Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hellboy: A Five-Part Review

I spent the last several days immersed in Hellboy, tearing through three graphic novels and watching two films. All are reviewed below.

Volume 6: Strange Places
Strange Places continues the fascinating saga of Hellboy, this time taking the reader to strange places such as the bottom of the sea and a mysterious island.

The first arc, "Three Wishes," picks up where Volume 5 left off. Hellboy has left the BPRD and gone to Africa. At some point he gets tossed into the ocean and this is where "Three Wishes" takes place. This story delivers a very fine plot and hints at a few more secrets to the Hellboy universe.

The second arc, "The Island," was an equally fun and entertaining story. This one tells a creation story for Hellboy, and to me, this was icing on the cake. I really liked "The Island" quite a bit, and the Epilogue was perfect.

Overall, Strange Places is a fine addition to the overarching story of Hellboy. It's made clear some things, muddled others, but at the end of the day, it's got me wanting to start Volume 7 (which I already have)

Volume 7: The Troll Witch and Other Stories
The Troll Witch and Other Stories is another collection of one-shots and different folktales accounted in the Hellboy universe. I really like these quick reads, especially discovering all the different legends and myths from other cultures. This was a great addition to the series, and though it doesn't add much to the overall arc, the layers it adds are fun and enjoyable.

This is the first volume where a new artist is introduced, but only partially. The art style was something to get used to. While not as amazing as Mignola's, it's still fitting to the feel of the book.

Volume 8: Darkness Calls

Darkness Calls was an incredibly fast paced arc that made me turn page after page just to get to the end and see what happened. Hellboy gets whisked away into Russian folklore and is put up against the Baba Yaga, who's still mad at Hellboy for taking her eye. Meanwhile, the Witches are plotting something big, and by the end of the collection, it looks like the future is going to get rough for Red and the BPRD.

This collection is one of my favorites from the series so far. Mignola hands over the art reins to a different artist (Duncan Fegredo) who does a great job at creating the feeling of Mignola's art. Mignola is a master of minimal panels and simple color palettes; Fegredo adds more complexity to his illustrations, and it works.

Darkness Calls is a fantastic Hellboy collection, especially for anyone with interest in Russian culture. This would stand on its own, but depth and understanding would certainly be lost. Highly recommend.

Hellboy  --  (Live action film) 
Back when the first Hellboy movie came out, I was in high school and thought the film looked ridiculous.  Who the heck was Hellboy?  Particularly, I thought Abe Sapien looked stupid, and Hellboy was just plain cheesy.

Then, after falling in love with the comics, I had to rectify the situation.  Guillermo del Toro created the movie, so it had to be good, right?  And it better be, since I bought Hellboy 2 on blu-ray the day after Thanksgiving.

Anyway, we popped in the borrowed movie last night and settled on the couch for a Hellboy marathon.  The plot of the first film is somewhat similar to the comics, but there are some things that in no way hold up to the trade of mediums.  For one, the Ogdru Jahad, while cool, are nothing as awesome as Mignola's vision.  Another big difference was Rasputin's character and how he acted/looked.

Still, the movie was fun to watch, and the story mostly congruous with the source material.  A new recruit for the BPRD comes on board to help keep an eye on Hellboy, and the audience is pulled along with him.  John Myers isn't particularly memorable, but his role necessary as a protagonist to explain some things to folks unfamiliar with Mignola's creation.  The point of the movie is that there are dark things that go bump in the night, and the BPRD exists to bump back against them.

Overall, not a bad way to spend two hours, and a great bridge for folks that don't like comics, but definitely not as good as the actual books.

Hellboy: Blood and Iron  
(Animated film)

Apart from the standard animation and corny voice acting for some characters (Hecate!), Blood and Iron was a fun cartoon movie to watch that is in no way fitting for young kids.  Ghosts, vampires, wolves, witches, evil gods & goddesses, and plenty of other murderous evils abound, and I wondered if kids would get scared watching something like this.

This was partially written by Mike Mignola, and it's definitely more complicated than the live-action film.  The story is told through flashbacks and present-time, recounting the legend of Erzsebet Ondrushko, a vampire that would bathe in maiden's blood to retain her youth, and her relationship with the thrice-goddess Hecate.

I enjoyed this hour and change, even if I loathed some of the voice work.  This would be great around Halloween time, I think.  Plus, it's on Netflix!

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