books

Hellboy

 

Seed of Destruction (1994), Wake the Devil (1997), The Chained Coffin and Others (1998), The Right Hand of Doom (2000), Conqueror Worm (2002), Strange Places (2006), The Troll Witch and Others (2007), Darkness Calls (2008), The Wild Hunt (2010), The Crooked Man and Others (2010), The Bride of Hell and Others (2011), The Storm and the Fury (2012)

Hellboy in Hell: The Descent (2014)

Masks and Monsters (2010), Hellboy: The Midnight Circus (2013)

 

Seed of Destruction (1994) Mike Mignola and John Byrne

After starting my comic reading life with Sandman, it’s been hit and miss for me since then. I love Ex Machina and Fables. But didn’t care for Preacher or Lucifer or Constantine. Michael reads and likes almost anything he picks up, but it’s been harder for me to find things I really like.

So, a couple years ago we watched the Hellboy movie and I enjoyed it. Not like I enjoyed Batman Begins but in the way I really liked Fantastic Four. I thought about picking up the comic then, but since Michael was wishy-washy about it, I didn’t want to get something neither of us might not like. So I held off.

But after Janiece’s review of the new movie, Tania said she really enjoyed the comic, and so I decided to give it a try. Couldn’t hurt right?

I’m glad I finally gave in, because I quite enjoyed Seed of Destruction. The tone reminded me of Sandman in a way that I wanted Constantine and Lucifer to be like Sandman except that they weren’t. I was somewhat familiar with the generation story from the first movie, but of course things are different in print than on the screen, but it was close enough that I had a good idea what was happening. Of course we quickly moved onto the new story, in which Hellboy and the other members of the BPRD investigate the death of the man Hellboy considered his father. We catch glimpses into the characters of Abe and Liz, but I feel like I knew more about them from the movies than I did from the book.

One thing that did catch me off guard is that, at least in this volume, Hellboy comes of as far more intelligent than he did in the movie. Not that he was dumb in the movie, but intellect-wise, he was far outshined by Abe. It’s also possibly because the story is written in first person, while the movie was third person, and perhaps it’s the glimpses into his thoughts that make the difference.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed Hellboy: Seed of Destruction and will definitely order the next volume in the series. Though I will try and hold off ordering all of them at once.
Rating: 8/10

Wake the Devil (1997) Mike Mignola

In the second volume of Hellboy stories, it is believed that someone is trying to bring the vampire Vladimir Giurescu back to life and health, so Hellboy and several others from the BPRD are sent to Romania to find out what is really going on.

Needless to say, things do not go well for anyone involved.

I found this volume a little weaker and a little more confusing than the first. Didn’t mean it wasn’t good, but it did jump around quite a bit, and I wasn’t always sure where it went for awhile. What I did like was the subtle way things were done. The clues were there, but you had to put the pieces together yourself, and no one within the story had a clue why things were going so badly.

We spent almost no time with Abe and Liz, which was a little frustrating, because Abe is a very interesting characters. (Yes, I know there’s a BRPD series where we see more of him. I just have to decide if I want to read it or not.)

Was it as strong as the first volume? No. But I have hopes the third volume will be better, as it appears to be a collection of short stores. And I love short stories.
Rating: 6/10

The Chained Coffin and Others (1998) Mike Mignola

Unlike the previous two volumes, which were along the lines of novellas, The Chained Coffin and Others is a collection of Hellboy short stories. As I’m a big fan of short stories, I really enjoyed this collection.

And as a fan of folktales and folk lore, the fact that many of the stories were based on folktales or creatures of folk lore was icing on the cake.

The stories appear in chronological order, the first set in 1959 and the last set immediately after the events of Vol 1: Seeds of Destruction. The first story, “The Corpse”, is a retelling of an Irish folk tale, and the second story, “Iron Shoes”, also has the feel of an Irish folktale. Both are brief and fun.

The third tale, “Baba Yaga”, is referred to in Wake the Devil. What I particularly liked about this tale was that Baba Yaga is neither good nor evil here, but simply a creature of Russian folklore. I don’t think I explained that well, but in folklore Baba Yaga isn’t necessarily a creature of evil, she simply is. And this story does a good job (for me) of matching the tone of some of the Baba Yaga stories.

