With the future of the comics industry still in flux, Brendan Allen and I are taking the opportunity to introduce each other to comics that the other might not have read. I’m more of a capes, laser guns and swords guy, while Brendan loves dark magic, criminals and things that go bump in the night. For my choice this week, I introduce him to one of the most influential superhero comics from outside the Big Two!
In 1993, Mike Mignola, John Byrne, and Mark Chiarello introduced the world to the world’s greatest paranormal investigator, Hellboy. Created by Mignola, the character popped up in several anthology shorts before his first eponymous miniseries, Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, the story we’re covering today!
When Hellboy is called home by his missing father, he’s drawn into the toughest mystery of his career so far. It’s one that will push him and his team to their limits. However, it will also give Hellboy some of the answers he’s wanted all his life, and he may not like what he finds!
Tony Thornley: So Brendan, I’m guessing you’re already familiar with Hellboy from one of the movies. Have you read anything from any of the Mignola/BPRD-verse before this?
Brendan Allen: Oh, yeah. I’ve actually read quite a few. I’ve been recently reviewing Frankenstein Undone. I’ve also written up Witchfinder and Joe Golem. Before those, I did Hellboy in Hell. I had just never read this original arc. I know. I know.
TT: That’s not much different from me! I’ve loved Hellboy since I saw the first movie, saw the second opening weekend, bought both animated films on DVD, but I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t read any of the comics until about 2 years ago. However, once I finally dug in, I really enjoyed this story.
I think the thing I was surprised the most by was how low key this first story is. If you come into this volume expecting the Indiana Jones style globe-trotting adventure of the films you’re not going to get that. (That does come in later volumes, of course.) However, I like it here, because it serves as a solid but kind of subdued and intimate introduction into Hellboy’s world.
BA: The opening sequence here looks a lot like the 2004 Guillermo Del Toro film. That’s about where the similarities end. With an origin story, I really expected a whole lot of exposition, but was pleasantly surprised that it’s still very mysterious. You’re right. You see some relics here and there, but there are still plenty of dark corners left to explore in Hellboy’s world. It’s a very satisfying story.
TT: My only problem with the writing is how purple the prose can be. It’s not horrible, but there are passages where my eyes glazed over a little bit. Mignola brought in John Byrne to help him with dialogue, and I feel like it gets overwhelming at times. It’s not bad, it’s just a lot.
BA: I dunno. The elaborate speech patterns made me imagine accents. Rasputin is Russian, yeah? Then there are the German Nazis, and the Doc, he’s what, British?
TT: You know, that’s a good point! Totally makes me look at that differently. (Sidebar- this is why these conversations are so fun!)
I adore the art. It’s dark, with a style that feels minimalist, but actually is packed with detail. Mignola’s characters have so much personality too. A great example is the opening of the first issue, which explains Hellboy’s origins. In this mini, there’s only two characters in this scene that show up again, but each of them are interesting enough in what we see that we know there’s stories to tell (but may never be told) featuring them.
BA: I’ve really been enjoying Mike Mignola’s quarantine commissions on Twitter. He’s got a very distinct style. It’s moody and charming and uniquely stylized. Deceptively simple, instantly recognizable. You can almost tell a Mignola joint from across the room.
TT: Oh for sure, even in his early days. His design sense is fantastic too. The Cavendish house, the setting of three-quarters of this story, is this lavish Victorian haunted house. But it’s sitting on top of a cavern full of elaborate Lovecraftian statues, and it’s set on a desolate lake. All of it is just gorgeous, and it’s one just one example of Mignola’s design sense.
So what’s the verdict?
BA: I really liked it. I mean, it isn’t that far of a stretch. There are a lot of pieces in this book that fit right into my pet genres. It’s got the paranormal elements, obviously, but Big Red is kind of a detective, right? There’s noir. Then it’s got all the weird historical references, and I love that stuff. You pulled this one into your queue as a ringer.
TT: Hah! Not even a little bit! What’s next on the docket?
BA: Next up is a funky little crossover that I really dig, BOOM! Studios’ Kong on the Planet of the Apes. We’ll have Comicon’s Editor-In-Chief Erik Amaya weighing in with us as well.
TT: I can’t wait! You’ll have to forgive me for the puns I’m going to make in advance.
We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops, that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.
If your local comic store is temporarily closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, Dark Horse Comics is currently offering Hellboy: Seed of Destruction for free on Comixology or as part of an omnibus collecting the first three years of Hellboy stories for $7.50. If you prefer physical collections, TWAF has the omnibus available for $19.99.