Hellboy: The Storm #1 review
- Published on Saturday, 10 July 2010 04:18
- Written by Jim
After the devilishly talented Mike Mignola stopped drawing his paranormal horror series Hellboy, I kind of lost interest in the title. I mean, his stories were always good and all, but without the accompaniment of his iconic, chiaroscuro-influenced artwork I really had no reason to read it. However, with the release of The Storm #1, I saw the previews and it looked good. Mignola has always surprised me in the past; let’s see if he can’t make me jump back on the Hellboy bandwagon. Hit the read more button to see what Mignola’s latest comic has to offer you.
A terrible storm is brewing, bodies are missing from their tombs, and the forces of darkness gather against Hellboy for a final bloody showdown. Mignola and Fegredo reunite for the final arc of the bestselling saga that includes Darkness Calls and The Wild Hunt.
WRITTEN BY Mike Mignola
ART BY Duncan Fegredo
ART RATING: 7.5 Excaliburs out of 10
STORY RATING: 8.5 Excaliburs out of 10
OVERALL RATING: 8 Excaliburs out of 10
SYNOPSIS: Several dead bodies of Knights from the Middle Ages Crusades are disappearing in a small English village. Hellboy and his companion Alice have arrived in the town to pay a visit to the local priest. After learning that the knights walked out of the church a few days before, Hellboy and Alice leave. Hellboy says he’s going to give up drinking because of all the trouble it’s gotten him into before, and reminisces about his past s exploits. A creepy hobo with an “end is nigh” sign scares them, but they carry on.
Suddenly, a large, hairy monster dressed in gold Celtic-style armor attacks them. He throws the car off the road, knocking Hellboy and Alice unconscious. Hellboy flashes back to getting stabbed by the stag-headed man (from The Wild Hunt). Waking, Hellboy makes sure Alice is okay before re-engaging with the monster. As they battle – with a fearsome storm brewing above – the monster spouts on about how Mab (the ancient queen of the Irish faeries, whom Alice and HB have met before) is dead – murdered by the Queen of Blood (Hellboy’s enemy from the previous series). The monster says a war is coming.
Far away, the storm rages on. Gruagach – the Queen of Blood’s minion Pig – runs through a forest. He is eventually scared by a lightning strike and thrown onto the ground. He gazes up and finds himself looking at an old man, whom he seems to know and fear. Gruagach cowers, begging for mercy. The old man says there is no mercy for him. Issue ends.
THE GOOD: The issue wasn’t anything special. That much I’m sure of. However, it was well done in many respects. The issue has most of the old faithfuls that Mignola fans like me have come to expect. An isolated, obscure part of the British countryside is troubled by paranormal occurrences. Hellboy – no longer acting under the B.P.R.D.’s umbrella – comes in to investigate, but things quickly reveal themselves to be bigger and more complicated than first supposed.
The pacing is steady and typical of an early Hellboy issue: easy-going and gradually building up to an action-packed finale. The symbolic storm that gathers at the start and is raging by the end further reminds us how the plot flows. Nothing we haven’t seen from Mignola before, but still well done nonetheless. The quick battle at the end and the appearance of Gruagach’s unknown master are a nice clean are a nice little lead-in to the next issue.
Mignola’s characterization for Hellboy mixes old and new developments that make for nice reading. Hellboy – well known for drinking himself senseless after many B.P.R.D. missions – now decides to quit drinking. For over 60 story-years, Hellboy has gone about his business as the gruff, punch-first-ask-questions-later monster-fighter. Now, after all that, Mignola moves him away from that, and helps him move past his inner demons that have lingered ever since he left the Bureau.
On the other side of the coin, Hellboy remains stubbornly opposed to fulfilling the destinies other prophesy him to take. After his battles in The Wild Hunt previously, Hellboy now possesses Excalibur and is the true heir to the English throne. Another enormous, world-changing destiny weighs upon him to go with his other one (as the Devil-spawn Beast of the Apocalypse, who will unleash the Ogdru Jahad and end the world). Mignola nonetheless continues to give Hellboy the strength to keep upbeat. HB makes no attempt to claim his throne and Excalibur lies in the back of his rental car, draped in an old hotel towel.
The little plot point of all the old Knights leaving their graves – “the noble dead of Britain will come again. To follow their king.” Though serious at its core (the dead rising to form an unstoppable army), it’s the kind of quirky, macabre idea that only Mignola could have dreamed up. And one that I’m very interested to see the development of. The way Mignola reveals it to the reader – a simple snapshot of a medieval knight popping out the back door of a dilapidated old church. It’s almost funny.
Mignola’s use of symbolism – the storm that forms the series’ title and develops with the story – is very cool and quite suitable, I think. Throughout his paranormal career, Hellboy has been told by many minor and major figures that a war is coming, “a war to wipe the curse of man, and all his works, from the face of the earth forever.” Even on the first page, you can see the grey clouds gathering, and by the last three pages, the storm is raging ferociously, with black clouds and lightning abundant. A very subtle way of showing that, as Mignola and others have said, everything in Hellboy for the last ten years or so has been building to something big – and this could be it. I can’t wait.
Onto the art. Now, some fans don’t like Duncan Fegredo because his style, though similar is some ways, is too different to Mignola’s clean, shadowy art. Fans and the Hellboy creative team alike have said that in a crowd scene, Mignola would draw it as an artistic composition, while Fegredo would draw each person individually, with unique mannerisms and appearances. But Fegredo is not an imitator. He does not apologize for his style. Though no one can beat Mignola, I think Fegredo has taken up the job very well indeed. Unlike Mignola, who draws in a more iconic, stylized way, Fegredo tends to fill the comic’s characters and environment with detail. Not what you’d usually expect in a Mignola comic, but here it fits pretty well.
THE BAD: The so-called “recap” when Hellboy loosely recalls his previous exploits is very badly handled; there’s little to no info on the actual events, which makes me wonder why Mignola bothered to put it in for new readers – there’s so little he might as well have done nothing. The pages that were filled up with the boring and uneventful battle scene could have been used to do the recap a lot more justice.
Speaking of the overlarge battle scene, I feel as if so little has happened in the issue. There’s enough to make you want to read the next issue, but only just. I feel that with a little compressing (and more pages devoted to story instead of ads), Mignola could have made this an absolutely stunning issue. And it wasn’t very far off.
Fegredo’s artwork seems to have slipped a little. Usually his inking is tight and clean like Mignola’s, but in this issue it is rougher, looser and doesn’t look very good. It doesn’t ruin the issue, but I’m quite disappointed. I’ve seen what Fegredo can do. I read Darkness Calls and The Wild Hunt. Hopefully by the next issue he can pull his inking together and deliver the usual exquisite art he’s done for the last five years.
OVERALL: to sum up, Hellboy: The Storm #1 is a relatively mediocre issue with some good redeeming features – the symbolic storm and some interesting character development for Hellboy being two. I’d still recommend this to old Hellboy readers and maybe even some brave new ones. Next issue will hopefully correct what few bad points this issue has. Rated 8 out of 10. Next: while Hellboy rages against a deadly soldier of the Queen of Blood, her army grows stronger in preparation for a war of vengeance, in which the end of the world is inevitable.