Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hellboy Vol. 1 - Seed of Destruction

This review was originally posted at and was also featured at

Hellboy Vol. 1 - Seed of Destruction
By Mike Mignola and John Byrne

Mike Mignola is pretty awesome. Here's a guy who was doing mainstream comics and making a living from it, then once day he decided to toss all that out the window and go do his own thing. He wanted to pursue his own interests - mythology, monsters, magic, pulp and fantasy - and forge his own path. I can get behind that.

The result was Hellboy, a big red demon with sawed off horns and a giant freakin' fist and a bus driver's attitude. I kind of missed the boat when Hellboy first came on the scene, though, but with a little help from my buddy Bill I've been able to get myself up to speed by tearing through the collected editions at a rate not unlike the rate at which Michael Phelps inhales. Which is to say, fast.

So I began at the beginning.

Seed of Destruction is a very interesting start to this cult favorite. Mike Mignola (with some help from John Byrne) doesn't hold your hand or serve you with massive infodumps. Instead, he just launches you into the world he's created and trusts that you'll keep up. I like that.

Lots of good stuff to wrap your head around, too. I'm fascinated by the Bureau and intrigued by Hellboy's origins. There is a nice teasing element there, akin to the days when Wolverine was still a good, mysterious character. Hints, tidbits, but little more than that. I get the sense that there will be a lot to explore as this goes on.

The bad guys are neat. I mean, Nazis, right? Nazis always make cool villains. Tossing together Nazis and horror has been done before (Return of Castle Wolfenstein, for instance), but this is handled well. I like that the horror isn't the standard kind of Gothic horror. It's non-traditional. A bit of magic, a bit of superhero, a bit of myth, all mixed up in a blender and poured back out in a delicious shake. Very cool.

The writing was okay, but pretty flawed. It rarely felt as if different people were narrating/talking. The characters often had the same voice, making it a bit difficult to differentiate between them. This is no surprise coming from John Byrne, though, a once great artist with a spectacular ability to write dialogue even more lifeless than his waning career.

Speaking of narrating, the lettering was off. Three times I read things in the wrong order and it wasn't my fault! I swear it wasn't! But both of those are minor faults; not deal breakers by any means.

Oh, and the art? Yes, the art. The art was AWESOME. Just awesome. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Moody use of (mostly) flat colors, GREAT stylization by Mignola, good storytelling. Superb visuals all around. This doesn't surprise me, of course, because once Mignola broke out of the standard comic book style and pursued his own vision his work took a leap into orbit. He's a fabulous visual stylist with a unique look you either get or you don't.

I really enjoyed this. It didn't blow my mind and won't have me singing from the mountaintops, but I can see there will be lots of fun stuff to chew on, and can't wait to get to it. This was a good start. Looking forward to the rest of this series.

Read my regular, everything-and-anything (usually on writing and music) blog right over here.

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