Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows takes a look at Hellboy Volume Two, the hardback which reprints The Chained Coffin, The Right Hand Of Doom and a number of short stories
Hellboy Volume Two: The Chained Coffin and The Right Hand Of Doom
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Mike Mignola
Colourists: Dave Stewart, Matt Hollingsworth and James Sinclair
This second volume in Dark Horse’s lavish Hellboy library shows Mignola stretching his creative wings and reprints series The Right Hand Of Doom but also a lot of short stories and one shot The Wolves of St August.
By this point, Mignola has grown in confidence significantly as a creator and this volume opens up with one of the funniest Hellboy stories ever, Pancakes, which displays his deft touch with humour in just two pages.
The Nature of The Beast is a short but fun tale of him fighting a dragon, King Vold is a Norwegian dark fairy tale and then we have The Corpse. Hellboy has always managed to incorporate mordantly dark humour and The Corpse, which is only 24 pages long, is a brilliant example of how Mignola has this unique ability to fuse horror with it. There are moments here which genuinely make the reader laugh. Following this is the Iron Shoes, an Irish folk tale which is very short but a fun read. Visually, Mignola knows how to tell a story and pack in a great deal into what is a six page tale.
The Baba Yaga, Heads and Goodbye Mr Tod are entertaining vignettes, showing off his ability with the comic short story. The Varcolac and A Christmas Underground continue this run of action-packed short Hellboy stories.
Next up is The Wolves Of St August, a 40 page one shot which sees Mignola tapping into Dracula and Bram Stoker in a wonderfully rich and Gothic tale of a village in France cursed by a priest many centuries ago. Hellboy is drawn to this case because a friend of his, priest Father Edward Kelly, is murdered in the town, a victim of this ancient curse. It is a werewolf story but one that Mignola infuses with atmosphere and emotion.
Almost Colossus follows up on the story of homunculus Roger, introduced in Wake The Devil, in a case that sees Hellboy try to save the life of fellow BPRD member Liz Sherman, whose very life force was sapped out of her when she touched Roger. To make matters worse, Roger’s fellow homunculus is bent on world domination. Almost Colossus is quite short, only 40 odd pages, but Mignola manages to get a lot of plot into so few pages. The chemistry between Hellboy and the other members of BPRD is well-handled and it has really developed by this point. Mignola succeeds in investing Roger with real humanity and he becomes a character we root for. Visually it moves between the dark Gothic horror and the brighter pulp adventure palette and credit again must be given to the colourist here, James Sinclair working with Dave Stewart.
The Right Hand Of Doom, which follows Almost Colossus, is another short story but this one is so pivotal for Hellboy as it explores its destiny and his legacy. Only Mignola could convey such drama and supernatural suspense in just 10 pages.
This second hardcover ends with Box Full Of Evil, a story that deals with a man, Igor Bromhead, who frees a demon from a locked box. We do learn a little more about Hellboy’s destiny and he turns down his legacy again here even though he is offered the crown and the means to bring about the apocalypse by demon Asteroth. It’s a short but powerful story which again shows Hellboy battling against his upbringing and his pre-determined path.
Like its predecessor, volume two contains a nifty back section with character sketches from Mignola, fascinating for fans of the character.
Volume Two expands Mignola’s vision for Hellboy and contains what are arguably two of the best Hellboy stories ever, The Wolves of St August and The Corpse. It displays Mignola’s versatility as a comic creator and it cements Hellboy’s reputation as the most significant superhero/ comic creation of the past twenty-five years. You can see things like Dracula, Robert E Howard and Jack Kirby’s canon here but the work transcends its influences. Again the production here also means you can enjoy his work at a higher quality than you would in a regular trade paperback as well.
Volume Two is another incredible showcase of the work of modern comics’ most distinctive creator.