Writers: Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson
Artist: Alison Sampson
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Clem Robins
Cover Artists: Laurence Campbell with Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: June 28th, 2023
To quote Hellboy, the last time he helped a friend of Professor Bruttenholm’s, “it didn’t go so well.” Still, when anthropologist Dr. Narendra Jaiswall calls, Hellboy travels to the University of Sagar in Madhya Pradesh, India. Will things go any better this time? Let’s load our four-round revolvers, leap into Hellboy And The B.P.R.D.: Fearful Symmetry #1, and find out!
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Meet Virginia Payne, a doctoral student intrigued by recent animal attacks. After getting her Bachelor’s degree at Harvard, she’s doing a doctoral thesis on the folk beliefs of tribal groups in rural India. The authorities see nothing suspicious in the rash of wild tiger attacks. But according to the villagers she questioned, the attackers walked on two legs, not four.
Virginia and Hellboy tracked down a monster seven years ago. She knew him as a boy who read comics. Now she sees him as a man. Hellboy And The B.P.R.D.: Fearful Symmetry #1 isn’t Hellboy In Love, but “Ginny” opens up to her former friend and seems to treat him as an equal. That proves a good thing when a villager ventures outside his hut, only to fall into the embrace of a striped, furry attacker. Virginia and Hellboy make an effective team. They don’t waste time arguing or playing games with each other. Instead, they get right down to business and investigate the attacks. When thrown a curve ball, they adjust their strategy and press on. The ending satisfies yet hints that all is not quite as it seems.
Virginia’s eyes glow with affection and intelligence in Hellboy And The B.P.R.D.: Fearful Symmetry #1. While Hellboy’s demeanor shows his indifference to the mysterious, she seems amazed by all the possibilities life will throw her way. His too-wide mouth, bull neck, and clunky-looking arm make Hellboy look like a human-sized Iron Giant Hells Angel. The way Alison Sampson draws Virginia sideways in a panel takes some getting used to, as does Hellboy’s one-page turntable-style tiger takedown. More fluid transitions between panels and consistently detailed backgrounds would have helped me feel more grounded. Still, the scenes of the two driving through farmland and remote villages transport me to India, and the images accompanying their conversations emphasize the richness of Indian culture.
Lee Loughridge utilizes a limited color palette in Hellboy And The B.P.R.D.: Fearful Symmetry #1. Interiors draw on reds and pinks, while outsides trend toward greens and browns. Harsh sunlight threatens to turn everything yellow, while lavenders and grays inhabit evenings. Virginia may look bleached in direct sunlight and green in shadow, but Hellboy always burns red. While Sampson and Loughridge’s imagery reminds me of Elizabeth Shaw’s dreams in Prometheus, the disconcerting evening scenes suggest Film Noir. Clem Robins helps us hear dialogue with easy-to-read black letters in appealing white balloons and boxes. The tigers’ growls confirm Hellboy’s suspicions and sound effects hit you as powerfully as his demon hand.
Appealing characters, intriguing art, and an involving story make Hellboy And The B.P.R.D.: Fearful Symmetry #1 an oddly satisfying read, regardless of whether you’ve read earlier Hellboy stories or William Blake’s famous poem.