Saturday, June 11, 2011

Scalped 43-44 "You gotta sin to get saved" prelude

Following "Unwanted", the Vertigo's longtime title ambitious story arc, a break was called for before the beginning of another multi-parter. Traditionally, the DC imprint commissions the one-off short stories in order to allow the lead artist time to advance with the artwork enough so as to prevent any breaks in the publishing schedule. Although by definition slighter than the RM Guera pencilled arcs, these episodes usually spotlight a peripheral player, and act largely as foreshadowing for the future events. Typically, a certain amount of back story is related to in flashback, framed by the present day trigger, and narrated by the character in question.

Lately, though, Jason Aaron has opted to tie these one-offs even more directly to the narrative, in this case going as far as extending the theme of the larger arc to the two preceding short stories. The first of these, "A come-to-Jesus" at first feels very superfluous, starring a minor character from one of the previous arcs. Yet, the Jason Latour pencilled and inked issue acts as much more of a bridge toward the "You gotta sin to get saved" five parter, than it's somewhat more crucial follow-up, starring agent Nitz.

The reader is first invited to partake in the snapshot of sheriff Wooster Karnow's regular routine which is filled with lies spun to make a local hero out of a seedy aging bureaucrat. The story consists of him encountering a visiting war veteran turned US marshal. Seeing how a real hero deals with a situation involving a highly dangerous criminal, forces sheriff Wooster to reevaluate his bullying and exploitative ways. Following a near-death experience, he eventually comes to a decision that promises to tie him in more directly with the regular "Scalped" ensemble cast. Read on it's own, the issue seems almost a generic noir morality tale whose main importance seems to be in fleshing out a side character for future use.

Yet, taking into account the arc that it precedes, it's apparent how it introduces the main conflict and plays it out on a much smaller field, before the basic ideas are introduced into the more complex #45-49. Unfortunately, some of the detail of Latour's caricatural figures gets lost in Giulia Brusco's murky atmospheric coloring of the central part of the issue. The rough linework and extreme closeups make for a very involved atmosphere that only breaks up when the John Wayne-styled sheriff stops in his tracks, surrounded by contradictory backgrounds all around him. The artist's expressive cartooning at times reminds of Sean ("Joe the Barbarian") Murphy's work, but even then Latour still manages to channel the "Scalped" atmosphere perfectly. Much more importantly, Jason is a natural storyteller, equally adept at character design, as well as layouts and the sense of pace. The one time the book feels a little unclear turns out to be done on purpose and is used to maximize the intended effect.

By the time the book opens up again to daytime setting and brighter colors, it's clear that the writer is leaving nothing to chance. In utilizing the narrative captions on the final page to return to a point made in the opening scene, Aaron seems to underline the irony. Yet, the writer makes the subtext explicit, doubling as both the morale of the story, and the credo for the character's future actions.

 Rereading the story in lieu of "You gotta sin to be saved" reveals the underlying depth of Aaron's approach. Basically, the writer uses "A come-to-Jesus" as a way to introduce a spiritual dimension to the complex psychological underpinnings of his established characters. This is in keeping with the general approach regarding his and Guera's flawed and all too human cast. Explicitly in #43, Aaron's larger idea is in trying to recontextualize Wooster's painful emotional journey of facing his demons as a test of fate.

Every man's got somethin' out there, waitin' to test him, he's just gotta be willing to find it, and face it

The idea is put to action in the second oneshot, pencilled by Guera's regular replacement on the series, Davide Fuerno. "The night they drove old Dixie down" is a very frantic experience, as befits protagonist agent Nitz' more energetic personality. During his work on the fill-ins, Fuerno's art has improved so much, that he's today a very different artist than he was when first tasked to fill in for Guera. For a start, he's work on this issue is much less angular, with characters realized in such a way that the story is told mostly through their emoting faces. That the backgrounds seemingly exist only when specifically called for is hard to notice when faced with such strong layouts and excellent panel flow.

At the same time, the artist works so well with colorist Giulia Brusco, that it appears as though one person alone has handled all of the art. The final look seems almost like it has been reproduced directly from Fuerno's pencils, skipping the inking stage altogether. In what is a very fast paced story, Fuerno and Brusco do a lot to flesh out agent Nitz' mental state, going so far as to render some of his narration unnecessary. Arguably, the key three conversations that make up the issue reveal all the information the reader needs to understand the extreme circumstances agent Nitz has found himself in.

