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  • Writer's pictureBrad Gullickson

'Hellboy and the BPRD: The Secret of Chesbro House' is Monstrously Spooky

We review the latest supernatural threat to plague Mike Mignola's ghost-smashing investigator.

The first page is so damn good, friends. Three panels run diagonally: a little box, a big box, and a medium circle containing our nonplused investigator staring upward. A caption reads, "New Paltz, New York. October 13th, 1983." Hellboy hands some folding money to the cabbie who just deposited him on the Chesbro House doorstep. The spooky domicile consumes our vision and Hellboy's. He's equally impressed, offering a terse "Nice."

Hellboy has puttered about several haunted structures throughout his career. I have my favorites, and I'm sure you have your favorites. But none of them are quite like what we get here in Hellboy and the BPRD: The Secret of Chesbro House. Why? Well, this one's drawn by Shawn McManus, and if Bernie Wrightson is not available to build your House of Mystery, you gotta get Shawn McManus.

You can't invoke McManus' name without recognizing those two critical Saga of the Swamp Thing issues he concocted with Alan Moore. The artist walked in the footsteps of Wrightson and Nestor Redondo and established a new world order that would eventually radicalize the muck monster. McManus will never be forgotten for those pages alone, but his might is not solely contained to those tales either.

Omega Men, Doctor Fate, Sandman, Aquaman, The Creeper! McManus swerved in and out of countless titles and always left a memorable mark. He brings a nostalgic dread to Hellboy, and it's a vibe that clicks into place with a lightning strike. Remember the first time you saw Richard Corben draw Hellboy? It was a big "Whoa."

The red guy may be Mike Mignola's creation, but his iconic status was solidified when Corben offered his interpretation. Having cats like Corben and McManus have their way with Hellboy elevates the character into a top-tier pantheon. Hellboy now stands proudly next to Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and all those other franchise legends. Outsider input breeds mainstream recognition.

But beyond all that, Shawn McManus constructs an undeniably eerie haunted mansion. There are zero dashed-off panels. Every background is thoughtfully rendered, and the geography is thoroughly navigated. McManus' characters are gorgeous and meaty with weight, but his floorboards, railings, and walls are equally compelling to observe. And it's engrossingly highlighted by Dave Stewart's engorged colors. These are hues you swim in, and one pass through the comic won't do.

Writer Christopher Golden, in partnership with Mignola, crafts an unsettled if somewhat familiar narrative. Chesbro House is almost ready for auction. Hellboy merely needs to aid a psychic as she frees the building of its wretched, ghostly infestation. We get a whiff of Shirley Jackson and Vincent Price, and it's a pleasant odor - nostalgic but not dull.

Hellboy and the BPRD: The Secret of Chesbro House is a two-issue mini-series, so there's no reason to get too wrapped up with the mythology. And mostly, it's a showcase for McManus to do what he does best - drape a thick atmosphere. The comic appears like an escapee from another era, which makes us Hellboy fanatics cherish the experience.

The character is twenty-eight years old, but he's reached an infinite footing. Hellboy feels like he's always been here, and he always will be here. That's the gift McManus, and other BPRD contributors, give us.


Hellboy and the Secret of Chesbro House #1

Story: Mike Mignola with Christopher Golden

Artist: Shawn McManus

Colorist: Dave Stewart

Letterer: Clem Robins

Standard Cover: Shawn McManus with Dave Stewart

Variant Cover: Ben Stenbeck

On Sale: 7/6/2021

Synopsis: Hellboy works with a psychic to clear a haunted mansion for auction. But the ghosts in residence aren't quite ready to go gentle into that good night, and the answer may lie in a connection with the living world .

Hellboy creator Mike Mignola teams with longtime collaborator Christopher Golden and artist extraordinaire Shawn McManus to bring you a brand-new frightful delight from the world of Hellboy!


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