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The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part XI: The Storm and The Fury!

February 12th, 2016
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My epic project to re-read Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning rolls on!

What began as a series of sporadic mini-series and short-stories featuring the big red occult investigator has deepened over the past twenty years into what is, for my money, the richest and most consistently entertaining comic book universe of stories out there.  Click here for part one, in which I discussed the very first Hellboy tale: the four-part mini-series Seed of Destruction.  Click here for part two, in which I discussed The Wolves of Saint August, The Corpse and the Iron Shoes, and Wake the Devil.  Click here for part three, in which I discussed a variety of Hellboy short stories including The Right Hand of Doom and Box Full of Evil.  Click here for part four, in which I discussed Hellboy’s last mission for the B.P.R.D.: Conquerer Worm.  Click here for part five, in which I discussed the beginning of a series of B.P.R.D. spin-offs and a whole new expansion of the Hellboy universe: Plague of Frogs.  Click here for part six, in which I discussed the major shift in the Hellboy story that took-place in The Third Wish and The Island.  Click here for part seven, in which I discussed the incredible B.P.R.D. mini-series that became the new central focus of the continuing Hellboy saga.  Click here for part eight, in which Hellboy finally returns to the spotlight with Darkness Calls.  Click here for part nine, in which the Hellboy universe expands with spin-off series focusing on Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien, and the founding of the B.P.R.D.  And click here for part ten, in which I discussed the “Scorched Earth” trilogy of B.P.R.D. mini-series that wrapped up the series to that point and began the “Hell on Earth” story-line.

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Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain (2010) — This is a lovely, melancholy story about a Russian soldier trapped at the bottom of the ocean since 1948.  The undead Iosif’s story seems complete in this two-parter — I never dreamed that we’d see him again, but he’s gone on to become such an important character!  Very cool.  (By the way, I very much suspect that my initial suspicions from this re-read are correct, and that the Iosif glimpsed in B.P.R.D.: 1946 is the same Iosif who is given this unfortunate suicide mission by Varvara in 1948.  Also, it’s interesting to see Iosif meet Varvara here, as their relationship will soon entirely change!)  As an aside, I wonder who this guy Vasily is?  He’s sent from the Special Sciences department after the burgonet — this feels like the introduction of a significant character, but I don’t believe we have seen him again.  Curious.  Another aside: Abe mentions Professor O’Donnell — guess he worked for the Bureau as far back as ’82!

Hellboy: The Storm (2010) — We return to Hellboy’s saga and issue #1 kicks off with a series of absolutely stunning illustrations by Duncan Fegredo, showing the English landscapes as the storm clouds gather.  The noble dead of Britain are rising from their graves, while the evil Nimue has murdered the faerie Queen Mab.

In issue #2, we learn more of Nimue’s past, while Gruagach meets Merlin’s ghost (who Nimue seduced and betrayed) and begins to see the folly of his actions and what he has unleashed.  He sees visions, from Merlin, of ruined cities and the Ogdru Hem unleashed upon Earth — just like Liz has been seeing!  Meanwhile, Hellboy sees the huge Ogdru Hem at the Salton Sea (unleashed in B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #5).  It’s fun to see Hellboy’s story finally begin to tie together, somewhat, with what’s been happening over in B.P.R.D. these past few years.  In issue #3, Hellboy makes a tantalizing promise: “When this is all over, I’m going back to the Bureau.  Looks like they could use some help these days.”  Wow, did that give me a thrill when I originally read it.  I’m disappointed this promise is as-yet unfulfilled; I really hope this happens soon.

The homeless man following Hellboy is revealed to be the bearded guy with the snake-staff from The Wild Hunt, and in turn we learn that my suspicion was correct and this is in fact Astaroth who we first saw back in Box Full of Evil.  (Look closely at his appearance in Box Full of Evil and you’ll see that distinctive orange ring.)  We’re going to learn a lot more about Astaroth’s family connection to Hellboy soon in Hellboy in Hell.