Aaron duly lists the reasons the FBI has for questioning the current state of the investigation, but there is still something contrived about the manner in which the events unfold. By the time Nitz decides to take matters in his own hands, the way in which he proceeds to confront Red Crow seems absurd. What's worse, on the page it reads not so much as shocking but almost like a dream sequence, which is surely not the intended effect. Yet the casino scene is merely the set up for what follows.

In a true noir fashion, Aaron plots the issue so as to make sure that Nitz's downfall is all but certain, playing with the reader's expectation of a last minute reversal. It's important to note that despite the realistic milieu, "Scalped" has always been a genre book, so in itself, the writer's adherence to the noir tropes is not a problem in the slightest. Yet, even for a genre book, the gimmick Aaron comes up with is completely unrealistic.

Adding a political element for the sake of plot convenience is very sensationalistic, and the fact that it enters the story without any kind of set-up certainly goes against the book.Upon further examination the reader finds that Red Crow's men brought Nitz almost to the exact location of his controversial "blaze of glory", yet there is no clue that they knew about the complication the disgraced agent would get himself in, nor is it clear how they could have benefited from his actions. A very forgiving and creative reader could suggest that they manipulated him into eliminating the competition, but even this seems as a stretch compared to how they were treating him just minutes before.

In any event, it brings a lot of drama to the story and leads to the specific conclusion the writer was going forward, perhaps inspired by "the Wire". Yet, getting back to his overall statement regarding "You gotta sin to get saved" it's easy to recast the huge coincidences in Nitz's story in a new light. Using sheriff Wooster's terminology, one could look at the FBI agent's sudden fall of grace as another near death experience, allowing the character to continue his life from a different point of view.

And while Nitz's arrogant smirk certainly doesn't double as a typical sign of wisdom on the face of the tested, it can be said that it serves the same purpose. At first glance, The FBI agent seems simply to recede back to his arrogant self, but perhaps the knowledge he's gained through the ordeal will become more apparent later on. Even if it he remains pretty much the same character as he was before, which seems implied in his limited page time in  "You gotta sin to get saved", the renewed focus on his work certainly seems a positive outcome. It's doubtful that even such a cautiously optimistic pronouncement can be made concerning the primary characters of the next arc.

Walt Simonson's Avengers (#291-300) Part one - the Fate of Marrina


Walt Simonson is primarly known for his groundbreaking run on "Thor", but even then it was apparent that his love for the Marvel universe in it's original incarnation, cannot find full expression in his mythology-heavy take. As a self-professed science fiction fan, Simonson has found a way to integrate some of it's conventions in the title, most famously with the inclusion of Beta Ray Bill.

Particularly a curious "Thor" storyline featuring Titanium man and his gang of assassins shrinking into playing cards seemed much more suited to an oddball Iron Man Annual. Yet, it was Simonson's work on "Eternals", wrapping up the 1985 maxi-series that directly lead to his stint on "Avengers". Jim Shooter, then editor in chief at Marvel was allegedly dissatisfied with the series writer Peter ("Strikeforce Morituri") B. Gillis' work on the Eternals revamp that lead to Simonson stepping in to write the final four issues.

A typically thankless job lead to a serviceable script, dealing with the final act of the bloated and severely flawed Gillis work. Yet, it was only in the last issue that some of the Simonson's peculiar quirks came to the forefront and breathed some life into an otherwise troubled and uninspired maxi-series. It could be said that the writer's creative choices went somewhat against the previous set-up, but in a way they ended up directly informing his "Avengers" run, and it's eventual "Fantastic Four" follow-up.

And while the aftermath of the fight against the Black Celestial was only hinted at in his work on the Earth's Mightiest Heroes, it was the idea of bringing in the Avengers to assist the Eternals in the final conflict that has defined his work for the publisher since. Namely, casting Thor in a supporting role seems a constant in the writer/artist's subsequent work for the publisher. The character certainly didn't seem out of place in the context, considering that Roy Thomas spent the majority of his run on Marvel's premiere mythology title providing the wrap up for Jack Kirby's original "Eternals" series.

The King's ideas were still influencing the creators for the better part of the 1980-ies, and while this was not at first apparent in his "Avengers" scripts, it was only because Simonson started his run by deconstructing the Roger Stern team, that he inherited. Thankfully, he got to keep the title's then current penciller, a comics legend John ("Silver Sufer", "Conan the Barbarian") Buscema, who coincidentally also provided the art for the aforementioned Roy Thomas' run on "Thor".


