Witches, Pirates, Vampires, and Vengeful Gods: Hellboy

A quick and dirty spoiler-free review of Mike Mignola’s three excellent Hellboy comics of 2010: Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, Hellboy In Mexico (Or A Drunken Blur), and Hellboy: The Crooked Man and Others.

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt
It’s almost 17 years to the day that Hellboy first took the stage in the second issue of San Diego Comic Con Comics, and the poor old demon has been to hell and back (ha bloody ha). Published on March 23rd, the ninth volume in the Hellboy series, The Wild Hunt, shows the repercussions of Hellboy’s past actions, merges them with his present fears, and dictates his destiny.

But is it a destiny he’s willing to go along with? The Wild Hunt picks up shortly after Darkness Calls and, if you haven’t read it recently, I suggest a refresher course of volume eight at least before digging into nine.

Duncan Fegredo’s lush artwork reveals a darkly twisted tale of vengeance, hatred, and pride, and, for the first time, Hellboy really seems lost. Fegredo has colored a world of shadows and darkness, of fire and light, of blood and corpses. A choice is foisted upon Hellboy, a choice he has avoided since his so-called birth, and even when he makes his final decision we’re left wondering if there even is such a thing as the “right” answer. Is he a slave to his fate or can he choose his own path? Will he? What are the consequences if he does? And what are the consequences if he doesn’t?

Hellboy In Mexico (Or A Drunken Blur)
Conceived by Mignola while writing The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects (due out this September) and dropped on Cinco de Mayo, Hellboy In Mexico is a bizarre little interstitial that could just as easily live in 2000’s Right Hand of Doom as it could in Crooked Man. Abe Sapien, Hellboy, and a mysterious bumping something in a trunk are stuck in the middle of nowhere waiting for a B.P.R.D. pickup when they stumble upon an abandoned highway stop. There they find an old photo of Hellboy with los luchadores.

Back in the day he temporarily joined forces with three brothers cum wrestlers cum tequila-fueled rogue demon hunters until tragedy struck one especially drunken night. Richard Corben’s vivid yet shadowy artwork lends itself wonderfully to the inky blackness and shocking colors of his and Mignola’s version of 1956 Mexico. H.B. battles grotesque vampires, a demon turkey, and Camatotz, the Mayan bat god of death (Best. Band name. Ever.) to a forlorn yet unsurprising dénouement. But, hey! Lobster Johnson!

Hellboy: The Crooked Man and Others
Published on June 22nd, the tenth volume in the series bounds along in the same cadence as 1998’s The Chained Coffin and Others and 2007’s The Troll Witch and Others. Crooked Man is a collection of four more or less unrelated tales that take place alternately in witch-infested Appalachian Virginia in 1958, headless-pirate-ghost-haunted coastal Massachusetts in 1986, a demon-plagued chapel in Southern Portugal in 1992, and in rural England just two weeks prior to the cataclysmic events of Darkness Calls. Two stories, “They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships” and “The Mole,” contain characters already established by earlier B.P.R.D. and Hellboy comics (Abe Sapien in the former, Harry Middleton in the latter). The other two, “The Crooked Man” and “In the Chapel of Moloch,” are more traditional tales where Big Red gets caught up in something that ends up being bigger then he originally estimated and involves a lot of almost-swearing and ass-kicking.

Not to shame the three smaller stories, but “The Crooked Man” is by far and away the best of the collection, possibly the best in Hellboy canon altogether. The Crooked Man himself is terrifying (I don’t know what demons artist Corben has locked away in his closets but, man, I hope I never find out) in a Joe Hill twisted sort of way: creepy, violent, sadistic, pathetic, demented, and ultimately completely unknown.

In “They That Go Down” Jason Shawn Alexander draws Hellboy and Abe with a semi-realistic flair as he hurtles them into a battle between greedy criminals, undead pirates, and a headless Blackbeard. Moloch is wholly Mignola, story, artwork, and all. While it is nothing we haven’t seen before it is nonetheless taut and entertaining to watch him grapple with a hackneyed artist try to regain his failing creativity by invoking The Abonimation of the Children of Ammon. Fegredo also makes a reappearance with “Mole,” a seemingly random 8-page spread until considered in the context of Darkness Calls; H.B. may be more tormented than even he knows.

Alex Brown is an archivist in training, reference librarian by day, writer by night, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare…


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