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Friday, May 4, 2012

Hellboy. The Storm and The Fury. Mike Mignola (Writer), Duncan Fegredo (Artist), Dave Stewart (Colours), Clem Robbins (Letters) Scott Allie (Editor). Dark Horse Comics (2012)

A breathtaking comic that pulls together some many carefully laid plot threads into a stunning climax that clears the way for a new route for the story. Hellboy is in England where the Queen of Blood has gathered her army to start the a final war on all humanity. The drumbeat of the war is very loud, loud enough to literally wake the dead and a rival army starts to assemble. Hellboy has reached the end of his wandering and decided that the time has come to stop hiding in a bottle and to accept the weight that has been put on him. This finally leads him to striking a very hard bargain with an old enemy to get closer to a new one. The reveals mount up at a carefully controlled speed and the titanic clashes between the massed hordes and the real battle in the tower are  a joy. The climax is brutal, unexpected and wholly fitting, a true measure of the depth and breath of the creativity that has infused the whole Hellboy story from the start.
This is volume 12 of the Hellboy series and would be a completely confusing story to anyone not familiar with the back story. There is a series of interlocking conclusions for cast members from all over as they move towards a dreadful possibility, they come face to face with the real consequences of their actions. No one is spared, there is blood, malice and destruction enough for everyone. As ever in the Hellboy stories the consequences are here to stay, they do not fade away with the morning light. The whole Hellboy cycle is an extraordinary piece of extended,disciplined creativity. Mike Mignola has developed a comic that uses the form in a very traditional way, serial sequential storytelling with a light-handed mastery that is an enduring pleasure to behold.
Duncan Fegredo's art is bold, subtle and intensely moving. He can give depth and life to a small moment and energy and drama to a fearsome confrontation. The cast occupy the space with clarity and physical presence, the body language is consistently eloquent.  Hellboy has stopped drinking and the time to be serious has arrived, he seems smaller, not diminished, more focused. Each fight has a desperate edge to it that is beautifully shown. Never has bitter, fruitless regret been stamped so clearly on every cell of a creatures body as on the pawn who set the events in motion. In particular there is a single panel that picks a detail from a previous one, a detail of a wall hanging, that should by rights should be overkill and instead shot me to the heart.
Dave Stewart's colours are just so much part of the warp and weave of the story and the art that they are nearly invisible. They convey the mood and sharpen the detail at every turn, never simply decorating they reveal and and reinforce the story. Clem Robbins simply shows how lettering is an essential aspect to making a successful comic, with variety, clever emphasis and unerring judgement he gives a voices to the cast that are clear and resonant. A fantastic comic with a punch to the heart like a blow from the Right Hand of Doom itself.

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