Yet compared to the freedom of his own run on Marvel's God of thunder, Simonson's work on "the Avengers" was plagued by compromise from the start, due to interconnectedness of the Marvel publishing line, featuring many of the same characters appearing in several different titles. Even his pencilling the company's best seller "X-Men" spin-off didn't really prepare him for rigors of working with the Avengers. During his tenure illustrating his wife Louise Simonson's scripts, the "X-Factor" was more or less kept separate from the rest of the mutant titles, and even then, the occasional crossover meant collaborating chiefly with the core title which originated all of the characters.

His "Avengers" on the other hand, even started not only following the previous writer's popular run, but also directly continuing from a story featured in "Thor". This was perhaps to be understood, considering that Simonson brought Odinson back to Avengers, but it set a precedent for interference that would ultimately be the run's undoing.

Anyhow, the circumstances of Thor's return are largely glossed over in the debut of the Avengers, with the new writer instead focusing on providing a brief moment of serenity for the whole group. Following Stern and Buscema's epic "Under siege" storyline, the remaining heroes were pretty much limited to their appearances in the team title, which is something that Simonson immediately set out to remedy (the writer also brings back Avengers' butler Edwin Jarvis, with an eye patch that serves as the remainder of the previous conflict). In order to do, the writer opts for something of a controversial approach, effectively derailing half of the team by their own hidden flaws, and not directly at behest of a master villain.

His first arc is thus devoted to bringing to the fore the tensions implied in the origin and subsequent appearances of the Alpha Flight character Marrina. At the time, the character had joined the Avengers and married Namor, with Simonson showing the pair being blissfully happy during the repairs on the team's Hydro-Base headquarters. The writer painted a bright picture of the newlyweds precisely with the idea of contrasting it mere pages later, when the biological imperatives of the character's alien background kick in. Seeing the creators going over the top with the depiction of her transformation is at first bizarre, and even disconcerting.

Seeing the beautiful, if somewhat generic companion to Marvel's original anti-hero transform into the monster to be fought by thea team for the subsequent two issues is certainly distinctive, but potentially problematic on multiple levels. It can be said that Simonson simply lead her story to it's ultimate conclusion, but somehow seeing the John Byrne created character treated so callously still seems brutal. It is doubtful that her creator would have used her back story to mimic Superman's origin so extensively if he merely intended for her to turn out to be nothing more than the threat to her friends and the world at large. Simonson is not so blunt to use that sympathy for emotional resonance, but it's still very disconcerting and even somewhat silly to see the nimble beauty turn into a serpent like behemoth, no matter the number of times her creator previously hinted at the prize of her dual heritage.

The writer intentionally omits the extensive summary of her origins, which feature a more elaborate version of Superman's classic arrival on Earth, instead concentrating less on the science fiction behind it, and more on the implication of Marinna's attacks on the high seas. Simonson stresses out the Biblical Leviathan reference to add gravity to the proceedings, but they more or less serve to convince the team that her alien manifestation necessitates immediate termination.

Once again, this feels somewhat contrived as the writer purposely leaves little room for Marinna's redemption and survival. At first, it seems that the character is simply no longer capable of subverting her brutal ancestry, which goes some way to dispel the idea of the story devolving in the familiar, if even sexist, genre trope of superheroines being emotionally unstable to deal with the tremendous power at their disposal, exemplified perhaps most famously in the X-Men's "Dark Phoenix saga", and even with the Avengers' own Scarlet Witch. And while the wide scale event that was "House of M" was still decades removed, Simonson basically executed his own version in three issues, without the need to tie in additional titles in the process.

Which would be fine on it's own if it wasn't for the conclusion, which ties in to her marriage with Namor and is potentially severely insulting, if the reader is to look at it from a certain point of view. Basically, Simonson reveals that the cause for Marinna's rampage towards trade ships the world over was the idea of building her own nest to hatch the alien hybrid offspring. The storyline is certainly memorable, but the implications it makes on the female psyche and motherhood could certainly be taken as offensive.

