Written by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson, the two-part miniseries is set early in Hellboy’s career with the B.P.R.D., the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. Along with agents Archie Muraro and Susan Xiang, Hellboy travels to Hong Kong at the request of the psychic Lady Cynthia Eden-Jones. There, they rendezvous with Roland Childe, an agent of Sino-British Importation and Distribution, who informs them of the disappearance an ancient Chinese artefact. Not only is the artefact missing, but so too is one of his partners along with the population of the Kowloon Walled City slums.
Spread across two issues, the pacing of Ghost Moon is appropriately brisk. While the first part of issue one serves to establish the scenario, the remaining pages are used to answer and conclude said scenario. There is not much in the way of character growth or development, but nonetheless the immediacy to locate the artefact and the missing citizens make for a compelling read.
One of the main high points of the issues is the emphasis on Chinese culture and history. Originally, the Hellboy series drew inspiration from various European folklore’s but has since moved on to exploring beliefs from other parts of the world. Africa, Japan and Mexico have all been explored and, in Ghost Moon, Chinese mythology is introduced. Concerning the title of the two issues, the “Ghost Moon” refers to the seventh month of the Chinese calendar when spirits are said to roam the world of the living in search of food. In honor of the dead, a festival is held throughout the entire month during which time the living celebrate by leaving out food for deceased relatives. Alongside the Ghost Moon, the issues feature the presence of a Hunping Funeral Urn, an urn said to house the spirits of the deceased. In addition, the two issues feature the inclusion of two demonic entities: Ox-Head and Horse-Face, both of whom are said to guard the entrance to the Chinese underworld. These nods to Chinese mythology aid not only in expanding the world of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., but keep things fresh and interesting for series readers.
Contrary to his presence on the cover and in the title, Hellboy plays a relatively small part within Ghost Moon. Instead, there is a greater emphasis on B.P.R.D. agent Susan, a psychic with a seemingly aversion to her past and her Chinese heritage. As Hellboy keeps Ox-Head and Horse-Face at bay, it is up to Susan to locate the missing artefact in time. Again, there is not much in the way of character development or growth with Susan as the storyline spans only two issues so far. While little is hinted at by the end of the second issue, however, the ultimate implication is that Susan and her past will become a potential topic in future instalments.
On that note, the ending of the second issue also implies a potential emphasis in future issues on the mysterious S.I.D. organization. Despite the group’s name, the final scene of the second issue suggests S.I.D. to be something of a British counterpart to the B.P.R.D. Over the years, Mignola had steadily expanded upon the Hellboy name with other related series including Lobster Johnson, Baltimore and, more recently, Frankenstein Underground. Although it remains to be seen whether the motivations and goals of S.I.D. align with those of B.P.R.D., it is possible that they could become another means of exploring the ever-expanding Mignolaverse.
The illustrations of both issues of Ghost Moon are handled Brian Churilla, a first-time collaborator under series creator Mignola. It may be Churilla’s first time with the Hellboy property, but having worked on the Big Trouble in Little China series by Boom! Studios, his artwork feels right at home – especially given the Chinese setting and aesthetic. At times, the illustrations evoke the elegant flow and penmanship of Fabio Moon, a Brazilian artist who has also previously drawn for Mignola. This comparison is by no means meant to diminish Churilla’s artwork. On the contrary, Churilla’s work as a whole still manages to offer a fresh interpretation of Mignola’s world.
Beyond the unique illustrations, Churilla’s contributions to Ghost Moon extend to the paneling and layouts. As with other Mignola properties, the panels are strictly rectangular, varying only in dimensions. However, Churilla manages to add some depth via the use of entire page panels as well as through layering smaller panels over larger ones. Churilla also makes good use of image size and framing. When Hellboy, for instance, lands an uppercut on Horse-Face, the demon is appropriately framed in a tight and intimidating close-up, accompanied by the line, “That was a mistake, cousin.”
Although Ghost Moon is a first-time collaboration between Churilla and Mignola, the coloring for both issues is handled by series veteran Dave Stewart. Contrary to the dryer and more earthly tones associated with Mignola’s series, Stewart’s coloring here feels less-restrained and noticeably brighter. With a greater sense of a broader color palate and gradient, Ghost Moon feels more liberated in its use of color. While there is emphasis on warmer colors, particularly red in relation to the Chinese setting, cooler colors like teal are also prominently used, depicting the otherworldly. Between Churilla’s use of lines and Stewart’s coloring, the art of Ghost Moon is not only a definite selling point but also a great potential look for the series.
Its length may be short, but Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1954 – Ghost Moon is a worthwhile read for fans of the Mignolaverse. The Chinese supernatural elements and the effort by artists Churilla and Stewart make the two-issue arch an enjoyable read. If anything, readers will come away earning for more and hopefully Mignola, Churilla and Stewart will reunite and deliver something just as entertaining in the near future.
Release Date: April 12 2017