Mike Mignola and Jesse Lonergan wrap up their heroic saga with a mediation on time, bravery, and liberation as Miss Truesdale and Anum Yassa work to find their place in history and overcome the destruction that inevitably follows the constant march of time. What ensues is a beautiful and inspired work of visual storytelling that packs a mean right hook.
Be warned, there are many spoilers ahead.
Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Jesse Lonergan
Lettered by Clem Robins
Miss Truesdale’s past, present, and future collide in a battle with a terrifying creature. Will the Victorian-era Miss Truesdale be able to claim her power, or is she doomed to be consumed by her past?
Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and artist Jesse Lonergan bring the final installment of Miss Truesdale’s story and of ancient Hyperborea!
James Dowling: Here we are at the end of another stand-out miniseries, Mark. On one hand it’s always sad seeing incredible books like this end, but I think it’s just worth savoring the time we had Anum Yassa, Margaret Truesdale, and the magical mythical world they’ve let us into. So on that note, I think we should get into how great this book is before you even open the first page! Lonergan pulls off a triumphant cover that feels like it could be a killer movie poster. We focus so often on how strong he is as a page designer and the composition he puts into his panel layouts, but even on pieces like this where he abstains from any overt flairs, his incredible design work shines through, and really primes you for what this story will deliver. We’re about to read about some capital-H Heroes.
Mark Tweedale: It’s interesting to contrast this issue’s cover with issue #3’s. The cover for #3 is so restrained and #4 feels so dramatic. Lonergan doesn’t just make a cover showy because it’s a cover; it’s purposeful and it reflects the story within. #3 and #4 are very different issues and you can tell that without even opening either issue.
James: Yeah, I think that because the Direct Market often forces covers to be pulled together ahead of most comics being illustrated, we find ourselves in a period where beyond being strong artworks on their own, covers can be pretty thematically detached from the contents. Lonergan however, has made sure that every cover gives you a clear sense of the narrative’s tone. This is a cover that encapsulates the narrative within, and every facet of it telegraphs it with confidence.
Mark: Confident is a good way to describe this issue. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I read it. On the surface, “Miss Truesdale and the Fall of Hyperborea” is appealing because it’s exploring an era we’ve so rarely seen in the Hellboy Universe. And while it’s great to see the latter days of the Hyperborean Empire and the spirits of the forest and have Ereshigal show up, these things aren’t what make the series work. The clockworks of the thing is Miss Truesdale and Anum Yassa, and what makes this miniseries great is that they remain the center of the story, even when it starts invoking Thor, Hercules, Makoma, and Hellboy. And it’s not just that Miss Truesdale and Anum Yassa are the focus of the story, but that their story informs the construction of everything else.
It was fascinating to get this final chapter and then look back and see how we were being guided to this ending even back in issue #1. In our first review, we discussed how Miss Truesdale was introduced as a confined character, however Anum Yassa, though she was a prisoner, was fighting against her confines. This was visualized by Anum Yassa actually slicing up the panels.
But she doesn’t get out. Looking back through the issues, Jesse Lonergan was doing all kinds of interesting things with his layouts, but we also have to consider what he wasn’t doing. And he wasn’t letting the characters out of their panels.Continued below
So when he finally does, it’s electric.
James: I struggle to think of a comic that is as satisfying in the fulfillment of every stylistic choice as this. All the quirks that made this book unique—those hulking swings that cut through panels, or the geometric insets that sprawl across time, and mosaic color palettes—are allowed to culminate here, each portraying a clear idea of just how sprawling, indomitable, and endlessly multifaceted both our hero and this very story can be.
As mythical as this comic feels, it could almost run to the tune of the Rocky soundtrack; it’s a story about an underdog kicking ass in the most satisfying way. Anum Yassa / Miss Truesdale build themselves up from genuine centuries of belittlement, inequality, and abuse to become a celebration of the human spirit and the very concept of resistance. They embrace a pure joy of living. It almost feels corny, but it’s exciting to read a book that is unabashedly humanistic and romantic in its passion for individuality.
Mark: I loved the unabashed earnestness of the story. There are so many moments in this book that gave me a thrill of frisson as I read them. I feel like that sort of moment can only really happen when the creative team is working in perfect concert. Like early on in the issue, we have a moment where Miss Truesdale is confronted by the dragon—it’s a moment that makes her feel small and it brings to her thoughts other instances when she was made to feel small as a Victorian woman surrounded by the men of the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra.
As the artist, Lonergan takes this moment and so elegantly articulates it visually. Miss Truesdale is made to feel small, so makes her small in this layout.
