I am very late to the party on Hellboy. I know this.
If you’re not familiar with it, it’s about a demon summoned from hell as a boy by Nazis. Fortunately* for all involved, he didn’t actually appear where the Nazis who summoned him were, but instead in a spooky building the Allies were checking out. A kindly scientist raised him, and he went on to become a paranormal investigator.
Mike Mignola writes and draws Hellboy, with John Byrne backing him up on scripting duties. The quickest way to describe the book—at least, “Seed of Destruction”—is as an occult noir. Much of the explanation of the world’s history and Hellboy’s past comes in the form of first-person narration. It’s not just a lot of talking, though—a lot of what it communicates is sensory. As far as the opening story itself goes, it’s pretty straight-forward, but it has far-reaching implications for the stories that come after it.
I’ve talked about Mignola’s art before in both Triumph and Torment and Cosmic Odyssey. Hellboy’s art is darker than either of those books, but that’s fitting. And since Hellboy’s artist and writer are one in the same, its words and art are inextricable. The two dance back and forth without stepping on each other.
Do as I say, not as I do: don’t wait forever to get into Hellboy. Yes, the extensive backlog is intimidating. Even once I realized that I should be reading it, I kept putting it off for that reason. But if you have liked anything else Mignola has done, or if you like occult comics...bite the bullet already.
*This is fortunate because Nazis are terrible, in case there’s any confusion on that matter.
- Hellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction (#1-4)
- Hellboy Library Edition, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction and Wake the Devil (#1-4 and Hellboy: Wake the Devil #1-5)
Writers: Mike Mignola with John Byrne (script) | Artist: Mike Mignola | Colorist: Mark Chiarello, Matthew Hollingsworth | Covers: Mike Mignola, Dave Stewart | Editors: Barbara Kesel with Scott Allie