Writers Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson lay out the players and locations in issue #3 of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1956 like a chess game. While Hellboy parties in Mexico and Professor Trevor Bruttenholm embarks on his own operation, the B.P.R.D. is struggling to train new field operatives to pickup the slack.
The story continues with the Professor and Jacob Stegner trudging through the Colorado mountains searching for The Center. Utilizing the vision of Susan Xiang, the two hope to shed light on this mysterious Center and what it means for the American people.
It's apparent, however, that the B.P.R.D. is struggling while the Professor takes on this endeavor. Some recruits are pessimistic while others are unprepared for the truth involved with the government's involvement in paranormal activity. Assistant Director of Operations Margaret Laine attempts to balance her new workload with the strain of inexperienced field agents, blaming budgeting to hide her obvious frustration in a missing Hellboy and a secretive Professor Bruttenholm.
In their inexperience, Varvara presses forward in her schemes against the United States. Although her subordinates update her on other projects, her only interest is in the field operatives and the B.P.R.D. Not even the insight of Agent Xiang helps readers along to see what the end game of this conflict will be.
The comic ends in a cliffhanger of the mysterious British operative confronting the Professor and Stegner in the field. It's apparent Varvara and her comrades are on the hunt for this specific agent, and we hope to see him escape her clutches with the help of the Americans in issue #4.
Mignola and Roberson succeeded in laying out a very captivating issue #1 (released November 2018) which flows nicely into the subsequent issues. The conflict builds with each character, and as the story progresses Hellboy's absence is more and more missed. Demonic Varvara is a captivating villain against the adult commentary of the other players, and her ruthless dismissal of her associates builds contention as the writers convey frustration with the current operatives in the B.P.R.D. and the Professor being engaged elsewhere.
The artwork is split between agents, with Mike Norton taking pages 1-9 and 20-22, Michael Avon Oeming on pages 10-14 and Yishan Li on pages 15-19. Where multiple artists normally make an issue seem disjointed, the different locations and characters merry nicely with their corresponding art styles. Norton's artwork stands out the most and works best with Dave Stewart's coloring. The differences work however and with a comic that reads like a chess game, the extreme contrasts only serve to make each character arc seem concise while a disjointed style adds to a subconscious discomfort for the reader.
This is definitely a great read and works well for long term Hellboy fans, especially if they're interested in the side characters of the series. For anyone looking for more appearances from the titular character, they may have to wait for future issues as Hellboy has only had a few dedicated panels. I recommend giving the series a chance, especially with Mignola and Roberson teasing the Mexico incident and the inevitable conflict with Varvara coming to a head…