Does "Hellboy in Hell" Finale Signal the End of Mike Mignola's Time With the Character?
Robot 13 #2
Written by Thomas Hall; Illustrated by Daniel Bradford
After I read Robot 13 #1 I wrote that “I hope it’s not a surprise or an insult to say that Daniel Bradford is no Mike Mignola. He’s very good at imitating the style and the colors, but I think I’ll enjoy him more once he finds his own groove. His work already has a sense of humor that breaks the boundaries of his inspiration, so I know it’s coming. I’m looking forward to it.”
Pleased to say that – if issue #2 is an indication of the direction Bradford’s going with his art – that seems to be happening. The work’s more detailed this time around and he does some really cool things with the colors, especially in the flames of the giant phoenix that attacks Robot 13. That sense of humor I mentioned last time is on display again too, but even larger. As a couple of guys are watching the robot-bird fight, their faces are almost manga-like in their expressiveness.
The first issue looked like Bradford was working hard to mimic Mignola. Even though he was mostly successful at that, it’s great to see him relax with this issue and do his own thing. Robot 13’s design will probably always be reminiscent of Mignola, but he’s drawn more naturally this time. And because of that, he feels more like a real character.
Hall writes him more like a real character too. Not that I had a problem with the writing in the first issue, but the few bits that weren’t a giant-cephalopod fight were mostly set up. This issue leads into the fight with 13’s having a talk with one of the men who pulled him out of the ocean. The sailor interrupts 13 as he’s daydreaming and I love the image of the skull-headed robot just standing at the rail and staring out to sea. That and the conversation that follows humanizes the character.
There’s still a big mystery behind who created 13 and what he was intended to do – and there are some more clues this issue; clues that apparently go all the way back to ancient Greece (or is that Rome?) – but I’m glad that the mystery isn’t the only interesting thing about 13. He’s suddenly become interesting just as himself, too.
The conversation with the sailor is interrupted by the phoenix attack and it’s quite a fight. The bird nabs the robot and takes him into the air to duke it out and like in #1, the battle is well choreographed and makes great sense. Hall and Bradford never let you lose sight of what’s going on or who’s doing what. It’s a lot of fun with plenty of punching, dropping, grabbing, riding, ripping, and burning.
Since the fight comes out of nowhere, it adds a new dimension to the cephalopod fight from last issue. That one appeared to be more or less random, unless the creature was guarding 13. And maybe it was guarding him, but if so, whoever put the kraken-thing there is still active enough to try to get 13 back via phoenix. And if the kraken-thing wasn’t specifically guarding 13, then there’s a question about what is it in the robot that makes these monsters want to attack him. I suppose it could be random, but it’s starting not to look that way.
Either way, Hall and Bradford have a very cool formula developing for the series. It’s sort of monster-of-the-month, but there’s a deeper plot that’s unfolding and tying the fights together. I hope 13’s able to figure out what it is, mostly because I like him and want to see him get the answers he’s looking for.
Four out of five ancient, Imperial robot prototypes.