Warning: Spoilers follow.
Bob: Hello everyone and Happy Hellboy week! Inspired, Jake and I have decided to do something a little different for our weekly review. Just so everyone knows, that at the time of writing this, Jake and I have only read up to the second trade, Wake the Devil. We're new to this universe, and neither have any idea where the story is going...
Bob: First impressions: I love Mignola's art style. I love this wonderful world he’s created and this rich tapestry of characters and concepts he's filled it with. I love alternate history stories, and Mignola's drawn heavily from a variety of sources, including World War 2, the Napoleonic Wars, as well as Norse Mythology, Greek Mythology, while putting his own fantastical spin on things. What did you think?
Jake: I would say what’s most appealing about this story is the large and stormy cloud of doom looming over everything that happens. In Wake the Devil, Hellboy is hit with the truth of his future, and knowing that this is only the beginning of many more nasty things to come, made for a very chilling and very gripping read.
Bob: Well, if you reduce the character’s story to its fundamentals, what you essentially have is the Devil fighting against his true nature, to be a hero. I think that aspect alone is so incredibly grand, and to have that idea centred around character who is so full of brutish swagger, gruffly thumbing his nose at his destiny, makes for a compelling story.
Jake: That’s a big part of the character’s appeal.
Bob: Jake-O, how do you think the second trade compares to the first? John Byrne performed scripting duties on Seed of Destruction, however Wake the Devil was Mignola’s first solo-outing as writer. Did you miss John Byrne at all?
Jake: Though I very much adore John Byrne as a writer and an artist, and you can still feel his influence, I honestly found Wake the Devil to be that much more exciting and fun. With Mignola fully at the reins, he’s given his characters proper life.
Jake: Totally. Everybody loves a solid team and in the case of the BRPD, you get a non-cheesy, eclectic group of characters, engaging in high-adventure with a double dose of action. When the teams split up, we’re treated to multiple action sequences. I love it!
Bob: That being said, most of the team die in tragedy.
Jake: Every team has to have cannon fodder.
Bob: I wonder if that was Mignola playing with our expectations. Setting up a cast of heroes for us to get behind... only to have most of them abruptly and unexpectedly killed off, almost as quickly as we meet them.
Jake: The less human characters the better. That way, Mignola gets to draw monsters more often.
Bob: I love Mignola's monsters. I love his animal usage; so far we've seen monster frogs, ravens, dogs... I thought his version of Anubis was probably the best and most original I’ve seen. What’s been your favourite Mignola monster so far?
Jake: Witches of Thessaly cracked me up in the best possible way. More than the monsters themselves, I enjoy the reaction they evoke from Hellboy, who completely disregards the fact that he himself is a demon.
Bob: I think it's a fascinating and an integral component to his character, due to the 50 or so years of being humanized by our culture; he identifies much more with people than his kin, at this point.
Jake: Well, who are his kin? Can we really say that his kin are monsters just because he is one? He was raised by humans, which makes his kin human, doesn’t it?
Bob: Well it's clearly the family he's chosen; Hecate, one of the big bads from this story goes so far as to challenge him on this point. It's interesting though, the implication that prolonged exposure to human civilization can make even the Devil desire to be heroic. I can’t speak as to whether he intended it or not, but I think Mike Mignola has created in Hellboy a story that's strikingly humanist.
Bob: It’s interesting that Mignola chose to give his fictional character a real world adversary, not only that but Rasputin appears to be the primary antagonist as well. I was pleased when he returned as a spirit in Wake the Devil, and we were able to see more of his backstory and have his motivations fleshed out.
Jake: It surprised me that Rasputin was portrayed as a tortured soul. In fact, I felt the comic afforded him as much character progression as the good guys, which was refreshing to see.
Bob: Agreed. What did you think of Liz and Abe Sapien?
Jake: They’re both great characters, as compelling as Hellboy in their own ways. Liz has a dark and dangerous power that if unleashed, can deal serious carnage, and she’s very aware of this and has to continually deal with it, which is similar to Hellboy’s arc of coming to terms with what he is.
Bob: Liz's backstory is absolutely fascinating, what with having murdered her own family. I love how subtle Mignola is about it as well; he doesn’t have Liz constantly remind us through dialogue, like a bad TV character, her history is just omnipresent on her face, and she doesn't even have to say a word.
Jake: That’s a good point. How often does Batman tell the reader that he’s a billionaire whose parents were shot, and now roams the streets of Gotham, protecting the innocent as… BATMAN! It can get nauseating. Mignola, however, just ropes us in with a new story and doesn’t beat around the bush with any unnecessary filler.
Bob: Well, I know with TV shows it's often mandated that at the top of every episode, exposition needs to be given to catch the viewer up. Though, what happens though if viewers are already caught up? You’re just giving them the same information 10 or 12 times in row. Which is the beauty of creator owned material like Hellboy, it’s not so straightjacketed by rules... They can take more liberties, and y'know... trust their readership.
Jake: That’s the amazing thing about comics. We have these genius creators who have the opportunity to do whatever the hell they want, the sky is the limit and the crazier the idea the better.
Bob: Well the proof is in the pudding.
Jake: Pudding I will continue to eat.
Jake: Well, based on what we’ve read so far, I'd like to have the sense of doom they’re cultivating really pay off. I'd like to see Ogdru Jahad win. Let’s see B.P.R.D. deal with that crazy mess!
Bob: I think you're right. I think post-apocalyptic is the place to go with this book.
Jake: I want a Dark Empire series of events.
Bob: Do you want to see Hellboy go to the dark side of the force?
Jake: Hellboy teams up with Rasputin, betrays his friends and creates devastation, and then it all ends up being a trick to get closer to the Emperor… I mean Rasputin.
Bob: I don't want it to be a trick. If Hellboy goes dark side, I want to it to be full dark side. Having it just so he can just get close to the bad guy is a convenient narrative and moral loop hole. Though, if Mignola decides to have Hellboy go full dark side, do you think that, a). Hellboy will commit some genuinely despicable acts? And if so, b). Would the readership be able to handle it?
Jake: Hmmm… the readership should be able to handle it. In Dark Empire, readers lost their minds when confronted with a corrupted Luke Skywalker, but it made for good reading.
Bob: Did Luke Skywalker actually do anything bad though? Or was he just full of bluster?
Jake: Hang on, hang on… Have you not read Dark Empire?
Bob: By chance, I have read precisely one Star Wars comic.... and it was from Dark Empire...
Bob: …and this was when I was 9.
Jake: READ DARK EMPIRE!
Bob: Alright, alright… Hellboy! Predictions! Dark side!
Jake: FULL DARKSIDE!
Bob: FULL DARKSIDE, no redemption possible.
Jake: If you could wrap 10 words around Wake the Devil what would they be?
Bob: Do I have to use all 10 words?
Jake: Of course, swear if you have to.
Bob: Okay, hang on...
Bob: Watch the Devil fight his nature… and an immortal Russian.
Jake: LOL! I have a haiku inspired by Wake the Devil...
Jake: Hellboy, Wake the Devil,
Full of monsters and Nazis,
Bob: Man... I can't remember how haiku's work exactly, but I think it's excellent!
Jake: Well, one day I will teach you how to haiku and we will have a haiku-off. Closing thoughts?
Bob: Happy Hellboy week everybody! Everyone buy Hellboy Vol 2. Wake the Devil! Even though we've spoiled all the good parts, you can read them in context! Jake?
Jake: A big, BIG thank you to Mike Mignola, who has a lot to be proud about. And he now has two new fans!
Bob: Thanks for reading everyone, goodnight!