With little help from the townsfolk of Noxton, Honora and Simon have to take it upon themselves to get answers. Will their plan work? Or will it just unlock secrets upon secrets upon secrets?
Be forewarned that this review may contain spoilers.
Written by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson
Illustrated by Andrea Mutti
Colored by Lee Loughridge
Lettered by Clem Robins
After Simon is accosted by a strange creature near the village of Noxton’s mysterious standing stones, he and Honora hatch a plan to pry some information out of the tight-lipped townsfolk. Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson team up for the second issue of this new Hellboy universe series, featuring art by Andrea Mutti with colors by Lee Loughridge.
• Honora and Simon from Witchfinder in their own new series!
We still don’t know who attacked Simon by the stones when this issue opens, but we know someone else who was there: Lowell. A rogue tarot card at the scene starts to help Simon track down his missing assistant. And while Simon was having that close encounter at the stones, Honora’s done some research on just what the town might be hiding: a fallen angel. The site of the stones is rumored to have been the site of a fallen angel in a legend dating back to the Saxons, and there have been strange happenings at the stones ever since. The motivations and paths for Simon and Honora collide and they hatch a plan to confirm their suspicions. There’s a cult in town trying to summon something, and it’s nothing like either one of them has seen before. . . even though it has a very familiar face.
Mignola and Roberson waste no time getting down to business in this issue, not dwelling on the trauma that Simon faced at the stones. They make quick work of bringing both storylines together through the connection of Honora’s research and the plan that the two form to get the answers they need. One will go to the local church to distract the vicar with architectural interest while the other snoops around the church. While there’s a lot in this first half of the issue that sets up this convergence, it’s not overwhelming to the reader. Clean dialogue that doesn’t get bogged down in jargon or lore from other books keeps the plot flowing. It’s clear the team wants to make this book as accessible as possible for new readers—and as one of those new Hellboy Universe readers, I’m very grateful for that.
While narrative gets center stage, there is also time to develop these characters. In other media, Honora would be the distraction while Simon would do the dirty work. A pretty face can be most distracting. But in a subversion of this trope, it’s Simon that does the distracting and Honora doing the snooping. This is absolutely refreshing, and also provides a moment of character development, showing that each treats the other as equals and using the best of their skills to solve this mystery. It’s an easy way out for writers in this situation to continue to set up their protagonists as antagonists to add drama and tension. This writing team does the opposite, allowing you to focus more on this layered mystery at hand and not unintentional interpersonal subplots.
The artwork in the last issue shows Mutti’s skill at drawing backgrounds and giving character and life to every possible corner. This issue, he gets to show off his action skills, particularly in the back third of the book when Honora and Simon investigate the stones in daylight. And that detail he’s known for actually does come in handy giving a sense of movement to those fight scenes. Punches and kicks fly through the air with the greatest of ease, but also have the right amount of follow through to land and complete the movement. And that attention to detail also does well in setting emotion and stakes. Every little line on our character’s faces shows fear and terror in that fight. And the big reveal of the attacker at the stones in the final panels is chock full of classic zombie horror, portraying someone that looks both familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time.Continued below
As I said in my first review, the concept of Chekhov’s gun is always present throughout a Mignola book. The Chekhov’s gun in this issue is the tarot card that appears at the scene, the calling card for the wayward Lowell. It’s not mentioned what is on this tarot card, but I can certainly imagine it’s something of significance or importance to the larger story. The cover might give some hints, as the Tower card appears. In tarot, this card signifies change, transformation, revelation. The figure that we see in the final panels—the person haunting the stones—is certainly someone changed. But this could also signal a change for Simon and Honora themselves as they dig deeper into this mystery.
We’re halfway through this series and with the immediate mystery of Simon’s attacker solved, we’re still not any closer to the secrets of Noxton. Like an onion, there’s layers upon layers of mystery to solve before the end, and I’m ready to keep on peeling.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Showcasing the best of what the Hellboy Universe has to offer while remaining accessible to new fans. If you ever wanted to try a Hellboy Universe book but remain apprehensive for whatever reason, this is the place to start.