Mike Mignola, Thomas Sniegoski, and Craig Rousseau reunite for “Young Hellboy: Assault on Castle Death,” a tale that is sure to please long term Hellboy readers. . .
Written by Mike Mignola and Thomas Sniegoski
Illustrated by Craig Rousseau
Colored by Chris O’Halloran
Lettered by Clem Robins
Returned from their adventures on a secret island, Hellboy and the Professor move with the B.P.R.D. from New Mexico to Connecticut. The relocation is tough on Hellboy: is he just homesick, or have scrambled memories from the island gripped the supernatural whippersnapper? Meanwhile, word of Hellboy’s survival has also reached an unknown enemy, who failed to kill him once before but is determined not be foiled again . . .
It’s a roaring start to the second Young Hellboy series, from Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and cowriter Thomas Sniegoski, with art by Craig Rousseau and colors by Chris O’Halloran.
“Young Hellboy: Assault on Castle Death” picks up right where ‘The Hidden Land’ left off, with Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm back at B.P.R.D. headquarters with no memory of their previous adventure. This works in the miniseries’ favor, since readers that haven’t read ‘The Hidden Land’ can still dive in and feel like they have enough information to connect with what the characters are experiencing emotionally in the wake of the previous story. Most of the story revolves around the Brothers of Desolation and their attempts to assassinate Hellboy. Brother Audric (from ‘The Hidden Land’) failed, and now the task falls to another brotherhood member.
Tonally, the “Young Hellboy” series is noticeably different from “Hellboy” or “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.,” even when compared to stories in those series that feature a young Hellboy, like “Hellboy: The Midnight Circus.” It keeps the horror aspects at arm’s length, focusing on the pulpier elements. In this way, I feel like Craig Rousseau’s art is an excellent match for the series—visually, it softens any horror-like elements, such as the mummified corpse of Brother de Falvy. It’s still creepy and the way it’s presented taps in rhythms we’ve familiar with in Mignola books, but with Rosseau’s cartooning and lack of heavy shadows, the feeling of pulp adventure comes to the fore.
‘Assault on Castle Death’ reunites almost the entire creative team from ‘The Hidden Land,’ with the exception of colorist Dave Stewart. Chris O’Halloran (who previously colored “Hellboy: The Bones of Giants”) takes the baton for this miniseries, and he’s been very attentive to Stewart’s approach to the series, even going so far as to use a very similar dappled texture in the backgrounds. There’s still a definite shift though. Where Stewart kept the coloring on the characters relatively flat, O’Halloran introduces a fine grain, similar to what he did in ‘The Bones of Giants,’ and more face-sculpting shadows in close-ups. Most of the time it’s subtle, but it’s an effect he can dial up whenever a line of dialogue needs more weight or a dramatic beat.
It’s a technique that compliments Rousseau’s art and pushes what Mike Mignola and Thomas Sniegoski are doing with the story. Since ‘Assault on Castle Death’ is set primarily in B.P.R.D. headquarters, being able to transform the location from dull, business-like hallways into menace is a rather important part of the storytelling.
In Rousseau’s art, he keeps the “camera” of the comic at eye level in the everyday scenes so that when moodier moments are required, he can change the language of his panel layouts by lifting, dropping, or tilting the camera. This may seem straightforward, but keep in mind, the central character is a two-a-half-year-old Hellboy. He’s shorter than everyone else around him, so Rousseau finds ways make their eyelines match, like characters lowering themselves to Hellboy’s eyeline or splitting the characters across two panels.
From here I’m diving into spoiler territory. It’s nothing too major, but you can jump to the last paragraph if you’d like to remain spoiler free.
I don’t know how much of a spoiler this really is, since the covers for the remaining issues of the miniseries are already out there, but the Lobster is a big part of ‘Assault on Castle Death’ and his inclusion is a big part of the visual language of the comic. I looked back through ‘The Hidden Land’ and on a quick flip through, I couldn’t find a single black shadow. This is not the case in ‘Assault on Castle Death’ however, where the shadows are used very purposefully. Literally, the first black shadow appears with the Lobster’s arrival and takes over the whole scene. It’s such a great moment, and it feels like the comic steps into another world in those final pages.Continued below
I also wanted to take a moment to talk about the future of the “Young Hellboy” series, which I think is only fair since this month’s Horsepower features Thomas Sniegoski talking about “Young Hellboy” and hinting not too subtly at more to come. Many fans, including myself, observed when the “Young Hellboy” series was announced, that it was a series with a built-in expiration date. Obviously, Hellboy doesn’t stay young forever and in fact grows up abnormally fast, to the point that by 1952 at the age of seven, he’s functionally an adult and becomes a Bureau agent.
But maybe the series has more gas in the tank than we guessed. ‘The Hidden Land’ took place in May 1947 and ‘Assault on Castle Death’ picks up less than a month later in early June—it’s definitely before June 7, because by then Hellboy is in Africa and gets lost on the Serengeti for a week. Such a major event would surely be referenced if it had already happened. In fact, it’s entirely possible that that’s the next “Young Hellboy” story. . . which would mean all three tales cover a time period of roughly a month. I’m not saying the Africa story needs to be told—maybe it’s best left to our imaginations—but it does give an idea of how tighly packed the timeline for “Young Hellboy” could be. Unlike the ongoing story of “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.,” which has five or six issues covering a period of a year, “Young Hellboy” is far less restrained and can slow down to a much finer degree when it needs to. I once figured we’d get a single omnibus of “Young Hellboy” tales when all was said and done, but after reading Sniegoski’s Horsepower piece in the back of “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: Time Is a River,” I can’t help but think we might get a pair of omnibuses.
OK, that’s it for spoilers.
Given the enthusiasm from Sniegoski for “Young Hellboy,” and how this first issue of ‘Assault on Castle Death’ has the creative team so smoothly jumping back into the saddle for another adventure, it seems everyone involved is having fun here. More than that, this issue demonstrates the strength of “Young Hellboy” as a series, not just as a one-off adventure.
Final Verdict: 8 – It’s easy to love “Young Hellboy: Assault on Castle Death” #1. from the title alone, it’s clear the book knows exactly what it is and revels in it.