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Monday, April 26, 2010

Hellboy. Odd Jobs. Christopher Golden (Editor), Mike Mignola (Illustrations) Titan Books (2003)

This is an anthology of short prose stories featuring Hellboy and other cast members from the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comics. While it is unlikely that anyone who is unfamiliar with Hellboy would pick it up there is no specific need for any previous knowledge to enjoy these excellent stories. The emphasis in the stories is on the activities of Hellboy as a paranormal investigator, so Hellboy is usually presented as an established fact and the action is allowed to unfold. Within the tight constraints imposed by the subject matter and the form the writers have presented a very enjoyable variety of content and narrative choices. The standard is uniformly high, there is no stand out story due to the overall excellence, none of the stories is a dud, they all sharp and flavourful.
Jigsaw by Stephen R. Bissette is a beautifully structured story that packs an impressive amount of story into a short space. The human cast caught in the coils of the paranormal plot are sympathetically drawn and the terrible price they pay is deeply felt. Folie a Deux by Nancy Holder set in Vietnam during the Vietnam War is spiky and seething with rage at the multifaceted destruction caused by war. The sharp writing and bleak context frame the dark aspects to the Hellboy story very well.
On the other hand, Delivered by Greg Rucka plays a smart and humorous game with the readers expectations while perhaps finally revealing the story behind one of Sherlock Holmes' most famous unrecorded cases. Medusa's Revenge by Yvonne Navarro is the story most reminiscent of the comics, the story is clever and the action fast and loud. The other stories in the collection are equally thoughtful and varied. The illustrations by Mike Mignola are as beautiful and evocative as could be expected. This is a great collection of stories by very talented writers, a pleasure to read.

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