Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows takes a look at Hellboy Volume Three, the hardback which reprints Conqueror Worm, The Island and The Third Wish
Hellboy Volume Three: Conqueror Worm and Strange Places
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Mike Mignola
Colourist: Dave Stewart
Three volumes into the Hellboy canon and we have Conqueror Worm, a miniseries that introduces Lobster Johnson as a supporting character. To set the scene, we have film director Guillermo del Toro’s introduction to the story reprinted here. Del Toro was a fan of Hellboy before he made the two films adapting Mignola’s vision and this is evident here. Conqueror Worm is a classic Hellboy tale in the vein of Wake The Devil or even Seed of Destruction. Fighting evil Nazis who have brought something particularly nasty back from outer space, we get to see pulp hero Lobster Johnson fighting alongside Hellboy and co. Conqueror Worm is about a pair of Nazis, Von Klempt and his daughter, trying to bring about another Lovecraftian apocalypse, a throwback to the Second World War and Nazi scientist Oeming. Roger the homunculus plays a fairly large role in this again and his character arc is a fairly impressive one from when we first met him. It is a wild ride again, a slice of over the top pulp shenanigans from a creator who has really found his stride by this point.
There is an epilogue here with Hecate, the final fate of Rasputin and Hellboy’s destiny, which acts as a very dramatic postscript to the story. Visually as ever, Conqueror Worm has some magnificent moments with Mignola perfectly complimented by colourist Stewart.
The Third Wish is a little bit of a change of pace. Hellboy has quit the BPRD and decides to wander the world to try and work out his place in it. The Third Wish is a tale of mermaids and African sorcerors and feels more mythical and lowkey than something like Conqueror Worm. Mignola dedicates it to Hans Christian Andersen and William Hope Hodgson and it does feel like a Victorian fairy tale with a modern twist. His creation the Bog Roosh is a particularly fearsome adversary.
The Island, which follows it, is another mythical epic where he discovers the true history of the world and it offers more pointers to Hellboy’s fate. In terms of its look, it is a little more stripped back and nuanced with some beautiful panels. The scene where they sing the sea shanty at the beginning is some of the most elegant comic storytelling I’ve ever seen. At the end of The Island, a huge battle between Hellboy and faeriekind is foreshadowed.
The book ends with the alternate pages for The Island in pen and ink and it is intriguing to compare these with the ones he eventually went for in the finished series. It is also great to see Mignola’s comic art in black and white, taking nothing away from the colouring brilliance of Dave Stewart. We are also treated to the pencilled pages for his second attempt at the same story and this is another great glimpse into his work practices. Following these are character sketches from the three stories reprinted in here and again these give fans of Mignola the opportunity to see how he approaches the worlds he creates.
This third volume of the Hellboy library showcases Mignola’s versatility as a comics creator and illustrates Hellboy’s growing stature as a comics creator. He is as comfortable with pulp adventure stories as he is with a more traditional fairy story.