Monday, January 17, 2011

Read Just Lately: HELLBOY

My usual batch of 5 or so books for the read lately pile got skewed because of one I just started, the first HellBoy graphic novel Seed of Destruction.

I am seriously kicking myself for not picking these up a long, long, long, time ago. I was so hooked by Seed of Destruction I had to go to the next, and the next and the next until I read all of them that I got for Christmas (thanks to Aunt Janet & Uncle Gary for the gift card)

Seed of Destruction, by Mike Mignola and John Byrne
I have known who Hellboy was for quite some time and I wonder if I resisted reading him sooner because I wasn't that impressed with Spawn, who has received so much acclaim from comic circles. With Spawn I thought yeah McFarlane has great art but I never really bought the story-and here's why-IF you are a demon with powers granted from the devil how and why are you going to be usingthose to pretty much fight against him-real "A House Divided Against Itself" stuff. And I am not about to get into a 'No, dude he was only fighting other rogue demons like Violator' I'm not going there because my point still stands-Spawn never captured my interest-the best thing about the Spawn movie was the eclectic dual soundtrack like Crystal Method & Filter performing "Can't You Trip Like I Do"
great song.

but I digress...

I was somewhat aware of the Hellboy enough to want to see the movie-which I liked and even the sequel Golden Army-and then the two animated movies which in my opinion were even better - Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron both were excellent.
So I suppose I can only chalk it up to procrastination.
Here is the difference to me of Hellboy to Spawn, Hellboy may be a demon but his power doesn't hinge that it came from the devil-he just is-and he was raised by good men who taught him-thus he is a hero and not an anti-hero. Anyway
Seed of destruction has a brief origin that ties into the current story dealing with how Hellboy was summoned to earth by the Nazi's/Rasputin as a final weapon. This occult angle has appealed to me since Raiders of the Lost Ark, especially since its just crazy enough to be true (about the Nazi's not Hellboy)
Mignola's art is different, stark shapes and a lot of shadows but it works, like the excellent mood work of Karl Edward Wagner it evokes the right atmosphere for the tale.

Wake the Devil, by Mike Mignola
Picks up after Seed of Destruction and throws in new events that still tacitly relate to the Nazi's plots and Rasputin's further machinations (as you can tell I'm reluctant to tell too much) It was great to read these stories as Mignola first wrote them because events from these two first graphics are played out in the movies (even the animated ones)and it the mythology/pulptastic action hits my sweet spot.

The Chained Coffin and Others, by Mike Mignola
This one was different in that it was more of an anthology of Hellboy tales, some longer than others and they bounced around in continuity (not that that was a problem by any means) Again there was a variety of locations and the action is top notch and have I mentioned how I adore the use of regional legends and myth-Irish, Romanian, Russian, English, local legends are mixed and it works.

The Right Hand of Doom, by Mike Mignola

More short stories, this time assembled throughout Hell boy's life and placed according to early, mid years and as of late. I especially liked reading the growth of the character since Mignola shows his inexperience early in life working as an agent for the B.P.R.D. (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) and gradually becoming more capable and savvy. It was also cool to read 'HEADS' since this short becomes a part of the Sword of Storms movie. Right Hand of Doom, gives more insight into Hellboys origins than had yet been revealed and I am still craving to read more.

The Troll Witch and Others, by Mike Mignola, Richard Corben, P.Craig Russell
Keeping with the anthology theme, these tales skip around in continuity and give various glances at a wide margin of Hellboy's life. One thing I really like about the Hellboy universe that mixes Lovecraftian Outer Gods and all manner ghosts, vampires, mad scientists, werewolves etc etc - it still doesn't shy from Hellboy carrying a rosary and the power of Christ, it would be easy to avoid that but I think it would be all the weaker if it didn't address it at least a little. That's part of why I have yet to read Gaiman's American God's-he couldn't face the Christian aspect while attempting to grab all the other gods-Odin, Jinn's etc versus current technology or whatever (I'm basing this off of other peoples review I have read)
So, I am going to get the rest of the collection soon as well as the B.P.R.D. series, this has become my favorite graphic series in quite an age.


Paul R. McNamee said...

Don't feel bad, I have years of Hellboy to catch-up - not to mention a zillion other things while new books come out every month!

I have read 'Seed of Destruction'. I also have another tales anthology not among those you listed - it's called 'Weird Tales.' (yes, really)

I have Mignola's tpb of Fafhrd & Gray Mouser adaptations, too. Still in the "to be read' pile. (he did those for Dark Horse in the early 90s, apparently.)

Matsby said...

I've never read it, but I have always loved the art. It sounds like I really need to pick these up!

Paul R. McNamee said...

Oh, and yes - I enjoyed the animated movies as much (or more) than the live action flicks. Well worth acquiring!

David J. West said...

Yeah, Paul I plan on grabbing that Weird Tales-I like these I've read that much. And I did read that Fafhrd and Grey Mouser graphic (reviewed it last summer)-I thought it was pretty good.

Matsby-the blend of myth/weird science and pulp action has me hooked.

Absolutely Paul-I think they allowed for more storytelling without getting bogged down in FX.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I'll admit that I got started on Hellboy a Bit late myself.. about 6 months before the first movie came out they re-issued all the comics up to that point in a series of uniform trades, and I bought the first one.. and then in the same day went back to the book store and bought the rest of them.

I've fallen a bit behind now, due to financial difficulties.. and I really should catch up and finish buying them.. but between them and the reprints of the marvel conan stuff I've spent a huge amount of money on trades from dark horse over the last 10 years..

David J. West said...

Lagomorph-oh yeah DARK HORSE is KING in my book right now.

Charles Gramlich said...

I haven't read these. I saw the first movie and liked it pretty well and I've heard good things about the series. I just haven't done many graphic novels.

David J. West said...

Charles-I am inclined to think you would like them. The pulp influence is huge, there is an awful lot of what I believe appeals to you.