And then he references this layout later when she picks up the ax, and again she’s a thin slice of a panel between two others, but now she’s the same size as the surrounding figure of Anum Yassa, with the arm holding the ax literally breaking out of the panels. The mood of the layout is entirely the opposite the second time it’s evoked.
Anyway, going back to Miss Truesdale feeling very small in the face of the dragon, we get a page of her memories flowing down into Anum Yassa, and the determination she suddenly finds, breaking through the panels. . . This page blows me away.
I love that even without her ax, she’s going to fight. This is the first time this soul fights a dragon and she does so with a stick.
James: Yeah, that page had me punching the air. It’s a really cool way to re-evaluate the traditionally masculine heroic myths splashed through the story and make them examples of kicking out against repression. The absolute bloodbath that follows is then a great reminder that, as cerebral as this book can be, it is also just a very satisfying sword and sandal fight comic. There’s some landmark action sequences scattered throughout this series.
One of my favorite ways the creative team portray action in this issue is through the purposefully chaotic framing. Lonergan uses his constricted panels to embellish the quick movements of the two combatants by messily cropping his images. We lose obvious parts of the frame, as if someone’s snapping a haphazard photo of the scene where you can’t get a full grasp on the moment. It leaves you craning your neck to try and catch a little extra detail that’s just out of sight.
Mark: That was especially fun because the action is fragmented, just as this soul’s story is fragmented across so many lives, yet unified. Plus, it makes me want to revisit “Hellboy: The Bones of Giants,” ‘Makoma,’ ‘The Hydra and the Lion,’ and ‘The Storm and the Fury.’ Those stories are forever changed now. You can’t read “Miss Truesdale” and look at those stories the same way.
James: I completely forgot about ‘The Hydra and the Lion.’ It’s been way too long since I gave it a read! It was really miraculous how well this book dovetails into previous stories. There’s definitely an argument to be made that this is the best way to approach a prequel story. It’s super detached from the core books, but threads a wealth of extra subtext onto the original stories. That’s been a trend through a lot of the recent Hellboy stories actually. It feels like such a treat to get ‘The Bones of Giants,’ “Koschei in Hell,” “The Sword of Hyperborea” and “Miss Truesdale and the Fall of Hyperborea” all in such quick proximity. They provide a very obvious thematic interest for this era of stories and it’s being delivered in a catalog of gorgeous and contemplative comics.Continued below
Mark: As far as I’m concerned, Mignola’s the prequel master, and “Miss Truesdale” is possibly the best he’s ever done. Whenever he connects the story to other parts of the Hellboy Universe, it makes Miss Truesdale’s story richer. She’s not second fiddle to the worldbuilding, because the worldbuilding stems from her and informs her character.
James: I’ve always adored the stories that dig into Hellboy’s maternal heritage, and this is probably the most definitive one of the lot. The Arthurian history in ‘The Storm and the Fury’ was itself a coy subversion of the witchcraft stories we have been treated to before, and this takes that to a natural endpoint. Hellboy has this whole chronology of heroism in him, but it’s buried under traditionally liminal and feminine ideas of paganism that are ostracized from those masculine heroic narratives. “Hellboy” has always been a work of outsider fiction, and this is a story that wants to acknowledge it’s literally in his blood.
Mark: More than that, it’s in his very soul. The name “Anum Yassa,” meaning Anum’s favor, proves to be prescient. After the encounter in Thoth’s garden, this soul will bear the duty of shaping the new world.
James: Just on a continuity level, it also makes me appreciate ‘The Bones of Giants’ even more, because when Hellboy is possessed by Thor it’s a layering of his personas. We see how these various identities coil over each other over and over again through time.
It does make you look back at the stories we’ve had before where Hellboy was compared to Makoma or Thor, and see that they are explicitly more figures made to “ring down the curtain on man.” It’s a cool full-circle moment and adds layers to characters like Thor who’ve had to be archetypal forces against the apocalypse in every other reading. What was your take on how this book contrasts Harbingers of the Apocalypse and savior figures?
Mark: I remember reading ‘Makoma’ for the first time and when I got to the end, it was clear to me in the broad strokes how Mignola was going to end Hellboy’s story. And then ‘The Fury’ #3 and later ‘The Devil You Know’ #14 and #15 confirmed it. Adding these new layers in “Miss Truesdale” only solidifies what I felt was already there. It’s fascinating now to go back to this moment from ‘The Storm and the Fury’ and see how well it all fits together.
As to your question about the Apocalypse, I feel as I always have—the end of the world is all too often a distraction from what carries on into the new world. Miss Truesdale’s story functions as a kind of metaphor for this. She dies in this story and is reborn as Anum Yassa. In her life in the 1800s, she was not free to truly be herself, but as Anum Yassa she could. And Mignola and Lonergan weren’t exactly subtle about this change. I mean, they chose to hang the caption box, “I’m going to live” over the scene of Miss Truesdale’s final resting spot.
