Hellboy, Vol #1, which contains Seed of Destruction and Wake the Devil by Mike Mignola is a terrific example of why this comic has become such a cultural icon in today’s comic book world. If you only know of Hellboy through the Guilerrmo del Toro movies and Ron Perlman’s terrific rendition of the title character; then you will find these comics intensely gratifying. The comic Hellboy lacks some of the humor of the cinematic version but misses none of the innocence and sense of justice.
In Seed of Destruction we are shown the origin of Hellboy and his eventual purpose in being brought back into the world. The ceremony performed by Rasputin to bring him into the world and his adoption by the Americans shortly afterward. Rasputin quickly tries to recoup the Hellboy knowing that he is key to opening the portal that leads to the destruction of the Earth. The movie Hellboy was based on this comic series and deviates little from the comic book source material. Though the character Liz Sherman, she of the blue flame, factors strongly in the comic, much more than the movie.
Wake the Devil takes place shortly after the paranormal events of Seed of Destruction and in it we see the growth of the character and his inability to deal with the loss of his father and friends. His desire to right the wrongs and the sense that within him is the greatest wrong are a prevailing theme. Hellboy is a character who knows that quite possibly, he is the greatest threat to those he cares for and love, then any demon or monster he may face.
Mike Mignola is one of those rare comic book writers/artists who creates a character that he will forever be associated with. Something that can only be done in the smaller comic book presses that offer their artists the freedom of ownership so that they can direct the future of their creations. Mignola has done other work in the field but Hellboy is his crowning achievement. Seed of Destruction was Mignola’s the first series in the Hellboy pantheon and though he wrote the story, it was scripted by John Byrne. But since then, Mignola has taken solely the helm of Hellboy and it should be noted that it should never leave his hands.
Alan Moore has described Mignola’s style as “German expressionism meets Jack Kirby”. It should be noted that Mignola does what is truly important in telling a tale of this scope. He tells it. He actually tells a story, filling in the background with history and mysticism as you would find in a novel. Mignola dares to tell the story of Hellboy and in doing so elevate the intelligence of his reader. No Pop! Bang! Zoinks! here. There is a reason to the madness that is Hellboy and Mignola shares his madness in his storytelling.
And yes, the artwork is pretty awesome too.
Hellboy is the kind of book that Dark Horse does well. One of the reasons this publishing house is worth picking up and reading when they release a new title. Something that Image is starting to figure out and something that Marvel and DC lack. Story telling and respect for the intelligence of its readership. Its not all lasers and tights and impossibly flexible and perfectly shaped boobs. No sometimes there is a story here. And Hellboy is one hell of a story.