Tuesday, November 29, 2011
THE HELLBOY GRAPHIC NOVELS by Mike Mignola (and others)
If you're into horror and have even a passing interest in reading comics, Hellboy is an amazing place to begin your journey. The talent level splashed across each and every page of this series is nothing short of incredible. From Seeds of Destruction to Conqueror Worm, from The Wild Hunt to House of the Living Dead, Mignola treats his fans to tales steeped in folklore and myth, brimming with gods and monsters. And always in the center of all all the action is my favourite occult detective...Hellboy.
There are many many stories in the Hellboy universe that deserve to be read over and over again, but if I had to choose my single favourite tale, it would have to be the Seeds of Destruction story arc. It not only introduces us to Hellboy but is also the grand gate at the beginning of this epic saga.
Inside you'll meet Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien. You'll find frog monsters, Nazi occultists, ghosts and a superhero named Torch of Liberty. You visit Cavendish Hall (I love Cavendish hall. It's the ultimate haunted house...even if it's not really haunted, it's certainly cursed), and realize Rasputin's evil plans for the Earth. You learn about an old god named Sadu-Hem (the Big Bad in Buffy speak), and briefly touch base with a bunch of aliens we never really learn a whole lot about but are cool anyway.
Everything about Seeds of Destruction kicks ass. Read it and you'll be hooked on Hellboy for good.
After Seeds of Destruction the series moves onto Wake The Devil, where Hellboy battles vampires, Nazis and a goddess. You meet Baba Yaga and a bunch of other evil bastards.
The next graphic, The Chained Coffin and Others, collects various short stories, from The Corpse, Iron Shoes and The Wolves of Saint August, to The Chained Coffin and Almost Colossus. My personal favourite (but I love them all) is The Baba Yaga. I just love the stories with Baba Yaga. She is one of my favourite Helloby villians and originates out of actual Russian folklore. She flies around in a pestle and carries the mortar as a club. She kidnaps and eats small children and lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs. How rad is that for a character? In The Baba Yaga we learn the reason behind her boiling need for revenge against Hellboy.
After The Chained Coffin and Others we get another collection of shorts called The Right Hand of Doom. The collection starts off with a couple of stories from Hellboy's early years, my favourite of which is Pancakes. It's very short but very entertaining. I chuckle every time I read it.
Other standouts in this collection are The Varcolac, The Right Hand of Doom and Box Full of Evil (in which we meet the deliciously evil Mr. Bromhead).
If you like giant man eating worms, talking Nazi Frankenstein-gorillas, complete with bolts in their necks, you'll love this story arc.
Volume Six is titled Strange Places and despite being good (it's Hellboy, right?), to this reader the story takes a definite turn to the weird. The Third Wish sees Hellboy briefly visiting Africa (the animal spirits there are not very welcoming to Big Red) before he goes on a strange undersea adventure. The Island is another strange one but, hey, the art is great!
The next volume, The Troll Witch and Others, didn't do much for me and is probably my least favourite. I found the writing not as good and the art (by various artists) not to my taste. The one story that I did enjoy was The Vampire of Prague. P. Craig Russell's art is great.
Forces are rising on two fronts to try and destroy Hellboy. One side is Baba Yaga. On another is Gruagach, a fairy creature who hates Hellboy as much as Baba Yaga, but who also wants to see England returned to the hands of the fairy folk by raising an army to go against mankind.
The above paragraph is a very very abbreviated synopsis and not altogether accurate but gives you the basic idea of what to expect. A lot is going on in Darkness Calls and The Wild Hunt, enough that they should probably be read twice (just to make sure you catch everything) before going back and re-reading the entire series for all the little clues and tidbits of information one might have previously thought irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
Finally we come to House of the Living Dead, which is a companion piece with Hellboy in Mexico, and is a monster romp that sees Hellboy battling vampires, a werewolf and a Frankenstien-like creature. The art is by Richard Corben and isn't exactly my thing but the story is fun and seeing Hellboy as a luchador is worth the cover price alone.
Well, that's it for the main stuff. If I haven't convinced you to get on the Hellboy bandwagon, I don't know what else to do. Maybe you could watch the movies? Ron Perlman is great as Hellboy.
Posted by Andrew Leonard at 9:02 AM