That aside, it's still strange to see this whole arc as anything other then a "Namor the Sub-Mariner" story, seeing that Marinna wasn't even created as an Avengers character. This is perhaps why all of the other subplots deal much more directly with setting up the Simonson run. Beside writing Namor out of the title, Simonson made certain to create almost as much friction with the remaining members. This is most notable with Black Knight, who due to coming to Namor's assistance against Marrina suffers a hideous bout of the symptoms relating to the curse of his Ebony blade. Ironically, in his brief writing the character, Simonson was left with this fatal flaw substituting for the character's personality, but this was again to be expected, considering that his main focus was elsewhere.

Namely, throughout the Leviathan crisis, Dr Druid undermines the team leader Captain Marvel's direction at every turn, who in turn pretty much vanishes during the said conflict, that has already severely decimated the team. At first, her not rejoining the fray seems an afterthought, an ambiguous subplot that would be picked up immediately following the end of the storyline, but in turn it marks the character's exit to be revamped later on.

The implication is that Druid is under control of a beautiful woman who haunts his dreams, which ties in with another subplot running alongside, that of the fate of the team's primary antagonist, Kang the Conqueror. In Simonson's run, Kang remains a presence throughout, most notably in the second arc that the writer has been building up to since taking over the title. Contrary to Druid's tragic descent into madness and fault, Kang is written like a much more three dimensional character, determined to weather the events that keep him going from one predicament to the other. Under Simonson, the character seems formidable and resourceful, if pragmatic to the extreme, making him almost an anti-hero like Namor, and very unlike the traditional super-villain.

The retrospective of Walt Simonson's "the Avengers" run will be split in three parts. This entry covers Avengers #291-293.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Witchfinder - Lost and gone forever

This week has seen the conclusion of Dark Horse's second "Witchfinder" mini-series. Published under the banner "from the pages of Hellboy", editorially it primarily serves the purpose of being one of the projects that vie for the spot of being the third ongoing series set in Mike Mignola's supernatural universe, behind Hellboy and BPRD. But more importantly, the real question is whether it has any value aside from being another peripheral addition to an already complex mythology, two decades in the making. And while the first Witchinder project, "In the service of angels" (illustrated by Ben Stenback) certainly felt engaging on it's own, it is this second outing that has proven much more wholesome.

Perhaps this is because it actually started development first, with Mike Mignola and his co-writer John ("BPRD") Arcudi itching to do a weird western serial with their Victorian detective protagonist. As all of the Hellboy verse books are art-centered, the series seems actively developed so as to spotlight the artwork of industry legend John ("Two-fisted tales", "Mad magazine") Severin. The fact that the veteran penciller is currently 89 years old, and still producing detailed inked artwork cannot be overstated. And while Severin had previously pencilled a memorable oneshot for the BPRD "War on frogs" anthology mini-series, his talent is utilized to the full extent in the new Witchinder series.

As for the character himself, Sir Edward Grey is a curious case. Conceived to be a pastiche of the Victorian supernatural detectives in the vein of Carnacki the Ghost-finder, yet the co-writers maintain that there is more to him than that. On one hand, the character exists to be Mike Mignola's proxy in working with the period-related material, much like the role Lobster Johnson is designated to play when it comes to publishing the material taking place in the pre-World War 2 pulpy setting. Again, the twist is that Witchfinder is a more complex character, whose adventures leave their mark on him, a man of secrets and a devout Christian.

In several ways, Witchfinder was already a part of the mythos, due to the cameos and oblique mentions Mignola kept making in his Hellboy stories. And judging from what the creator has said in interviews, the character is posed to renter the main title for what may yet be his definite role in the series. But moreover, what's interesting is the way that Mignola uses the character in context. Every time Sir Edward Grey gets a mention, it was in a milieu that he felt a natural part of, and hasn't drawn attention to himself. And this is not only because of the large tapestry the writer/artist has woven, where he keeps making mentions of curios sighted, or inspired by his research. A reader committed enough to re-read the Hellboy material will no doubt appreciate the foreshadowing that Mignola has seeded his saga with, but he or she won't be left clueless if they discover Witchfinder with these minis. This is no because each time they are approaching a Hellboy related project, the editorial makes sure that it stands on it's own as a compelling action horror book.

