Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Hellboy Project: Sir Edward Grey Witchfinder Vol. 1: In the Service of Angels

Written by Mike Mignola with Scott Allie
Art by Ben Stenbeck with Patric Reynolds

I really enjoyed this unusual entry into the Hellboy mythos.  Mignola has made some small use of the character of Sir Edward Grey, a paranormal detective who worked for the crown in Victorian England, having him appear in previous Hellboy stories, but this is the first time he's been given the stage all to himself, and it's a remarkable debut.

Grey, who hates being called 'Witchfinder', is sent to investigate some mysterious deaths of men whose bodies are being found without any blood.  While a vampire is an obvious choice, Grey soon discovers that these men were all involved in an expedition to an ancient Hyperborean city, and that they brought back with them the skeleton of a creature (the kind we've seen before in the Hollow Earth volume of BPRD).

To combat the spirit of this creature, Grey ends up working with some very interesting characters.  There is The Captain, who seems to be a leader in London's underworld, and Mary, a medium whose brother works as her spiritual pimp.  We also get a brief appearance by Martin Gilfryd, who goes on to great prominence in the BPRD series.  Of course, working in the shadows are the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, another organization of note in the Mignola-verse.

This book is tightly plotted and intense, although most of the credit for its success lies with Ben Stenbeck's terrific artwork.  His vision of Victorian England is gritty and detailed, and I enjoyed his designs for some of the more fantastical elements of the story.  If you've not read any of Mignola's books, this volume stands alone quite well, and can be used to gain an appreciation of the work he has been doing.

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