Thursday, August 16, 2018

Book Review: Hellboy Omnibus Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction by M. Mignola et al.

Hellboy Omnibus Volume 1: Seed of Destruction story and art by Mike Mignola, script by John Byrne, colors by Mark Ciarello and James Sinclair

In an attempt to squeeze some more money out of the Hellboy franchise, Dark Horse Comics is republishing the stories in internal chronological order (starting with Hellboy's birth in 1944 and going on to his afterlife in Hell) with a bunch of "Omnibus Editions." The plan is to have four volumes with two side volumes of "short stories," presumably the stories that aren't part of the main story arc of the character, where Hellboy is fated to cause the end of the world but he steadfastly refuses to. The publishing plan is a little ambiguous since one of the stories in this volume does not advance the main story arc. Still, it's fun to revisit the early stories and since I borrowed this from the library, I don't mind a chance to reread the early stuff. Here's the various stories in this volume...

Seed of Destruction--The first Hellboy story arc tells the origin of Hellboy in an attempt by the Nazi's occult branch to get a weapon to win World War II. Hellboy is brought up American paranormal investigator Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, who acts as a father figure. The story arc also tells of Bruttenholm's death when a weird frog-creature attacks him. Hellboy investigates, leading him to the Cavendish Hall, home of an exploring family that's been looking for weird stuff. Turns out they are in league with the unidentified man who summoned Hellboy back during WWII and he wants Hellboy to do his bidding. Not very likely, considering Hellboy's better nature. It's a good origin story though Mignola's style is a little rough compared with more recent work.

The Wolves of Saint August--Father Edward Kelley travels to the Balkans and is about to put an ancient chapel back into use. One local shows up and relates a legend about a royal family that was cursed to become werewolves. Then the local turns wolf and kills the priest. The priest is an old friend of Hellboy's. Hellboy comes to investigate along with Dr. Kate Corrigan, a B.P.R.D. researcher who wants more field experience. She gets plenty since the whole village is dead from savage animal attacks. Their investigation brings out what's left of the royal family, causing an exciting fight at the end. The book suffers a little bit from accepting the Edgar Allan Poe version of the Inquisition (i.e. ridiculous and sadistic witch/demon hunters with zero sympathy whatsoever); otherwise I enjoyed it very much.

The Chained Coffin--Hellboy stops off in England and revisits the church where he first appeared on earth. Spending the night there, he has a horrible dream about a priest and a nun who tried to save a repentant witch (who was their mother!) from the demon coming to claim her after the witch's death (she's in the chained coffin). The dream turns into a waking nightmare as Hellboy sees the offsprings' battle with Satan, who strongly implies that the witch might be Hellboy's mother. The story is spooky and fills in some holes for Hellboy and the reader.

Wake the Devil--A bunch of Nazis who were frozen at the end of World War II are awake again when an American corporate honcho comes to their isolated castle just north of the Arctic Circle. They are all in league with Rasputin, the mad Russian monk who survived his assassination at the dawn of the Russian Revolution. Rasputin thinks he's to usher in a new world and was part of the Nazi project that  brought Hellboy to Earth. He has a new scheme to bring about Ranga Rok, involving the resurrection of a Romanian vampire. Hellboy and the B. P. R. D. work to foil his plan. All sorts of characters come into play, like the Baba Yaga, Hecate, Roger the Homunculus, etc., who play larger roles in future stories. Having read just about everything, it's exciting to see them get their start.

Almost Collossus--Liz Sherman, firestarter, is dying since she transferred her power into Roger the Homunculus in the previous story. Hellboy and Corrigan hunt for Roger while everyone else frets over Liz at a local facility. Roger gets some backstory and a brother (of sorts) who generates conflict and reflection on bigger issues.

The book also has two short promotional stories that introduce Hellboy as a future action hero that are more interesting as an early showcase of the imaginativeness of Mignola. The book ends with the usual assortment of sketches, including early versions of Hellboy, Rasputin, and other characters.

Recommended, highly for Hellboy fans (who don't already have the material) or those who haven't tried his stories out yet.

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