The Cruelest Sea
♦Tripwire gave its Contributing Writer OLLY MACNAMEE the task of reviewing Hellboy: Into The Silent Sea, written by Mike Mignola and drawn by Gary Gianni, out now in hardcover from Dark Horse…
Hellboy: Into The Silent Sea
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Gary Gianni
From start to finish, this original graphic novel (or, should it be ‘graphic novella’ given it’s a slim volume, but satisfying?) – and only Hellboy’s third to date – wears its influences proudly and openly on each and every page as Mignola and Gianni bring their own version of The Rime of The Ancient Mariner (alongside a myriad of literary echoes that underpin and inform the story) to bear on the growing Hellboy mythos. Indeed, Mignola has made the Mignolaverse one wherein the improbable is made probable as folklore, myths and legends integrate with Lovecraft, Coleridge and other great Gothic writers to form a cohesive, albeit creepy, shared universe in which Hellboy is our greatest hope, having done a bang up job so far.
Gianni himself – a mixture of Piranese and Gustave Doré – is an absolute fit for Hellboy, and always has been, having been a big contributing artist over the years. Dore himself illustrated The Rime of The Ancient Mariner in the 19th century and in the mysterious dark lady in Mignola’s seafaring story, we have her immediate relative in Doré’s depiction of Coleridge’s Night-mare Life-in-Death herself; all dark shadows, ominous mystery and pale obscurity.
Hellboy, having no doubt been hardened to such sights, takes it all in his stride, as per usual, leaving the reader to marvel at the artwork and, as mentioned earlier, the merging of worlds. There is mention of the Black Goddess, Heca Emen Raa, a firm favourite of the Hellboy history, and there are creeping creatures straight out of the fervid imaginations of Lovecraft too, while echoes of Melville/Moby Dick also cast its shadow over proceedings. It all adds up to a melancholy, dream-like mise-en-scene, similar to that in The Ancient Mariner too. Each page feels like a piece of art etched out meticulously onto metal before being printed, a la Doré, onto the comic book page. Skillfully, delicate lines fill any gaps, offering the reader a brooding, breathing satisfyingly solid world of swirling skies and textures. Dave Stewart’s ever so subtle washed out colours only emphasis Hellboy’s own contrasting bright red skin, as though Hellboy, like the Ancient Mariner, does not belong in this midnight world. Whether he returns from this one-way trip lies with you, the reader, to find out. It’s a mesmerizing, magnificent (boat) ride, should you wish to board.
The story sees Hellboy – fresh from his island adventures (Hellboy: The Island) – imprisoned by a boat full of spectral salty seadogs. It may well be the 21st century – or at least that’s what Hellboy thinks – but these seafaring sailors and ne’er-do-wells seem to think it’s still the 19th century. Has Hellboy fallen back in time, or has this ghost ship simply been sailing aimlessly for so long? This uncertainty only adds to the sense of nightmare and foreboding that dominates the plot, but it’s one that Hellboy rarely seems worried about. As I said, he’s a hardened veteran of these kind of things and he’s been there, done that and bought the t-shirt many times. He’s the Dirty Harry of the supernatural world and as such will only ask questions after the hard work’s been done. Did he fire six crucifixes or only five? Any demon or demi-god should always be asking themselves whether they’re feeling lucky.
Mignola and Gianni do it again; offering up a full-length original graphic novella (that’s what I’m calling it!) that Hellboy fans will, no doubt, lap up. Hellboy – all no nonsense and stoicism – takes on all comers while aboard this ghostship, while Mignola’s universe is further built upon and fleshed out in this homage to Coleridge (and others), giving Hellboy literary pretensions deserved of its own standing among comic books’ best. Hellboy continues to entertain and, over twenty years on, still stands out as one of the more original of titles out there on the shelves today.
Hellboy: Into The Silent Sea is available now from the usual online suspects. Or, ask your LCBS to get it in!