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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hellboy. Masks and Monsters. Dark Horse Books (2010)


Two very enjoyable cross over stories featuring Hellboy, Batman, Starman and Ghost. The first story, Batman/Hellboy/Starman written by James Robinson, art by Mike Mignola, colours by Matt Hollingsworth and lettered by Willie Schubert is a Hellboy story with a different cast.In Gotham City, Ted Knight, the original Starman is kidnapped by a mysterious group. This draws the attention of Batman and Hellboy and they combine to discover that it is a secret Nazi group that have kidnapped Ted Knight and taken him to their South American base. While Batman has problems in Gotham to deal with, the current Starman, Ted Knight's son, fly out to rescue him. The story unfolds wonderfully, with a great Hellboy Nazi/Elder God plot bubbling away, plenty of smart dialogue and action. The reveals are clever, the art is glorious and the whole package tremendous fun.
The second story Ghost/Hellboy written by Mike Mignola,pencilled by Scott Benefiel, inked by Jasen Rodriguez, coloured by Pamela Rambo, lettered by Sean Konot takes a different tack. Ghost is the vengeful spirit of reporter Elisa Cameron, who deals out death to criminals. Ghost enters a netherworld and in pursuit of peace of heart pulls Hellboy into a netherworld ruled by a wearing a metal mask. The reveals are sharp and unexpected, the action is excellent and the conclusion sour and satisfying.
The contrast between the two stories is interesting, James Robinson writes a very straightforward Hellboy story, in essence substituting Batman and Starman for some of the regular Hellboy cast. Their presence does not fundamentally make any difference to the dynamic of the story. The presence of Ghost in the other story is central to whole structure and tone of the story, she is much more significant. To an extent it is a Ghost story with Hellboy as the guest star, one who does have a vital part to play. It is very noticeable how Mike Mignola takes Ghost, who is a signal example of the sleazy coyness that infects comics, and gives her a personality that is bigger than her breasts. She is very much a character, a clear individual voice that plays strongly against Hellboy and drives the story. A very enjoyable collection with more punch than may be anticipated.

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