“Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land” #2 dives deeper into its King Kong homage, while also implying more going on beneath the surface with the larger Hellboy Universe lore. But even if you miss all that, there’s a wildly fun story unfolding in the foreground with Scarlett Santiago, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a tribe of gorilla people, and a vampire cult.
Spoiler warning, we dig into the details of a pretty major reveal for this issue.
Written by Mike Mignola and Thomas Sniegoski
Illustrated by Craig Rousseau
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Clem Robins
After meeting a missing adventurer and being taken in by the island’s Ohnar people, Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm delve deeper into the strange island’s mysteries. Exploring a previous civilization’s ruins reveals more about local history. . . and grabs the attention of some gruesome foes!
Young Hellboy’s adventure continues, from Mike Mignola with writer Thomas Sniegoski, artist Craig Rousseau, and colorist Dave Stewart!
James Dowling: Looks like I’m back for more with “Young Hellboy’s” two-fisted return! This really felt like the whole creative team settling into the feel of this book. I, on the other hand, was really left thrown into the whirlwind trying to find where this series fits into the mad, massive Hellboy Universe.
Mark Tweedale: Fair warning, I might get a little lost in the weeds with this review. There’s a lot going on here, and I kept seeing all these connections to other stories and characters. . .
James: Yeah it’s “Frankenstein Underground” levels of criss-cross connections. All the red string leads to pint-size Hellboy after this issue. So what was your first impression of our return to this not-so-monstrous Monster Island?
Mark: I’m enjoying this being something different. ‘The Hidden Land’ could’ve easily been branded as a regular “Hellboy” title, but with that comes certain expectations of tone. By branding it “Young Hellboy,” this story is already telling us this is something different. “Young Hellboy” can be lighter than “Hellboy” can, and we see that dynamic in every facet of the story’s production. I mean, we have Dave Stewart, who’s been coloring “Hellboy” since the ’90s, and yet he’s never colored Hellboy like he’s colored here, so bright, saturated, and warm. It immediately makes the book look unlike “Hellboy.”
James: Yeah! Even ‘The Midnight Circus,’ which was the closest we’ve gotten to “Young Hellboy” in the past, was still very rooted in that original visual language of the mainline “Hellboy” series. I think a lot of that rides on Craig Rousseau too, who allows himself to sink into the escapist adventure style while still swinging back to moments of familiar grim Mignola-ness that almost feels like foreshadowing in this context.
Mark: Absolutely. I mean, it’s easy to see how even though it’s still young Hellboy in the 1940s, ‘The Midnight Circus’ was clearly a “Hellboy” title in terms of its tone and structure.
It’s funny, there’s a moment right near the end of this issue where Hellboy runs off, and for just a moment we’re just on Scarlett Santiago and Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, and you can feel the shift in tone immediately. There’s an ominous quality that just isn’t there when you’ve got young Hellboy in the mix. I think it may even be hinting that part of this story’s journey may be from a lighter tone into a darker one.
James: Yeah, they’re both people stuck with pasts drenched in a periphery of violence, a lot of it only implied, but they have to put up these larger-than-life, pulp veneers for the innocent kid they’re protecting. So when they drop that barrier when he’s gone things take on a more unvarnished tone.
Mark: Of course, this story also owes a lot to King Kong, which has that sort of structure too. It’s all a big adventure and then it starts getting dark and ends up a tragedy. Part of the appeal of that story is the way the tone shifts. This is probably why the emphasis is on Hellboy as the lead, because he can be that wide-eyed adventurer character, whereas at this point in his history, Trevor is already pretty jaded.Continued below
James: It would be a horror story if anyone else was looking at it. Matt Smith’s cover definitely straddles that line too. It carries the general mood of soft-edged childhood adventure mixed with high fidelity danger very clearly, which I don’t think the first issue had to this degree.
Mark: (Slightly off topic, but I have to say how much I enjoyed the first issue’s cover. Obviously, “Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land” is paying homage to King Kong in a lot of ways, so I thought it was particularly fun for that cover to reference Hergé’s “The Black Island,” which was also inspired by King Kong.)
This issue certainly became a great deal bloodier. . .
James: Yeah, the body count amped up a tad bit, especially when we found out that Hellboy isn’t the only King Kong analogue swinging around on this island. So, is it fair to say that Scarlett’s King Kong polymorph T-Rex fight was as much of a blindside for you as for me?
Mark: There was a moment in issue #1 when the giant gorilla saved Hellboy and Trevor, and we got a close-up of its eyes and Dave Stewart was very particular about his choice of color there. Anyway, when Scarlett Santiago showed up at the end of the issue with those same color eyes, I couldn’t help but connect the two. It wasn’t immediate or anything, but having a month wait between issues, I couldn’t help but connect the dots. So seeing the cover of issue #2, my brain was already going, “Oh, she’s totally going to turn into the gorilla and do the T-Rex fight.”
James: Now that’s good detective work! It’s such a testament to this creative team that they manage to really solidify the stark and brutal nature of this fight within one page. Everything slows down, the colors shift and Rousseau’s art starts bristling with sharpness in a way we hadn’t seen up until now.
Mark: The jaw-breaking is such an iconic moment too. Plus it’s just a fun way to tell us a lot of stuff visually. Santiago has a lot of explaining to do after this fight, but by having this moment, we’re getting explanations to stuff we actually want to know.
James: That divide between the lively primary color palette of Hellboy’s world and the more dubious secondary color palette embodied elsewhere feels relevant all throughout this issue.
