by Mike Mignola (writer), Duncan Fegredo (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Gary Gianni (back-up writer & art), Alex Wald (back-up colors), and Clem Robins (letters)

The Story: A big reveal about Hellboy’s lineage is outed, as he’s given one of the biggest choices he’s ever had to make.

What’s Good: Well, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Duncan Fegredo rules and Hellboy has always been a gorgeous book. Fegredo never falters as, he’s one of the most consistent guys out there. This looks just as we’ve come to expect a Hellboy comic to look: heavy inks and distinctly blocky characters meld with pulpy atmospherics. I also particularly enjoyed the continual shots of gothic architecture and skeletons that were used to punctuate the dialogue scenes, alleviating the “talking heads” problem. The contrast between most of the book and Hellboy’s entrance to the land of Excalibur was also nothing less than beautiful. While the rest of the book is shrouded in moody darkness, that one scene is brilliant, clear, and nothing short of Elysian. It’s clear that Fegredo is a master at his trade, as is colorist Dave Stewart, who always knows how to put Hellboy’s bold red to good use.

Story-wise, the Hellboy portion of the comic is basically just one gigantic, epic reveal that takes up the entire narrative. And man, oh man what a reveal it is. Perhaps because it comes out of left field, this is sure to floor you, whether you’re a new initiate to Hellboy or a long-time devotee.

The reveal is so ridiculous that it actually works. Had this been another comic, I would’ve laughed at how unbelievable and ludicrous this turn of events was, but somehow, in the weird, continually obfuscated world of Hellboy, it is fantastic.  It’s simply so large, grand, and insane that it actually reaches epic status.  Logic, believability, and coincidence be damned. This just goes to show that in Mignola’s world, anything really is possible. While the comic really has created such an enormous suspension of disbelief for itself that I’ll not only accept the must “out there,” crazy, impossible, deus ex machina, and grandiose developments, but I’ll enjoy it all the more for its boldness.

Beyond this, it’s hard to say much about the issue without spoiling anything. Suffice to say, there’s a great action scene, Hellboy sounds like Hellboy, and the revelation of Morganna’s motivations is not to be missed (nor is her sudden change of apperance).

The back-up meanwhile, can only be described as wacky hijinks. Given the gravity of the main feature, the change of pace is fairly welcome. It certainly lightens the mood.

What’s Not So Good: Hellboy has never been a lengthy read, so the presence of the back-up can be a bit frustrating. It really is just totally out there, totally unrelated, light-hearted stuff, and I can’t think of a sane person that wouldn’t’ve just preferred an actual, full-length Hellboy story instead. The fact that this story intentionally reads like a reprint of a forgotten, decades-old horror comic doesn’t exactly justify the necessity of its place. I’m also definitely not a fan of Gianni’s art, which looks like a hybrid of a forgotten Vertigo comic and a forgotten comic strip, both at least twenty years old. It all feels really tiny, dated, and ill-defined.

Also, with the Hellboy feature, bear in mind that this issue really is just a reveal. In many ways, this, along with its shortened length thanks to the second feature, makes it feel a little lighter than a full comic-book sized story. It feels more like an imparting of new info more than a full 22-page narrative.

Conclusion: Excuse me, I’m busy collecting my jaw from the floor.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans