Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish: Comic Review

Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Kevin Nowlan

Writer Mike Mignola and artist Kevin Nowlan do an EC Comics/50s sci-fi flick riff in this beautifully drawn and colored but somewhat slight and unaffecting story about Hellboy investigating cow mutilations in the American midwest. While the Hellboy has always had its light moments—a quip here, a funky monster there, the main character's name—and a diversion into full-on comedy starring Big Red himself is more than welcome after a spate of stories where he’s suffered horrifically, this one never becomes more than simply that, a diversion. For a title character Buster Oakley remains a cipher; it’s really hard to care much for his wish or whether or not he gets it. In fact, I’m left confused as to what his wish really was. He seems to be a nerdy Satanist, but he ends up the scientific plaything of flying saucer jockeys. The tenderhearted farmer who tears up when confronted with the grotesque carcasses of his beloved livestock has much more substance and the story might have been better served making him and his wife the focus.

The bulk of the plot has Hellboy fist-fighting old school macrocephalic aliens (Nowlan misses out on the chance to make them ultra-grotesque Wally Wood-type octopus creatures). The notion of aliens advanced enough to cross time and space reduced to having to duke it out with an intruder is amusing, and Hellboy's wisecracks are fun. It’s certainly nice to see him doing something other than moping about his destiny or fighting creatures from European folklore. I have to applaud Mignola for changing things up as far as Hellboy's paranormal punching bags go. I love vampires, werewolves, witches and the Fair Folk as much as anyone, but there are still Yetis, skunk apes, lake monsters, Moth Men and Mad Gassers of Mattoon out there as well. How about Hellboy going a round or two with the hodag? Alom-begwi-no-sis? Kuchisake-onna? Hanako in the toilet?

A little more substance would have elevated this team-up of powerhouse creatives. Ultimately, "Buster Oakley Gets His Wish" feels like one of those Gen13 Bootleg out of continuity one-offs; those were generally superior to the actual series, but in this case the expectations are just too high. But hey, sometimes even Hellboys just wanna have fun.

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