This might be my two favorite pages of Hellboy. Hell, this might be my two favorite pages of comics. It’s a short, elegant story executed to perfection. A general forces a young Hellboy to eat pancakes. While Hellboy enjoys this delightful breakfast food, the demons of hell wail and moan, for surely the child is lost if he can enjoy pancakes.
What makes this story work so well is the pacing. It’s super short. At only two pages, it packs all the essentials in and there’s not a wasted frame. Also, It’s a perfectly balanced story. The first page is the setup and the second page is the punchline. It’s a simple, elegant joke with impeccable timing. I could go on and on about this delightful story, but at only two pages, you should read it for yourself.
The Nature of the Beast
It begins with a club, The Osiris Club to be exact. The club gives Hellboy a quest: kill the dragon. They hand him a spear. The game’s afoot. But winning is not a matter of skill, but of chance.
The main attraction is seeing Mignola draw a dragon. I like that he goes the serpentine dragon route instead of the winged dragon route. There are enough winged dragon pictures to fill volumes, the serpentine dragon is far more interesting. Mignola’s rendition is a reminder of how important eyes are to a monster’s design. The right eye can convey the right sort of feeling about a monster.
Hellboy goes to Norway to help one of Bruttenholm’s friends: Edmond Aickman. While the two walk around the town, Aickman tells Hellboy of all the supernatural happenings in the town. The titular King Void is The Flying Dutchman and Aickman strikes a bargain with him.
Hellboy is not a series that moralizes often, but here it’s a nice little cautionary tale about the evils of greed. Also, getting some Norwegian folklore is a delightful expansion of Mignola’s growing world history of folklore. You can tell Mignola had fun drawing The Flying Dutchman, a larger than life monster against the cool backdrop of night in Norway.
For the most part, the events of Hellboy take place in Europe. Therefore, it’s a delight that this story takes place in Japan. This highlights Hellboy as a world wanderer, something that will only grow as the series continues. Hellboy takes refuge in the home of a local, only to discover the owner and guests are not all they seem to be.
Mignola’s art is the highlight of this story. He adapts the style of some elements of Japanese art, especially the traditional style. He uses it most in the Japanese figures, but also in some of the backgrounds as well. It’s still Mignola art, through and throught. Also, the idea of this story is delightfully Japanese and reminds me of the Japanese horror films Hausu.
Goodbye Mister Tod
The titular Mr. Tod is a medium. He bites off more than he can chew. He ends up consumed by a spirit of a Lovecraftian horror. This is a short, simple story so there’s not a lot to say about it. It does feature Mignola drawing a Lovecraftian monster, which always a delight to see. It’s clear that Lovecraft is the biggest influence on Mignola’s art.
Hellboy falls again. This time, instead of falling into the black, he falls into the red, fitting since he is searching for a vampire. What he finds instead is a vampire he doesn’t want to run into. While monsters have certainly fought Hellboy before, this time it’s suggested that this monster doesn’t like what Hellboy might become.
This story is a beautiful example of what Mignola is magnificent at: silence. Obviously, this being comics the silence is the lack of dialogue bubbles. This allows Mignola’s art to do most of the talking. It also allows for his scenes to breathe and soak in the mood of each frame. The warm reds and oranges, the dank blacks and grays and the sickly greens glide through the night.
The Right Hand of Doom
Even though this is the titular story, it’s one of the shortest of this collection. Hellboy visits a Spanish priest whose father wanted to destroy Hellboy. The priest gives Hellboy a piece of paper from his father’s work, a picture of Hellboy’s hand with the words: “The Right Hand of Doom.” It’s yet another story of who Hellboy is and what he might become one day.
It’s the epilogue of this story that shines the most. It’s a quiet scene between Hellboy and Kate. The two chat about what Hellboy has learned and how he feels about it. This scene is a beautiful example of Hellboy’s indifference to his past and his irreverence about what he may become. As he releases the piece of paper with his right hand of doom drawn on it, he lets go a part of himself and what may become.
Box Full of Evil
Hellboy and Abe searching for a man with a box in the old country. The box contains a fly. The fly contains a demon. A husband and wife buy the box. The wife is possessed by the demon. The demon turns the husband into a monkey. The monkey shoots Abe. It’s the best three frames in comics. Seriously, look at those frames! Look at em! Magnificent.
This two issue story packs in a lot. From the mythology surrounding the box to Broomhead commanding Hellboy through his true name, there’s a lot of great mythologizing going on in this issue. As usual, Hellboy rejects his destiny, but if he can be commanded by using his name, perhaps he won’t have the will to stop his destiny. After all, a crown awaits him in Pandemonium.
© 2016 James Blake Ewing