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‘Young Hellboy: Assault on Castle Death’ TPB (review)

Written by Mike Mignola
and Thomas Sniegoski
Art by Craig Rousseau
Published by Dark Horse Comics

 

The Young Hellboy line of comics, delving into the 1940s youth of he who would become Anung Un Rama, continues its run of tales full of charm and verve with this four-part miniseries. Mignola and co-writer Sniegoski have done it again.

The story is a pretty simple one: After returning from the adventures of The Hidden Land, a sick Young Hellboy finds his own fever-fueled daydream adventure. Meanwhile, a secret order of monks tasked with preventing the apocalypse are hot on HB’s trail (and literal tail).

I deeply enjoy the notion of Young Hellboy being inspired to heroics, in part, because he’s a big ol’ fanboy of pulp comics and the masked vigilante Lobster Johnson.

Hell, I’m a fan of Lobster Johnson, with his tactical gear and big goggles, twin .45’s and that lobster-shaped brand he places upon criminals’ foreheads.

The most fun part of the story is seeing Young Hellboy develop his own persona as kid sidekick the Scarlet Crab, playing up the OG Batman vibes of the Lobster. (HB even pulls on Batman strings by naming himself after the crab monsters in his nightmares. Cute!) He ties a homemade cape around his neck – plus one for his trusty dog, Mac – and off they run, headlong into peril. Because they’re brave boys, of course!

Rousseau does a solid job using varied technique between objective reality and Young Hellboy’s fever-induced adventure. He uses crisp linework and no shadows, only shading and gradations of colors, in the real world. But in Hellboy’s fantasy, the poses grow more exaggerated, the perspectives and angles more outlandish, and so many thick lines and chunky blacks, even on Mac the dog.

What’s not to love about the Lobster Johnson plot? Killer robots, zombie soldier guards, zombie knights, Nazi occultists and scientists. And the storied Castle Death, a rocket aimed for the USA carrying and enchantment called the Creeping Doom? And re-animated, cybernetic zombie animals?

Not a whole lot happens beyond Young Hellboy’s fever-dream adventure with Lobster Johnson juxtaposed against the pursuit of would-be slayer Brother Robert. I kept waiting for the fever to mean something, anything explicitly connected to Hellboy lore.

Even Brother Robert is literally one-note, as he keeps muttering the same lines of an end-times vision. Perhaps this was on purpose because are we really supposed to root against him? Hellboy is what they fear he is. The flashbacks to his youth and training were welcome because, in his heart, he is the hero on his pursuit to vanquish evil and saving the world from hellfire and damnation. Perhaps we’ll see the Brotherhood again later on?

However, a plot twist in the final pages is pretty darn cool and sets up some intriguing possibilities for when our young hero may meet his idol.

The trade paperback collects all four issues, plus adds the perfunctory sketchbook, artist’s notes and variant covers. 

Grade: B

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