Monday, October 22, 2012

Comic Review: Hellboy Library Edition Volume 2

    I make no secret of my love of Mike Mignola’s creation.  The Conqueror Worm was one of the books to woo me over to comics and I continue to love reading new Hellboy stuff.  The art, the atmosphere, and all the wonderful and strange mystery.  The second volume of the fantastic Library Edition collections features two short story anthologies, The Chained Coffin and The Right Hand of Doom as well as an extensive sketch gallery and some informative essays.

    The short stories have been reassembled into a somewhat chronological order, though as usual with Hellboy, it hops back and forth a great deal.  A lot of these stories are simple asides, not necessarily pushing the larger story forward, but building the world and history Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. exist within.  But there are seeds (of destruction?) sown.  One of my favorite characters, Roger, is named (he’ll play an important role in B.P.R.D.).  And of course, The Right Hand of Doom gets a little more into just what Hellboy’s destiny is or may be.  That, along with the final story Box Full of Evil do a lot to set the tone and theme of a lot of Hellboy’s future.  He was made to end the world, after all.

    The stories run the gamut, from humorous stories like Pancakes, which I get a genuine chuckle from every time I read Astaroth’s last line, to the sadness of Goodbye Mister Tod, to the hauntingly beautiful A Christmas Underground.  Though referenced, this volume contains very little of the pulp sensibility that got me into Hellboy.  No Nazis or masked avengers.  But there is that sense of dread and ancient fear you get from folk like Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, or of course, Lovecraft.  Sometimes this is made more poignant by Hellboy’s naiveté or more grim because of his occasional quiet resignation.

    Probably not an ideal place to start with Hellboy, but good stuff all the same.  It does a lot to set tone, to create a mood.  One gets a sense of the world the characters live in.  On the surface, much like our own, but with all those Old World fears lurking in every shadow.  Every musty old mansion harboring ghosts and demons, every strange featured merchant carrying horrible secrets from ignored parts of the map, every dark forest filled with hungry eyes and gnashing teeth.  Occasional transcendent beauty, surrounded by a mire of corrupting horror.  And in the center of it all, a demon who plays at being a man, with a good heart and an evil destiny.

Hellboy Volume 2: The Chained Coffin & The Right Hand of Doom
Author & Artist: Mike Mignola
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
ISBN: 978-1-59307-989-5


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