Mark: Stewart even does the same thing for Vesperra later, where her flashbacks are drenched in the color of her eyes. But before we get to Vesperra, I have to ask—do you think this book is setting up a story between Scarlett Santiago and the Lobster? Given everything that we know about Scarlett Santiago, about how her father got caught up with gangsters from New York and then she ended up taking the law into her own hands, I can’t help but feel like this is setting the stage for a Sky Devil and the Lobster story. I mean, New York gangsters are the Lobster’s bread and butter. (Also, Sniegoski would be great writing a “Lobster Johnson” story. He’s already had experience with the prose novel The Satan Factory.)
James: Yeah, the parallels are all over this book. They both have this pulp noir heroism that they’ve diverged into the occult from, both have been there for what seems to be Hellboy’s growth into a new kind of independence. It’s hard not to imagine us seeing the Lobster trailing the skies in a red biplane sometime soon.
That’s really just one of the endless avenues this book diverged into. On that topic of Vesperra, we’re surely seeing something at least on the periphery of the lost cities of Hyperborea with her right? Especially with how the Ohnar are positioned as thematic contrasts to this reanimated monstrous society.Continued below
Mark: Mignola’s mythology has some interesting ties to the various indigenous peoples of the Americas. I mean, they are the descendants of the T’shethuan shamans seen in the prehistoric world of Gall Dennar. In the Abe Sapien series (major spoilers for “Abe Sapien: The Shape of Things to Come,” if you haven’t read it) we got to see how that bloodline survives even into modern people, and the shape shifting aspect is an aspect of that bloodline.
So when Scarlett is shape shifting and mentions how she didn’t think she was worthy, but there must’ve been something special about her, I can’t help but think, “Ah, she’s Latina, so this could be that her bloodline is shared with the shamans that fought the Ogdru Hem in prehistory.”
As for Vesperra, I think what we’re seeing is her connection to the Ogdru cults of Central America, which we glimpsed a little of in “Hellboy: The Island” with the fall of Tenochtitlán, where the golden tablets with the secret history of the world were kept.
But she could tie to a whole host of things. I mean, obviously she’s a vampire, but the vampires of the Americas were pretty monstrous (as seen in “Hellboy in Mexico”), far from the more human-looking European vampires. There was an implication in “Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead” that something had happened to them to change them. Vesperra seems to predate that change. She is the American vampire as they would have been in their heyday.
James: Yeah, there’s been a penchant for creatures that are a little less engineered than the Cronenberg-esque monstrosities of “B.P.R.D.,” so having Vesperra being a progenitor to more modern vampires in the same vein would be very fitting. Still, even with that connective tissue giving her muscle, Vesperra really didn’t feel like that resonant of a villain for me. She’s not exactly as monolithic as some of the other ‘force of nature’ villains scattered dazzlingly across the Hellboy Universe.
She did make me wonder about how the continual motif of possession and spiritual occupation is used in a coming of age story for somebody whose whole life is defined by prophecy. Hellboy is seeing all these people being forced along by things larger than themselves while still embodying it in being, to varying degrees of merciful and malicious intents.
Mark: As a character, Vesperra isn’t doing much for me yet. She shows up at the end of this issue, and we really just get a teaser for next time. All I was thinking was how crappy it must be to be Trevor. I mean, vampires are rare to the point that even people that study the paranormal think they’re likely fiction.
Meanwhile, Trevor ran into them in September 1946 and they wiped out every single B.P.R.D. field agent aside from himself. This story is set in May 1947, and he’s about to have a run-in with Vesperra. Later this same month, the story “B.P.R.D.: 1947” will occur (the story is set during Spring 1947, but given that Trevor is preparing for a trip to Tanzania, which we know takes place early June, it’s probably set late May), and Trevor will again lose a bunch of agents to vampires. In the space of less than a year, that’s three vampire encounters. He’s not having a fun time.
James: I think the timing of that sunk in for me too. I guess he wouldn’t have gotten into this career if his luck was even a little more kind. I do wonder if there is something bigger going on there about this mid-twentieth century resurgence and reinvention of vampires, or if it’s just one guy who can’t catch a break.
Mark: Well, we haven’t seen it in the comics yet, but we’ve had more than a few hints that from the late ’60s to the mid to late ’80s, the Bureau had a major vampire hunt going on. There’s little comments dropped by Abe (in “Hellboy: Wake the Devil” and “B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice” in particular) where you know he’s had some major run-ins, and Hellboy ends up hunting and killing the head of one of the major vampire families. (See ‘The Vârcolac.’) There’s a lot in Hellboy: The Companion that shows Mignola has plans for the vampires and the B.P.R.D. that we haven’t really gotten to yet. Still, given the way vampires keep coming up in his stories of late, I feel like he’s getting ready for it.Continued below
James: Haha, this definitely gives us more than enough proof of why Trevor would be especially motivated to get that done then. This issue was fun!! I enjoyed it significantly more than the first, even when it starts to feel like the ideas overtake the real elements in the presentation. That said, Rousseau and Stewart are consistently turning out layer, interesting work that I’m compelled to follow above all else. It’s a 7.5 from me!
Mark: It’s a 7.5 from me too. There’s a bit of “then this happened, then this happened,” which you kind of need to have to really nail that King Kong homage, but at the same time, it means the beginning of the story can feel a bit lightweight. That said, it makes sense because they’ve paired it with young Hellboy, who just fits with that sort of style.
James: Yeah! At least he would like the narrative structure, that kid’s a yammerer.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – “Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land” #2 swings through the golden age of monster movies, pulp heroism, and coming of age adventures, albeit while losing some of its own structure and identity in the homage. Scarlett Santiago, the Sky Devil, definitely steals the show—it’s clear the creative team was having fun introducing her and teasing out her story.