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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hellboy. The Crooked Man and Others. Dark Horse Books (2010)


A great collection of short Hellboy stories, all written by Mike Mignola with art by different artists, Dave Stewart does the colouring for all the stories and Clem Robins the lettering. A nicely varied collection that all have the strong ideas and clever inventiveness that are typical of Hellboy stories.
The title story, The Crooked Man, has striking art from Richard Corben and a wonderful setting in the Appalachian mountains. In 1958 and Hellboy meets Tom Ferrell who has returned to the area after twenty years. They travel together to find a local witch and when they do they find themselves entangled with The Crooked Man, a man returned from Hell to do evil in the area. The plot is straightforward, the details of the narrative are superb. There is a siege of a church by The Crooked Man as his band of witches that is horrifying and astonishing in how it creates a logical and utterly unexpected assault. The conclusion is sourly satisfying. Richard Corben's art draws the atmosphere tightly around the story, the locations are grim and hard, the cast look like they belong and the The Crooked Man himself is grasping and malignant.
"They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships" co written by Joshua Dysart has art by Jason Shawn Alexander is a great pirate ghost story. Blackbeard was decapitated and his body tossed overboard. When the skull is stolen from an antique store the story of a very strange reunion unfolds. The threads of the story are very nicely woven together and the conclusion is superbly staged. The art is dark toned and dramatic, it captures the flavour of the story perfectly, mixing the romance and fierce reality of pirates in just the right way.
"In the Chapel of Moloch" has art by Mike Mignola and is a nice little story, it is a very distilled Hellboy story. The way that the supernatural lays hold of someone, who the supernatural force is are both done with economy and outstanding skill. How a hidden history of the world is suggested is a joy, the sheer mater-of-fact way Hellboy acts are all reminders of why Hellboy is such a pleasure to read.
The final story "The Mole" with art by Duncan Fegredo answers a most interesting question, if Hellboy had a nightmare what might it be like? Creating a credible dream for a creature like Hellboy, whose business is dealing with nightmares is a tricky task and this story does it with a sharp wit. For once having someone realise that it was a dream is not an easy exit from a narrative trap, it extends the character instead.
A really enjoyable collection requiring no knowledge of Hellboy continuity to read with pleasure.

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