3 out of 5
I realize I’m partially hoping the Roberson-driven Hellboy universe continues to not interest me all that much – a la the latest offering, The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed – so that I can wave goodbye to the monthly drain on my comic budget, but at the same time, I keep remaining hopeful that it will suddenly turn around and re-find its footing in a post-Arcudi world. The Mignolaverse is such an amazing achievement that it would be a shame to see go, though its equally shameful if it tries to drag itself onward when it maybe should’ve quit once it reached its Hell on Earth / Hellboy in Hell finish line…
And welcome to the drag.
The Visitor isn’t wholly uninteresting, of course, nor is it poorly executed – though it reeks of Roberson’s campier dialogue and artist Paul Grist’s repetitive framing – it’s just not challenging. And I suppose that’s my worry so far: everything Roberson has contributed to has felt uneventful, like he’s cherry picking moments he can slip in and out of without affecting the overall storyline. Which is a rather tepid approach for a universe “architect”. I admittedly don’t remember how much (if at all) the strange, chained up character that first appeared in Conqueror Worm was later developed, but regardless, Roberson and Mignola are here to complete that particular puzzle, filling in the blanks as to how our titular visitor was in fact an alien sent to kill HB upon on his birth, sparing the planet of evil Ogdru Hem prophesies, but sees a spark of humanity and decides instead to hang back and watch the devil boy grow. Cue the Easter eggs of our visitor popping up in the HB tineline to help from the shadows, while meanwhile – gasp! – he learns about the value of life itself.
Roberson has a cheeky writing style that works well with scenery chewing like Edison Rex, and could potentially work in the …and the BPRD series, but The Visitor is meant to be more contemplative, and characters that speak in outright comic book declarations doesn’t suit that very well.
Equally ill-suited – though a good fit for Chris – us artist Paul Grist. Grist reminds of Brian Churilla: good general design sense and an appealingly streamlined style, but an odd laziness that crops up and causes dropped backgrounds and sloppy character placement. It’s interesting seeing him try to be cognizant of the Mignola house style, but he’s too soon up to his tricks of boring paneling and, like, not drawing torsos.
Did I learn anything about The Visitor? Sure. It’s an acceptable coming of age type story, but it feels more like a plug-and-play experience than something that was required in the Mignolaverse.