“The Chained Coffin” (the story for which this collection was named) is an origin story for Hellboy, and isn’t a very happy one (even though I knew how things had to turn out, I still felt bad.)

“Almost Colossus” is the closing tale for the volume, and describes how Liz got her powers back (and didn’t die, despite the initial wishes of Mike Mignola.) I particularly enjoy this story, and seeing the homunculus on his own terms, instead of as simply a creature of doom and destruction.

This volume brings to mind a question though: Why is Hellboy always so willing to assume the worst in others? In both “Baba Yaga” and “Almost Colossus” Hellboy has a shoot first ask questions second mentality. I find it interesting that he does not ever seem to give others the benefit of the doubt.

If you have not previously read Hellboy, you could easily start at this volume, although I always recommend starting at the beginning of any series. If you’ve seen the movies, then you should know enough of his history that you can easily understand the stories (Specifically, “The Chained Coffin”) and the other stories are mostly out of time and easily read on their own.

I think the quality of Vol 3 is much higher than Volume 2, and I’m hoping there are more short stories in the following volumes, because Hellboy seems to work very well on that level.
Rating: 8/10

The Right Hand of Doom (2000) Mike Mignola

Have I mentioned that I am really enjoying the Hellboy books? I am. They’re a lot of fun.

Like The Chained Coffin and Others, The Right Hand of Doom is also a collection of short stories centered on Hellboy.

The first story in the collection is a two page tale called Pancakes. This may have been my favorite tale in the entire book, and since it was only two pages, I made Michael read it before I went on, and he also liked it.

The Right Hand of Doom covers a great deal of folklore, and integrates everything from Japanese to Norwegian tales with that little Hellboy twist.

Many of the stories are dark, however, with Hellboy they’re not particularly depressing. Well, the last several pages of Box Full of Evil were kinda rather moody in a way I don’t really expect from Hellboy, but they also suited the story and the consequences of the story very well.

The other nice thing about The Right Hand of Doom and its predecessor is that they can be read outside of the story line. Even though events in previous volumes and stories are mentioned, the important details are covered so you could easily read on without difficulty.
Rating: 8/10

Conqueror Worm (2002) Mike Mignola

I believe I’ve mentioned previously that I prefer Mike Mignola’s shorter Hellboy stories than the longer stories.

The Conqueror Worm is a longer story.

It’s not that the story is bad–it’s not. My problem is that the longer stories tend to wander more and get more confusing as they go. I think his Hellboy stories are simply better when they’re sharply focused.

Hellboy and Roger are sent out to a decrepit Nazi castle to see why a rocket the Nazis shot into space during WWII is trying to return.

That said, the more interesting story is the relationship between Hellboy and Roger. In the series Roger has evolved from a brainless homonculus to a creature not unlike Hellboy. A being of amazing strength and resistance, but one that is quite obviously not human and so is viewed by those as charge as game for the most deadly and dangerous missions. Partially because they’re hard to destroy, and partially because they aren’t human.

It’s a fascinating concept, and one that has interested me for awhile, especially as humans are on the verge of creating artificial life, and so this question may soon become one we will need to consider.

To it has it’s pluses and minuses. Although I prefer the shorter format for these stories, I like the way ideas in this story made me think.

If you aren’t reading Hellboy, you really should be. Yeah, it can be a bit gruesome, and there are lots of supernatural baddies, but he’s a fascinating character, and has lots of amazing adventures.
Rating: 7/10

Strange Places (2006) Mike Mignola

Hellboy was gone for awhile–a couple years. Strange Places tells us where he was during that time.

Nowhere good.

He travels to Africa to talk to a shaman, gets nailed by an evil undersea witch, spends time hanging out with some dead sailors, and learns some of his origin and the history of his hand.

Plus, he dies.

