This series functions like a prequel to the Hellboy storylines in that we get a chance to see the events that ran prior to Rasputin’s summoning of him and Professor Trevor Bruttenholm’s adoption of him. This issue adds in a few other pieces of the puzzle with more Uncle Simon and now the addition of Lady Cynthia Eden-Jones. More than anything though, this issue gives us a sense of what drives Bruttenholm and this provides one reason why it would make sense for him to adopt Hellboy.
The storyline, by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson, certainly ups the stakes and the mystery, but it was Professor Bruttenholm’s tenacity and curiosity that pushes the storyline forward. As the world is already fairly established, this series provides a lot of room to explore characters and flesh them out in ways we have not yet seen. As can be expected, this results in some slower pacing, but it works well and feels appropriate. I absolutely love how his desire to learn more about these mysterious forces is so strong that it makes him react in ways that might otherwise be illogical. An example of this is when he puts his life in danger attempting to study a particular location, but instead of being relieved that he is safe in the end, he simply sees the destruction of the materials in this location as a waste. That said, if somebody was wanting more Rasputin in a series titled “Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon,” this issue will be a disappointment as it has even less of him than issue one did and the few pages don’t give us much. Because of the title, it can be assumed that more will be coming, but, it could feel like some kind of waiting pattern if that is what you are looking for. It is a good thing that there is so much to enjoy along the way.
More than anything, Christopher Mitten’s art make this feel like an issue of Hellboy. Part of this is Dave Stewart’s Colors, but Mitten hits all the notes one would expect. Additionally, the patterns in his art are quite impressive. Multiple panels look almost like mosaics made of papers, branches, or whatever else might be filling the scene. This attention to, and the inclusion of, many background details makes each panel feel rich and full making any panel without them stand out in stark contrast. I also enjoy the shift to black and white as he recalls the events of the last issue. I would love to layer on more praise, but doing so would require spoilers. I can, however, give more praise to Dave Stewart’s Colors. One of the things that he does best in this issue is lighting and that is so crucial for ambiance. Outside of the three pages of the Rasputin narrative, there is often a candlelit motif with long shadows on the characters faces creating a strong sense of mystery while never losing their warmth and softness. No matter how scary these matters are, we know that we are rooting for the right people.
This series is an occult mystery tale more than anything else and it is a good one at that. If you are a Hellboy fan, this is must read material. It would also be enjoyable for anybody who likes World War II history with an emphasis on the Nazis’ obsession with the supernatural. The only real complaint that I can think of is that fans of Rasputin might be expecting a whole lot more than what they are getting. That said, this is a very well-balanced and paced issue that sets the board well for the next one. This series is very, as Bruttenholm would say, promising and this issue proves that.
(W) Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson (A) Christopher Mitten (CA) Gregory Manchess