations before, showing up in strange worlds, fighting mythical creatures, pissing off gods, and so it’s easy to forget that chronologically, for Hellboy he’s doing this stuff for the first time. A big part of that comes from Hellboy’s attitude to everything around him. When he arrives in Ælith’s world, Hellboy mentions how he thinks he’s unconscious in his own world and everything around him is a dream. Even at the end of the story he would’ve been convinced it was all a dream if he didn’t have evidence to the contrary. So we have a world where Hellboy can reasonably throw himself in the path of a goddess’s wrath without a second thought—and later he can grapple with the realization that it actually happened. It makes for a brisk story with an emphasis on the more adventurous aspects of the “Hellboy” series.
‘Night of the Cyclops’ also feels a lot like classic 1990s “Hellboy,” with Hellboy’s encounter with a goddess feeling a liitle like when he met Hecate in ‘Wake the Devil’ and Hellboy’s fight with the cyclops almost seems to have its own version of Hellboy throwing a tree trunk at the giant homunculus from ‘Almost Colossus.’ This feels appropriate given that ‘Night of the Cyclops’ is inspired by Olivier Vatine’s pinup that appeared in the original ‘Hellboy: Wake the Devil’ collection in 1997. It should feel like it’s steeped in that era.Continued below
I must say, however, that for a story called ‘Night of the Cyclops,’ it is Aphrodite that steals the show. The way she’s written alone was great, but the way Vatine draws her takes it to a whole other level—grand and otherworldly. I especially liked the touch where Vatine drew her clothes in such a way that where they meet the water upon which Aphrodite stands, you cannot tell where one ends and the other begins. There’s a lot of that in this story—moments that you can appreciate simply for the way they’re drawn, like the sequence where Ælith’s mother tells the story of the tragedy that befell their people. . .
In the end, ‘Night of the Cyclops’ feels over too soon, simply because I wanted to spend a little longer in Ælith’s world. There is a moment in its final pages, when Ælith is human again. It’s a sort of unspoken goodbye and says so much about what she understands that Hellboy doesn’t without a word being spoken. Over the years we’ve seen how places in the Hellboy Universe can separate from the world. (England, for example, just up and vanished into an ethereal plane of existence, and earlier this year, in the pages of “Hellboy: The Bones of Gaints,” we got a glimpse of the Norse realms that had been separated from Midgard.) In this way, even though the story very much stands alone, we’re seeing key aspects of Mignola’s worldbuilding threaded throughout. This moment with Ælith as two worlds drift apart again is my favorite part of the issue, especially the way Mignola and Vatine infuse it with such melancholy. So, yes, the story feels over too soon, but given the context, even that feels appropriate.
Final Verdict: 8 – I hope when this story is collected, it comes with a hefty sketchbook section, just so I can spend a little more time in Ælith’s world as drawn by Olivier Vatine.