This is a series that continues to be consistent. Each issue is poetic and really, really beautiful. It's gorgeously illustrated by Mike Mignola. The colors by artist Dave Stewart are completely complimentary to Mignola's artistic style and fall in line with the story he is trying to tell. Stewart's colors capture the dark, brooding moments we see in this issue in a gorgeous way. He uses colors to illustrate the change in mood and the direction the story is turning, setting the tone for Mignola's words that fall on the pages. This issue is, like its predecessors, minimalist in language and art, and it's done so brilliantly.
Last we saw Hellboy in Hell he had come to a stark realization of a heinous crime he had unintentionally committed. The final pages of the third issue capture the brevity of the situation in Hellboy's reaction to this awareness in a way that is really striking, and the fourth issue picks up where the third left off: Hellboy falling "into the abyss."
There is more dialogue in this issue than in previous issues, but even so it still isn't all that much. From the very start of this issue Hellboy comes full circle and is more formally introduced to the mysterious figure we saw in the first issue. Things are clearly very abstract (and have been) since the start of this series, but they become clearer here. Mignola draws an interesting parallel between Hellboy and the mysterious figure, Edward Grey, in an interesting way: connecting them with a piece of art that isn't very famous.
This issue serves as a lesson to Hellboy, teaching him that he does not need to remember everything he's done and every act he has committed, and that sometimes some doors are "better off locked, boarded up and bricked over." The issue shifts in focus from Hellboy and what he did in issue #3, to recounting the story of Edward Grey, his disappearance and how he became a guide to Hellboy in Hell. How sometimes being a "good guy" can still lead you to darkness even if you live a good life. Both characters are similar, being agents for organizations whose sole purpose is to solve mysteries "pertaining to the occult." The two characters have an incredible amount of things in common. Grey's story is an incredibly tragic one, and rather unfair but told in a very poignant and beautiful way. Mignola walks the line between dialogue that places readers in the thick of the moment, and pulls you out slowly as the story is narrated. It's also quite interesting to see Mignola reference classic works like John Milton's Paradise Lost (which, if you haven't read, you absolutely should) using it as a staple and outline for his story.
Nothing bad here, another brilliant issue.
I would say this is a good jumping on point because it takes the focus away from Hellboy and focuses primarily of Edward Grey, his guide through Hell. It's written in a way that is accessible and easy to follow, although I would still recommend picking up the previous three issues of this series if you want a solid grasp on the story.
I love the parallels drawn between Edward Grey and Hellboy and it is so interesting to see Grey's story unfold. The way it is written, brings readers into the past really effortlessly, and is highlighted by moments where Grey's character narrates the story. It is incredibly well done and uses very little language to tell the story. It's a sad, poignant moment about a man who gives his life for a noble cause only to be punished by forces far greater than he. Once again, a gorgeous story combined with stunning illustration make this issue a must read for this week.