Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: The Beast of Vargu and Others – Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, Christopher Mitten, Adam Hughes, Duncan Fegredo, Ben Stenbeck, Dave Stewart & Brenna Wagner (Dark Horse)

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There are few constants in life. Benjamin Franklin was adamant that death and taxes were the only certainties, but then Ben never met Big Red. Maybe if he had locked horns with Hellboy, he wouldn’t have placed so much stock in his certitude about finances and mortality. Would Benjamin have been a Hellboy fan? I’d like to think so, because let’s face it, who isn’t?

This latest compilation of the B.P.R.D. and Hellboy’s adventures in the realm of the supernatural collects a couple of one shots The Beast of Vargu and Krampusnacht, the ridiculously good short Return of the Lambton Worm and the heart-breaking mini-series Saturn Returns in which the living are haunted by memories of the long-dead and an impossible active serial killer that also explores the early days of Liz and Hellboy’s burgeoning friendship. While the one shots are joyously creepy, dark, blackly humorous and poignant and the short drags an old folk tale into the Hellboy mythology, it’s Saturn Returns that adds the knock-out punch to this collection. It’s a beautifully told, and illustrated, story that’ll make your soul ache and long for the half-forgotten days of yesteryear.

Artistically, The Beast of Vargu is gorgeous, as even though the styles of the illustrators who bring the takes to life are vastly different, they all feel like they belong in the B.P.R.D. universe and are all intrinsically Hellboy. All of the artists were the right guns for the right job and they all let Hellboy be exactly who he is and always has been. Then there are the stories… Look, they’re written by Mignola, which means they’re sharp, full of rich detail and monstrously good plots and superb characterisation and stygian playfulness and wisecracks.  You’ll be drawn in by the one shots, but it’s Saturn Returns that’ll make you fall in love with The Beast of Vargu . Tim Cundle

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