Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Double Dose of Mignola

I love the HELLBOY movies but my acquaintance with the comics was pretty much nil. Back in the 80s I was hugely into comic books, but that faded pretty much after I graduated college and ever since I've been capable of enjoying them to a degree, but also just not all that interested, with a few exceptions, like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels.

But I was browsing in a local library and was surprised to find that they had some of the Hellboy collections, and I figured, why not? I grabbed what I guessed was the first chronologically (I was right) and dipped in.

In many ways it served as the springboard for the movie, although with some fairly significant differences (like the romance between Hellboy and Liz, and the locations, etc.). The basic thrust is about Rasputin trying to awaken a group of celestial gods from their cocoons, although in a much more compact narrative.

I was also kind of surprised at how his "father," Prof. Bruttenholm ("Broom") is barely in the story at all. We're given some of the background story of how Hellboy was summoned, but then after that Broom dies almost immediately. This takes place after an arctic expedition to find a lost temple, and the resulting story involves a lot of frogs and an Innsmouthian sea captain's descendents.

Still, once you get over the shock of the differences from the movie, it's still a good read. I was interested by a brief appearance of some aliens monitoring the cocoons of the celestial gods, and wondering if they'll ever appear again.

Another library yielded something else worth checking out...

Mignola only did the illustrations; the text is by horror writer Christopher Golden. It's set in a sort of dark Europe, just after WWI but also beset with a dreadful plague that's above and beyond the Spanish Flu and instead has more to do with vampires and demons.

A group of men converge on a tavern in a ruined city. Each is a friend of a Lord Baltimore (nothing to do with the city), and each has had experiences with the supernatural. One has a tale of a demonic bear possessing a soldier; another a tale of a town haunted by a gigantic puppet made from a tree that drew evil to it. And one tale set in South America deals with a lake haunted by a murderous demon.

But through it all is Lord Baltimore, who inadvertently wakened the spirits who are causing the plague, and those same spirits have claimed his family. Now he's on a quest to defeat them once and for all...

It's a little slow and clunky at spots, I have to admit. I once put it aside for a couple of weeks and then started up again. But when it goes full-throttle, it's got some eerie and memorable scenes. The ending is a bit of a let-down, though; it just seems to stop with an image that doesn't make much sense.

But still, it's an enjoyable bit of fun, and worth checking out.

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