Thursday, April 07, 2011

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt

Hellboy is a unique book in a couple ways beyond the amazing art and crafting of Mignola's macabre and oddly humorous world. First, it's a rare book that "stuck," a smaller title that endured long enough to steadily grow devoted followers. And unlike the majority of classic comics characters, fans of Hellboy have been there since it's beginning. While that's going on -gasp- 18 years now, it's a far cry from the decades upon decades heaped onto Marvel and DC historians. There is a much younger generation that knows the whole of Hellboy and has grown along with it.

Second, Hellboy is fortunate to have a greater than average readership of "people who don't read comics." That is, an audience outside of the weekly warriors and die hards. Certainly a feature film or two helped grow this audience, but I'd bet far more people are going to be familiar with Hellboy than with, say, Booster Gold.

Hellboy's roots will always be in the comics, found in increasingly better formats as trades and Library Editions. Even though I resigned myself to the Library Editions at first sight, it is difficult to not pick up a new trade. Hellboy: The Wild Hunt is one of the most recent, and one of my favorites. What sets The Wild Hunt apart is that it is not only a great self-contained story, but a huge payoff to longtime Hellboy readers. Many old plot threads and characters start coming together out of seemingly forgotten tales and quickly build to a fever pitch. There is a foreboding finality to it all, as the book as a whole begins to build to the crisis point that may or may not define Hellboy's existence. Mignola as a storyteller is firing on all cylinders here, sweeping through his mythology with bravado and giving all those around the campfire a rollicking good time.

Mignola has a firm grasp on the story, probably more so than ever, and does treat us to his artwork in chapter breaks and covers. It's a shame that he can't maintain the work on actual story art, but... not really. Hellboy's cache is such that is can draw in some of the greatest talent in the field. The Wild Hunt brings on Duncan Fegredo, who is no stranger to the pages of Hellboy already. And I LOVE Duncan Fregredo! Always have. Fegredo's interpretation of the house that Mignola built is filled with the wonderful contrasts and interspersions of detail that make Hellboy unique. The populating characters are eccentric, the environments mysterious, and the monsters epic. It's not as minimalist a look as Mignola's signature, which is good, there's no real point in xeroxing. Fegredo's personality shines through the character and does a tremendous justice to the world he inhabits. It's awesome.

It's not a huge secret that Mignola is wrapping up Hellboy to meet its climactic end (literally), and book like The Wild Hunt keeps the anticipation at peak levels.

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