2 out of 5
Max Fiumara is a star. I first took note of him on Joe Kelly’s Four Eyes, and then was happy to see his name on various books I’d pick up thereafter. His swooping, exaggerated were character for a particularly dramatic type of storytelling, but he also had good, animated beats that could stretch for things with a sense of humor. With the Mignolaverse stretching to include some artistic styles slightly off their house style, Max was welcomed into the fold with a one shot, and just between then and the 1948 miniseries, not too long afterwards, the artist has pushed his synchronicity with colirst Dave Stewart to really nail a style that feels ‘right’ for the series, while also maintaining his recognizable energy.
So Fiumara is a star, and he’s a star of 1948.
The core story isn’t bad, but it’s bad where it counts. Linked, somewhat loosely, to our previous 1946 and 1947 by appearances by Anderson and Varvara, the bulk of the tale is focused on Broom checking out the sudden appearance of monsters in the deserts of Utah, in which some nuclear testing is going on. Amongst a group of hoity toity scientists and doing-their-duty soldiers, Broom immediately makes friends (and maybe bats his eyes, in a Broom-y way) at female scientist Anna, who claims that the testing they’re doing might be tied to the appearance of those monsters, but when their thoughts behind the reason for this diverge, she turns pouty and finds the next person who agrees with her.
…And this is where 1948 sucks the most. Anna is a good character, trying to put scientific reasoning to what she’s seeing. Broom has never been the most relatable, and so unable to navigate his way through flirtation and professionalism is a logical flow for this conversation to take, but Arcudi instead just turns her into an unfortunate character who can’t make her point heard. There’s a chance to comment on the gender roles at play, but the way she perks up to an immediately sympathetic ear (a soldier who pretty much repeats the same kind of ‘well I believe you’ pap Broom started with) and starts to snub Broom undermines that incredibly. Just to keep this punch rolling with another, an uneccessary framing sequence, in which two reporters are interviewing Anna’s husband in modern times (this is a flashback series, we don’t need a framing sequence…), features the male reporter shutting down the female reporter for saying the same idea he has. Sounds coincidental, yes? A purposeful juxtaposition? It really doesn’t read that way, unfortunately. And I suppose it’d change my rating if it was, but then again, the point and effect of doing that is too delayed in the story to be effective, and it’s delivered in too offhand a manner.
Further things that don’t quite work: there’s a whole shtick with Anderson hunting the monsters in the desert that, sure, add to our impression of his encroaching issues, but otherwise are pointless, stakeless battle sequences. And Max Fiumara is a star, but at the same time, these scenes don’t make enough sense, relying on what amount to jump scares without the logistics to back them up. There are also some short flashes to a young Hellboy, and while these are absolutely formative scenes for him, they don’t matter a lick in relation to the events of 1948 and would’ve been better as an extra in a trade or something.
At the very center of 1948 – monsters, bombs – it works. But that ends up being comparatively little against other mismatched pieces, or elements that I obviously didn’t appreciate how they were presented.