Small towns are full of secrets that can’t easily hide in the shadows, especially if they are of the supernatural nature. What will two of the members of the British Paranormal Society find in the town of Noxton that doesn’t want to be found?
Written by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson
Illustrated by Andrea Mutti
Colored by Lee Loughridge
Lettered by Clem Robins
British Paranormal Society members Simon Bruttenholm and Honora Grant arrive at Noxton together, but with separate goals: Honora hopes to uncover information on the town’s strange traditions, while Simon is searching for his missing assistant. But their separate investigations lead down the same twisted path that hides a dark secret behind Noxton’s innocent façade! Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson expand the Hellboy universe with a spooky new tale featuring art by Andrea Mutti with colors by Lee Loughridge.
• Honora and Simon from Witchfinder in their own new series!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when you want something not to be found, inevitably someone is going to find it the harder you try to lose it. The villagers of Noxton would do best to take this advice when two of the British Paranormal Society show up in town. They each have different ends, but the same means: discover the secrets of this picturesque town that are bubbling right below the surface. And it all could be connected to some of the village’s ancient seasonal festival traditions which, as Honora points out in the opening pages, are just a little bit different than their sister towns.
But no one’s willing to share their local history with Honora. And Simon Bruttenholm, who’s tagged along with Honora to help find his missing assistant, isn’t having much luck either. What are these people hiding? Unlock that locked door, and perhaps that can fulfill their personal missions.
Although these are characters from a previous series, they’re introduced here as blank slates of sorts. And that’s a good thing! This is a new corner of the Hellboy Universe, so plenty of potential to shape this into something that is both familiar and different. But they are almost too much of blank slates, and having just read “Hellboy: The Silver Lantern Club” where they made a brief appearance, I was left wanting to know more about them near immediately. What were the “duties at Oxford” that Bruttenholm was working on that led his assistant astray? What motivates Honora’s research into these festivals: is it purely academic, or something more personal? That’s a lot to ask for in 22 pages, so the only important question right now is: does all this that we’re given in issue #1 prompt me to want to pick up issue #2? Most certainly, since that foundation is set in a script that provides necessary detail and enough emotion to invest you in the characters.
Now readers who encountered them in other series, such as “Witchfinder” or the recently concluded ‘Silver Lantern Club’ may also struggle to figure out how this story fits in with that canon. Honora mentions that Sarah and Sir Edward “ran off to the continent,” indicating that this may be past the time of their last investigation with the Club. Balancing this exposition to accommodate new readers alongside established ones looking for larger clues and connections is no small task. For this issue, the table setting takes the precedence, and I’m sure we’ll find those connective threads in future issues.
Reading a Mignola story is an exercise in the concept of Chekhov’s gun. No detail should be left to chance, be it a conversation with a villager, a painting in a church, or a child’s game. The smallest of characters and concepts should be treated with the utmost care, for they can and will come into play later. This can be daunting for the Mignola novice, so it’s certainly worth reading this debut issue at least twice to absorb the detail at play and the dialogue—there’s definitely plenty of both. Again, as a fairly new Mignola fan, I appreciate the copious explanation, but I can also see where it can turn off readers more well-versed in the nuances of Mike Mignola.Continued below
In our review of the “Hellboy Winter Special 2019,” we noted just how well Andrea Mutti fits into the Hellboy world, and that marriage made in heaven (or in the other realm, perhaps) continues here. But within that marriage, Mutti still retains his own style, cramming panels full of detail but not overwhelming them with it. His linework is a lighter hand than other Hellboy Universe series, which is what allows that detail to come through. It crafts backgrounds that have their own personality, delicate but worn with the passage of time. It gives character to every villager in Noxton, imbibing them with personality that builds the overall tone of the village. Lee Loughridge’s colorwork contributes to this sense of an uneasy peace, relying on desaturated tones to set up a peace that will no doubt soon end up disrupted. And when he does switch to darker tones of reds, greys, and purples in the final third of the book, it makes a tonal shift that is surprising as it is expected. Clever use of light in these panels heightens Simon and Honora as strangers in a strange land that are just on the precipice of danger.
If I have any criticism about the art, is that there are places where some detail could add a sense of time. Honora and Simon appear almost ageless here when compared to their appearances in ‘Silver Lantern Club’ (though I note that Simon’s grown a full beard). Some light linework on their otherwise smooth faces aids in showing that passage of time, which in turn could help set this story into its proper place in canon.
The night brings out the secrets that the day obscures, a truth Simon finds himself face-to-face with as this issue concludes. There’s numerous ways this story could play out as that cliffhanger ending is just the right amount of ambiguous to leave you wondering. But the secrets will still remain when the sun rises. And whatever path that will take will find us in for an adventure unlike any other.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – A well-executed birth for a new corner of the Hellboy Universe.