Saturday, March 17, 2007


I decided to read all of the Hellboy trades to date in preparation for the upcoming mini-series, Darkness Calls. Hellboy has been one of the casualties of period of lower comics interest and I didn't read a number of the series, so I thought it would be good to catch up. I had started a similar project a couple years ago when the movie was coming out but I only got as far as the second trade (I think). Anyway, it's been a while so I had no qualms about starting at the beginning again.

Seed of Destruction is an anomaly in the Hellboy series in that it was scripted by John Byrne. Mike Mignola wrote the story, of course, but was a little unsure of taking on the full duties of writing. At the time of its original release, Hellboy was part of the Legend line from Dark Horse, which also included books from Byrne (Next Men, notably; Frank Miller (Sin City); Mike Allred (Madman); and others like Art Adams, whose Monkeyman & O'Brien backed up Hellboy early on. So, Byrne's presence was a natural one. As such, the tone may be slightly different here than in subsequent series but it all still works very well. Why? Mike Mignola.

Mignola had done a variety of comics before Hellboy; I most remember his work on Cosmic Odyssey for DC, a grand cosmic adventure with many of DC's super-heroes, and Gotham by Gaslight, an Elseworlds book with Batman matching wits against Jack the Ripper. His work was always distinctive and very cool. With Hellboy, though, he took things to the next level. Just the look of Hellboy, with his giant stone hand and demonic look, was something new. That blocky yet fluid style. It's the look of a Lovecraft story come to life. It heads straight for the pleasure center of your brain and takes up space. And you just want more.

The story itself opens in 1944 and the closing days of World War II. Hitler has dispatched some Nazi minions to change the tide of the war in his favor, something called "Project Ragna Rok." The end result is the appearance in England of a young Hellboy. The scene shifts to about 50 years later, where Hellboy is the world's greatest paranormal investigator working for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.). He comes to his "father's" aid, only to uncover a mystery that takes him to Cavendish Hall and an evil plot by the man who brought him to the world years earlier. Along the way we are also introduced to his colleagues Abe Sapien (who was sealed in a hospital vault the same day Lincoln was shot) and Liz Sherman. Together, they battle the forces of the sorceror.

The book is a great mix of the occult and tough-talking detective dialogue in the form of Hellboy. It's a world you want to visit again and again. We also get a couple short stories in the back, the earliest attempts at Hellboy stories, as well as a gallery with some of the Legends artists mentioned above and some others. I also have to mention the outstanding coloring of Mark Chiarello and Dave Stewart and Matt Hollingsworth on various aspects of the whole book. They know how to make Mignola's art sing. I'm looking forward to delving deeper into the series...

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