Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, a Review

Back during WWII, the Nazis were experimenting with all sorts of things. One aspect of research dealt with the paranormal. Finally, after years of preparation, a Nazi wizard/researcher/delusional-psycho summoned up a creature from the Deep, a tiny red-skinned, hornless man that would be named Hellboy. Only he showed up on the Allies side...

So begins Hellboy Volume 1: Seed of Destruction, and this intro is covered in a few pages up front. The remainder of the novel fast-forwards several years. Hellboy is a world-famous paranormal investigator, working for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, or the BPRD. When the man Hellboy sees as his father winds up dying from some unknown otherworldly action, the investigator takes his team and begins to unravel the crime. In the process, he starts to learn a bit more about his life and why he's here.

The first thing I noticed about Hellboy was the beautiful artwork. The characters are all drawn very nicely, especially Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and the villains. All of the pages have a very dark coloring motif that makes the tale fit the Lovecraftian tones, mixed in with some pulp noir style to boot. The lettering is simple, nothing fancy, but anything else would detract from the story I think. Yes, Hellboy is beautifully illustrated.

Equally important is the characterization, and Hellboy was more complex than I was expecting. From obscure beginnings, Hellboy wonders why he is here and where he came from. Why is his right hand different? Indeed, Hellboy is not some tough and rowdy hellbeast, but actually a civilized mind that has loves and cares as you and I. Even the minor characters, Abe and Liz, have some depth to them, and this added greatly to the arc.

Finally, the story arc for the Seed of Destruction was compelling and interesting. I never really knew what to expect, and I kept wondering at things up through the climax. And oh what a climax. Several pages of excitement and some resolution to earlier mysteries, but also an impetus for plenty more questions and actions to come.

Overall I really enjoyed this first graphic novel in the Hellboy series. It had everything in it that I look for in a comic: beautiful art, interesting characters, and a great story. There was nothing I disliked about the graphic novel. In the end, if you're looking for a fun-filled, dark horror-tainted comic, Mike Mignola's Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is the perfect place to start.  Easily recommendable.


Mattson Tomlin said...

Hellboy really went downhill for me. The art was always slick, but the writing really went out the window for me. What started off as interesting connections with folklore (and you know how I am about rhymes and folklore) later turned into hokeyness. I think Abe Sapien keeps the most interesting arc as the series goes on- looking forward to Box Full of Evil.

logankstewart said...

@Mattson: Dang. I've only got the first two collections right now, borrowed from a friend, but hopefully I'll get to finish. I, too, love folklore, and that's part of the excitement I have with the series. We'll see.

Carl V. said...

I haven't had the experience that Mattson describes. Mike Mignola continues to mine folklore and mythology for elements of the Hellboy stories while creating his own unique mythos and while some story arcs are better than others my experience with Mignola's work is that is just gets better all the time. Even later when he ditches a lot of the art duties he does an excellent job bringing on competent talent and the stories maintain that good gothic, folklore/horror mix. Love it. You've got some great stuff ahead of you. And don't ignore BPRD either. That series really does get better and better with each graphic novel. The more recent ones, particularly BPRD: 1947 and BPRD: 1948 are excellent. I'll be reviewing a few BPRD graphic novels here in the next few days.

logankstewart said...

@Carl: We shall see. The BPRD certainly is fascinating as well. Sadly, I've only got TPBs to read.