This kind of commitment to the material is key to the success each of these projects have, and is primarily the reason why a (so far) very minor player in the Hellboy universe continues having his adventures told in a market notoriously resistant to new titles. The tightly knit mythology that editor Scott Alley has assisted Mignola with developing has simply won enough of the fans' trust that they will continue to support it, seemingly no matter how tangential the link to the main book. It must be said that this is fairly unique in the industry, considering that Mike Mignola himself has a reasonably decreased role with the development of that much spin-off material. In fact, Hellboy's creator and primary writer/artist is listed as only a co-writer on this second Witchfinder mini, which is historically a very loose enumeration that many fans have justified reason to be suspicious of.

Yet, even despite Mignola admitting that some of his and John Arcudi's scripts have little of his own input, the strength of the brand is such that it continues, simply because of the underlying quality running through the franchise. "Lost and gone forever" is a perfect example of the care that goes into making a Hellboy verse story stand on it's own. This is done simply by everyone involved never forgetting the underlying principle that inspired the story arc being simply the desire to a Weird Western. Everything else is subjected to this notion, nuanced and having a very good reason to be in it.

And while the original mini-series starring Sir Grey had several direct links to Hellboy mythos, this time around they are pretty much non-existent. Formally, Witchfinder's reason for coming to Utah had to do with chasing down a henchmen of a secret society that has robbed him of his chance of happiness, but even this much is not directly stated in this second mini-series. The co-writers are primarily interested in Sir Grey's current emotional state, and are treating his whole western adventure as an escape from a tragic event into a new series of circumstances designed to reinstate the confidence in the character. Thus the chase he is on ends up being a classic McGuffin, as he stumbles upon a completely different local scenario, that sure enough eventually links somewhat to his quest, but makes it clear that the new threat is much bigger and more immediate than carrying over the revenge from the previous series.

Considering the number of western genre tropes introduced in it's pages, in many ways, "Lost and gone forever" could have ended up an arbitrary western series, primarily notable for John Severin's presence on art duties. Being tenuously related to the main books could have created a number of problems, despite avoiding the contrivances that come with working with prefigured continuity. Again, being a fairly generic Weird Western pencilled by Severin would be at least a tolerable book in it's own right, Mignola and Arcudi achieve something more. They manage to transform the Hellboy formula using his detective predecessor into an interesting genre piece.

This is notable considering that so far the material featuring Lobster Johnson, and even the two BPRD flashback minis featuring Hellboy's own surrogate father, professor Trevor Bruttenholm, and covering the Cold War years of Mignola's mythology, have yet to transform into narratives that carry somewhat more of an emotional impact beyond the era specific monster hunts. Perhaps it's due to the air of doom and mystery around Sir Edward Grey that his adventures ask questions that are somewhat lacking in the other two outings, considering that the reader is already familiar with the life, and especially the demise of the two aforementioned characters.

In any event, Witchfinder' emotional arc revolves around a very deliberate plot, which revolves around the western town, and a mystical curse that is working against it. At this stage in his work, it should come as no surprise that a witch is at the heart of the strange events befalling the mining town of Reidlynne. Yet, most of the action takes place around in the desert around it, under the unforgiving sun, or after it's setting, which is where some of the most disturbing parts take place. Admittedly, there is certainly a lot of fight scenes, with some of them somewhat contrived and even superfluous, but it's easy to justify their presence considering that the dual nature of the story's serialization. Simply, there had to be some action in every one of the five issues making up the storyline, for the express purpose of entertaining the reader picking up each of the installments. And although it certainly makes most sense reading the collected edition, Dark Horse was careful to attend to the readers who wanted to actually sample each of the chapters they were buying at the time of publication.

The lack of expository dialogue and some pretty offbeat cliffhanger endings might have made this a short and unwieldy experience, but on returning to the books the reader gets to see how much of the natural storytellers is in each of the creators involved. The expert pace is maintained throughout, and on rereading it's apparent that there are quite a lot of fully scripted pages, with only rarely a silent panel being used for effect. The creators are simply mindful enough to make it all seem natural that it becomes a showcase of how to do genre comics that don't talk down to the reader, or attempt to wrestle with the artist for the control of the atmosphere by inserting the character's inner monologue in a series of never ending captions.