Now I’m trying to get the Hellboy/BPRD comics in sequences. I’m not sure what–if any–overlap there will be, but I’d like to keep things in order. Although there was some allusion to events in the BPRD series, there was no direct link; as Hellboy has remained incommunicado, so the reader is not expected to know or understand what has happened to his friends in the BPRD.
Rating: 7/10

The Troll With and Others (2007) Mike Mignola, Richard Corben, P. Craig Russell

This is another collection of shorter stories, and as usual, these collections tend to be my favorites. Though I do have to admit, that from reading Mike Mignola’s introductions to the various Hellboy short stories, I have apparently missed my calling, as the only other people who seemed to be as fascinated with folktales as I am are comic book writers.

I’ll have to keep that in mind next time I’m considering a career change.

The Troll Witch and Others is a collection of Hellboy stories, some drawn by Mike Mignola, some drawn by Richard COrben and P. Craig Russell. Although most of the stories were pretty good, there were some I really liked, and some I didn’t much care for. As usual.

“The Vampire of Prague” was a strange story that was more art work story that written story, which didn’t make it a particular favorite, even thought I was amused by the the way the vampire looked.

I liked Makoma quite a bit, and I’m sure the fact it was heavily based on folklore didn’t hurt that a bit. I especially liked the bag of holding, and Hellboy/Makoma’s reaction when he discovers the empty bag. Well, that’s like as in thought it interesting, not like as in found it fun. Just so you know.

But my favorite story in the collection was “The Troll Witch.” Hellboy always wants to talk to the bad guys, and it never made much sense before. It makes a lot more sense after reading this story. Because you can’t always tell who the bad guy is by looks alone. I particularly liked the ending of “THe Troll Witch” and I’d say it’s probably one of my favorite Hellboy stories so far.

So if, like me, you’re a fan of the Hellboy collections full of shorter stories, this is a collection you don’t want to miss. It would also be a perfectly good place to start reading Hellboy, as it doesn’t particularly require previous knowledge of Hellboy or his past.
Rating: 8/10

Darkness Calls (2008) Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo

Hellboy is slowly working his way back to the world, after spending six (or however many) years under the sea. But now Hellboy is on his own, separated from B.P.R.D., and Baba Yaga and several others who were taken down are also looking to extract their revenge.

First and foremost, this didn’t end particularly well. And I don’t like that. I knew there was a reason I was putting off reading this, but wasn’t thinking about started reading it.

Boo.

Hopefully the next volume will come out soon–although there was nothing on Amazon, which isn’t a good sign.

So I think I’ll end this review here for now. Perhaps a second reading later will give me a clearer idea.
Rating: 7/10

 

The Wild Hunt (2010) Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo

All those Hellboy stories–the ones in the story collections where there wasn’t necessarily a theme for the entire volume? Suddenly, everything is starting to come together.

Hellboy has spent quite awhile hiding from his supposed destiny. He doesn’t want to rule the world. He doesn’t want to be a source of evil. He just wants to live as normal a life as is possible for a giant red half-human demon.

But no one wants to let Hellboy rest. Some want to put him on a throne, others want revenge. No one wants to let him sit and relax and be himself.

And then there’s the title, The Wild Hunt. For someone like my who lives mythology and folklore, the Wild Hunt is a fascinating subject. It appears in different places and times, and has been used by other authors. Right now, the Wild Hunt wants Hellboy’s help. There are giants loose, and giants are nothing but trouble. If they aren’t eradicated, things will not go well for the humans who come across them.

There are also a LOT of major plot twists and turns and changes in this story. As I said, lots of things are suddenly tied together, and it looks as if Hellboy is no longer going to be able to sit on the sidelines–action or inaction, no matter what he does, there will be consequences. He has a destiny, whether he wants it or not.
Rating: 8/10

The Crooked Man and Others (2010) Mike Mignola, Richard Corben

Frustratingly, Helloboy Vol 10 does not continue the story arc of Vol 9, but instead is another collection of stories, all set in Hellboy’s past.

Mind you, I tend to prefer the “short story” Hellboy collections, but the story line was really heating up at the end of Vol 9.

I hate waiting.