James: Juxtaposition has always been the best tool in Mignola’s arsenal for dramatic irony. We can see it as well in this panel.
There’s a concerted effort in both images to discern what’s timeless from what’s mortal. That message is what makes the final page so perfect and poignant for me too. Its construction and emotion make it my absolute favorite from the series.
Circles are a massive part of Lonergan’s art, as you can see in the way he uses arcing movements. He’s intentionally held from using them throughout this book, instead sticking to angular geometry. It’s that purposeful restriction that makes the ending so powerful. The circles and rings become a way to show the forces of time and how they push past any boundaries. Perfectly encapsulating the narration prior. In fact, the only ‘frame’ on the page is an actual picture frame. It sets Miss Truesdale herself as this sticking point, the constant through time and through these other identities. The soul in the hero’s body.Continued below
We also saw circular framing throughout Lawrence Campbell’s art in “The Sword of Hyperborea,” suggesting there’s a real concerted effort here to show a singular stylistic symbol for the cyclical nature of this world and its heroes. It’s a level of tailored craftsmanship that is so rarely matched in modern comics. We’re lucky to be given books as good as this.
Mark: And, of course, the frame gutters form beautiful ripples across the page. (And again, both Miss Truesdale and Anum Yassa have broken free from the constraints of panels.)
This ending recontextualizes Eugene Remy’s vision of Larzod too. The Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra saw the vision as a terrible thing, some looming doom. And it is, but it also isn’t. I’m often confounded by people that think if something isn’t eternal it must be meaningless. I find so much meaning in endings. I see Ereshigal whispering to Miss Truesdale that all shall become dust, and I love that Miss Truesdale chooses not to give in to that despair. Ultimately, Larzod’s vision is of Hellboy’s greatest triumph. The end of the world came, and it came without sacrificing the spirit of humankind. The old world is gone, but the new world is what it is because of the old.
Mignola excels at this kind of ending, which is ultimately positive, but there are strong elements of melancholy running through them. I love that given the context of Miss Truesdale and Tefnut Trionus’s relationship, this vision changes from “I saw doom” to “I saw the moment you became everything beautiful inside of you; I saw your ascension.”
James: Yeah, they’re stories that use the methods of cynical fiction to tell an unapologetically optimistic story. It obviously worked on me as well, because I left this comic with a deeper admiration for the construction of this whole universe of stories. Comparing this to our last masterpiece conclusion, “Koshchei in Hell” #4, that book made me satisfied with the journey we’d been on, and tied a bow around all the stuff that came before. This makes me excited about those stories again, it makes me want to go digging into the back catalog again and revisit it all.
Mark: It absolutely does.
James: If we’re ever lucky enough to get another Hellboy Universe story out of Jesse Lonergan, I do hope he gets to have a proper Hellboy story. The page we get with him is a great rendition, and I’d be satisfied if he gets to have a spiritual sequel to this, diving into more of that mythic history, or if he jumps into a completely different genre. In fact, I would love to know what Lonergan’s equivalent would be to a “Giant Robot Hellboy” story.
And as a side note. I had so much fun just going on a tangent about Elsa Charretier last month, so I thought I’d continue that trend of trying to wish books into existence from artists I love. Another creator who seemingly adores circles as much as Jesse Lonergan, and who could do an absolutely amazing Hellboy Universe story, is Christian Ward. He’s just announced “Batman: City of Madness” which feels like a great companion piece to Mignola’s “Batman: The Doom that Came to Gotham,” why not keep the parallels running?
Mark: This story was my introduction to Jesse Lonergan’s work, so as much as I would love certain artists to work on the Hellboy Universe, discovering a new and exciting artist is even better. I love a discovery that makes my world of comics larger—I’ve now got all Lonergan’s past comics to explore!
This probably isn’t going to surprise you, but I’m going with a 10 for this issue. “Miss Truesdale and the Fall of Hyperborea” isn’t just a great story, it’s a story that makes other already great stories even better. It makes Hellboy better. As you said earlier, it’s a sword and sandals adventure story, but it uses that format to be so many other things as well.
James: Yeah, people must have seen this score coming from a mile away but it’s a 10 from me too. “Hellboy” fans are eating good this year.
Mark: And we’ve still got Duncan Fegredo on “Giant Robot Hellboy” ahead!
Final Verdict: 10 – Stories like “Miss Truesdale and the Fall of Hyperborea” are rare. The ripples from it will be felt in so many corners of the Hellboy Universe.