Mignola and Arcudi simply trust their carefully picked artists enough to use the visual aspects of the book for most impact, without trying to second guess them at each point, or trying to make their own contribution apparent at all costs. In doing so, they free up an artist like John Severin to present his visuals in the most powerful way, with his detailed rendering bringing to the fore all of the emotion and background that the tale calls for. The artist excels in every part of the craft, serving up memorable character designs, coupled with detailed backgrounds that really distinguish each of the several locations in which Sir Edward Grey and his guide, Civil War veteran Morgan Kaler ride through. Not only that, but under Dave Stewart's controlled coloring, even the weather becomes shaded and continually slightly altering, while preparing for the climatic final scene. The key characters in several places are "lit" in such a way that further calls attention to the particular Severin figure in a crowded scene, again in a very subdued manner.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the book offers several double page spreads that mostly serve to draw out an action scene by utilizing a dynamic that is gained by having a cascading number of panels in one place. Again, Severin presents a lot of impact even in such familiar set pieces, such as time killing zombie attacks. His work is precise, yet at the same time convincingly emotional due to the slight fuzziness of the inking. The intended effect certainly doesn't betray insecurity or the lack of ability, but an expressive style used to bring a sense of humanity into otherwise fantastical scenarios. The book's key sequence is a trip to the surreal that exemplifies both the protagonist's spirituality, his need of emotional closure, as well as a crucial plot point. Dave Stewart opens these pages up to the richest palette in the book, which again makes them stand out without artificial narrative tricks.

As for the reality of the American turn of the century West, beyond Severin's meticulous detail, the co-writers make it their mission to present a particular piece of folklore, centered around Paiute Indians. Once again, what separates these books from their pulp inspirations is the attention of the detail paid to the real world conditions that were often abbreviated in order to perpetuate the cliche. Alongside the realistic characterization of the protagonist, and the portrayal of ethnicities without the need to ridicule, such a modern day Western can be said to be ultimately better suited to the tastes of modern reader than it's original inspirations. And while nobody will mistake Mignola and Arcudi's effort for the bizarre brilliance of Joe R. Lansdale and Tim Truman's "Jonah Hex" work, and it's unlikely "Lone ranger and Tonto" follow-up.

It seems that Mike Mignola and his collaborators simply didn't aim as high. Stylistically, the goal was to bridge the Hellboy formula with John Severin's genre expertise, and provide just enough diversity to entertain during the course of reading. Perhaps the continual unashamed spin-off status of much of the Hellboy related material does make the regular "BPRD" comic book stand out as much as it does, considering that it also succeeds as a distinct project of it's own, a team book dealing with the supernatural in a modern way, that has already inspired a slew of imitators. So far, "Witchfinder" does not seem to have any loftier aspirations on it's own. Perhaps it's because of the lack of visual continuity, but it certainly remains to be seen how well the series stands on it's own. "Lost and gone forever" is somewhat ill-suited to illustrate that fact, seeing as how it  particularly deals with an oddball scenario before returning it's protagonist to the more typical Victorian setting.

Taken as such, even Sir Edward Grey's emotional journey is to be picked up and developed more directly in the subsequent material, with the western episode acting as a crucial, yet transitional part of his personality make up. In a way, it seems that perhaps the most direct impact of the book will be felt later on, with the creators returning to Morgan Kaler, who is shown to be in a perfect position to act as a proxy to Mignola's interests, if the creator ever has an idea for another Western adventure. or even simply to spotlight a bit of American lore that his 19th century paranormal investigator could have stumbled upon.

Still, as presented, Morg is a very stoic character, hinting at occult happenings in his past, but otherwise a picture of a seasoned veteran with little conflict of his own. He makes for a solid supporting character, but it's difficult to imagine Mignola and Arcudi getting back to him without further developing at least some of the events hinted in his past. It is fair to say that the story revolves around Witchfinder and the mystery he encounters in Utah, with the rest playing a secondary role.

Interestingly, most of the villain scenes take place in their own subplot which collides head on with Sir Grey and Morgan's investigation only in the book's finale. This somewhat renders the threat impersonal and akin to the adversaries in some of the Hellboy short stories, which is somewhat strange considering the amount of exposure the character gets. Despite the complicated plan, inspired in Indian legends, and the obligatory origin sequence, the villain still seems evil for evil's sake, which seldom makes for a memorable adversary.

All in all, "Witchfinder - Lost and gone forever" is an interesting piece of comics work, certainly worth the read if the reader is at all interested in western, work of a skilled illustrator John Severin's, both of which are underrepresented in the North American comics publishing. The Hellboy connection should be taken as merely a means to gather attention to a story that would otherwise have a very hard time today succeeding on it's own.