Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hellboy Vol. 5 - Conqueror Worm

Hellboy Vol. 5 - Conqueror Worm
By Mike Mignola

In the previous two collections, The Chained Coffin and Others and The Right Hand of Doom, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola indulged in an array of short stories. They ranged from quirky fun to dark mythology. And most importantly, they were awesome.

With Conqueror Worm, Mignola tosses aside the short stories and works in the long form. Well, four issues isn't exactly "long form" in these days of 12-issue story arcs and massive 60-issue crossovers, but for Hellboy it is.

And this is the best long Hellboy story to date. It's got pretty much everything you could want: Great art, cool action, excellent supporting characters, a deeper glimpse into the workings of the Bureau, an exploration of Hellboy's true nature and a FREAKIN' AWESOME look at the dark universe Mignola has created. In short, this kicked ass. I guess that's why it won an Eisner in 2002 for Best Limited Series.

The homunculus from the colossus story returns (thanks in part to a short not collected here, damnit). He's now called Roger, and he's probably my favorite supporting character to date. I love this guy. Despite his inhumanity, in many ways he's the most human character in all of Hellboy. A thoughtful being with a lot of heart and a desire to improve himself as a person ... or thing ... Roger gives the cast a sympathetic hero. This was sorely needed. We also get Lobster Johnson, who is sort of like a Golden Age hero in Hellboy's world, but with a twist. Great character.

As for the story, well, it's like a nightmarish version of Jack Kirby's wildest flights of fancy. Dark space gods intent on returning to Earth and killing all. A really strange and twisted cosmic mythology. Nazi space programs. All sorts of borderline nonsensical stuff that manages to work despite being so nonsensical. I liked it!

And the worm mentioned in the title? Awesome. Huge and gruesome and evil and amazing to behold. A very satisfying conclusion to the whole thing, too, one that makes me want to see what happens with Hellboy next. No question about it, Conqueror Worm is twisted and strange and totally rad, as the kids say. Or used to say. Or something.

Oh yeah, did I mention Nazi space programs? Yeah. Awesome.

An earlier version of this review was originally posted at and was also featured at

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