There are four stories in the collection, all of which are interesting, but I have to admit I kinda liked the last story the best, because it was kind of silly and the idea of it was rather fascinating.

The first story, however, really good. It was based on Appalachian folklore and touches on everything from basic witchcraft to the Melungeons.
Rating: 7/10

 

The Bride of Hell and Others (2011) Mike Mignola, Richard Corben, Kevin Nowlan, Scott Hampton

By all rights, I shouldn’t like the Hellboy comics at all.

Except, how can I not love a story containing dialog like this?

HEY EMILE!

Cut it out. You’re making the dead people nervous.

That bit was from “The Whittier Legacy” though I think that my favorite story from this book was “The Sleeping and the Dead” which required two readings before I put it all together.

But, I also really liked the first story, “Hellboy in Mexico,” and not just because it featured Day of the Dead skulls.

This is another collection of short stories, which adds another data point that I strongly prefer the Hellboy short story collections over books with a single story.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Dark Horse

The Storm and the Fury (2012) Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo

Oh. Wow. I wasn’t expecting that at all.

The Hellboy series has typically alternated volumes of short stories with volumes of the ongoing series. I generally tend to prefer the short story collections, but have read the ongoing stories with interest.

Well, everything that’s happened in the past volumes comes to a head here.

That was… unexpected.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Dark Horse

 

 

 

Masks and Monsters (2010) Mike Mignola, James Robinson, Scott Benefiel, Jasen Rodriguez

These are two tales outside of the Hellboy time line (ie this is not a sequel to The Wild Hunt) but are crossover with other characters including Batman and Starman. Batman doesn’t play a particularly large role (after all, he’s a busy super-hero) but Starman (which is apparently an inherited role) does. The Nazis are once again stirring up trouble, and want to wake up a monster to steal his power. (Silly Nazis).

In the second story, Hellboy is searching for the vigilante Ghost, to attempt to recruit her into BPRD. Things don’t go as anyone expects. Well, I suppose nothing ever goes as expected for Hellboy.

Although it was odd seeing Hellboy interact with Batman, I did enjoy the stories.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Dark Horse

 

Hellboy: The Midnight Circus (2013) Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo, Dave Stewart

HellboyMidnightCircusCouple things about this: 1) It came out as hardback. 2) I purchased the kindle version, because it was cheaper than the hardback (and by now we should all know my feelings about hardback books). 3) This is more of a novella than regular Hellboy collection. So I enjoyed it, but was also all, “Wait, it’s over? That’s it?” But that might also be a symptom of reading on the kindle. I have yet to really enjoy reading comics on the kindle.

This story is set just a few years after Hellboy’s discovery/arrival on earth, and Hellboy is a child.



HELLBOY-2

He sneaks out one night (his sneaking out involves a bit more than that of your average child) and stumbles onto a circus.

Unfortunately for him, the midnight circus is operated by people who know well who Hellboy is, and someone of them don’t have his best interests in mind.

Of course, some of the people at BPRD don’t have his best interests in mind either.


HELLBOY-4There are some lovely illustrations, one of my favorite being a young Hellboy visiting the Hall of Mirrors.

It’s a story full of dark hints as to the battles that will occur over and about Hellboy–how no one or Earth or in Hell is particularly happy with how things are going with him. But it’s an adorable glance into his childhood.

It was just way shorter than I was expecting.
Rating: 7/10



Published by Dark Horse Books

 

Hellboy in Hell

 

Hellboy in Hell Volume 1: The Descent (2014) Mike Mignola, Dave Stewart

hellboy-in-hell-vol1My feelings about Hellboy?

It’s complicated.

I tend to love the Hellboy collections that are more-or-less short story collections of his adventures. The stories about Hellboy’s inheritance, I tend to enjoy much less, so… every other collection I love.

Hellboy in Hell, Volume I, is set immediately following The Storm and the Fury and–as is obvious from the title–finds Hellboy in Hell.

It’s also one of the collection that I tend to find confusing.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t good, it just means that I prefer the short story collection type volumes. They’re lighter and typically end better. But, as I want to know about what happens to Hellboy, I keep reading.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Dark Horse Books

 

 

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