Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Book Review: Hellboy: Masks and Monsters

Hellboy: Masks and Monsters
by Mike Mignola et al.

One of the popular things to boost sales in the comics industry is to make a team of individually popular characters (like The Avengers or the various Justice Leagues) or have characters' worlds cross. Since Hellboy is in a universe of his own, this work is definitely the later. Actually, this volume contains two separate team-ups: Batman/Hellboy/Starman and Ghost/Hellboy.

The first story follows Batman as he investigates the kidnapping of Ted Knight, the original Starman (who's a hero with a cosmic rod that let's him fly and manipulate energy). Neo-Nazis use electrical bolts to fight off Batman during the kidnapping. Queue Hellboy's entrance, since (a) the neo-Nazis are regular Nazis from South America called the Knights of October and (b) they use a blend of magic and technology to make the bolts. An uneasy alliance is formed since Hellboy has the magical and Nazi-fighting background to help Batman. Knight's son is the new Starman and he signs on to help find his dad. Pretty soon it's off to South America to stop Nazis and elder gods from rising up to take over the world. The story is a pretty standard Hellboy yarn and a good read.

The second story follows Hellboy to Arcadia where he and a BPRD agent want to recruit Ghost, a revengeful female spirit who goes around shooting living bad guys with guns (not sure how the phantom guns kill living people, but just go with it). They discover an old mystery that leads to an alternate dimension, where Ghost is offered peace if she betrays Hellboy. This story is not as interesting as the first though the art is very good. This is more like a standard supernatural horror comic. Hellboy is charming as always and the final battle is fun.

For parents, the book does contain some mild occult content (Hellboy uses an occult prayer full of nonsense words in fighting the elder god, for example). The violence is in the first story is fairly normal comic book fare; in the second story it's much more graphic (lots of blood). Also, Ghost's outfit is very revealing up top.

Here's a sample page in case you've never seen Mignola's style (use of black, cool background images, humor). Sorry about the blurry edge on the left, the scanner didn't handle the binding well. I suppose I could have cut the page out of the book, but I didn't.

Click to see full size

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