Hellboy refuses to take up Arthur’s sword and lead the British dead.  Instead, in a shocking scene, he makes peace with his nemesis the Baba Yaga and gives her his eye in exchange for her help!  That is an unbelievable moment!  And the Ogdru Jahad — the big bad looming over these stories since the very beginning — finally re-enter the story, as the beast is born again through the flesh of Nimue.  This is a hell of a cliffhanger!!

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B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: New World (2010) — The B.P.R.D. title changes to B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth, and this first mini-series establishes this New World in which our characters find themselves.  Abe is out tracking Captain Daimio (missing since the jaguar spirit took him over back in Killing Ground).  Devon’s mistrust of Abe heats up.  The B.P.R.D. is operating world-wide now that they have U.N. funding, and Kate struggles to keep charge of a world spiraling out of control.  In issue #3, we learn that a volcano eruption in Texas has killed millions.  The scales are rising and the world is changing, and our B.P.R.D. heroes seem hopelessly outmatched.  This is hugely compelling story-telling.

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Meanwhile, B.P.R.D. agent Carla Giarocco (introduced in corpse form in King of Fear) is introduced in the flesh.  We learn that the B.P.R.D. is growing a new clone body for Johann, but it doesn’t seem to be working properly.  And we get yet another reason to question Panya’s intentions, as Johann catches her pet pelican/monkey trying to unlock the other hybrid animals.  We also see, in #3, that Darryl the Wendigo is with Daimio.  Just what is going on with those two?

The focus in issues #3-5 shifts to a series of mysterious disappearances in British Columbia.  It’s a nice story, but it feels very small after the last few epic mini-series.  And I feel there is too much exposition needed to explain everything in issue #5.  This mini-series is more interesting for the more long-term story-lines that it puts into play.

Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil (2010) — Richard Corben returns to illustrate two short stories.  A killer haunted house yarn takes up the bulk of the issue and it’s great.  The second story is a short bit of business with some angry Egyptian gods at a museum.  I love the framing device of the zombies watching movies!

Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead (2010-11) — This story, set in 1966, is an interesting follow-up to the idea revealed in B.P.R.D.: 1947 that all of the world’s vampires agreed to lay low until a secret date in the future when they would return to take over the world, once mankind had forgotten how to fight them.  When is this future date??  I hope we see this story come to fruition some-time down the line.  My favorite part of this story is the horrifying panel of the vampires unleashed in the future.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Gods (2011) — This three-issue mini-series would, sadly, be Guy Davis’ last as the regular B.P.R.D. artist.  He is sorely missed; his work on B.P.R.D. was extraordinary.  This story introduces Fenix, the 16-year-old girl who can psychically predict disasters.  Issue #1 is fantastic, as we follow Fenix and her fellow vagabonds, getting a fuller picture of the spreading chaos in the U.S., with cities everywhere destroyed by monsters.  (Issue #2’s briefing scene gives us more info on the rise of these new nomadic “bedouin” clans.)  We don’t actually see any familiar characters in issue #1 until Abe pops up on the last page!  Very cool.

In issue #2, Professor O’Donnell unloads a whole mess of back-story, comparing what is happening around the world to the fall of Hyperborea.  He describes how Ogdru Hem spirits could sneak into the world to take possession of beasts.  (This is what happened to the woman’s baby in New World.)  O’Donnell tells how some priests survived who could destroy the Ogdru Hem — and we see the familiar priest with the red hand-print on his head!  And we are finally given his name: Shonchin!  We see how Shonchin and the other priests used tools to harness Vril energy — like the object that Liz used back in B.P.R.D.: The Black Flame!  O’Donnell makes a point of saying that the shamans were nomadic.  Are we to conclude, then, that Fenix is one of these shamans?

In issue #, Fenix tells Abe: “I know who you are” and shoots him.  We are still reeling from the repercussions of that moment in the current stories, years later.  This incident begins Abe’s transformation into I-don’t-know-exactly-what, and Fenix’s statement is still mysterious.  This is a sad moment as it’s the last we’ll see of old, familiar Abe.  When he wakes from his coma, he will be transformed.

I love Ryan Sook’s gorgeous covers on this mini-series.

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B.P.R.D.: The Dead Remembered (2011) — This three-issue story shines the spotlight on fourteen year-old Liz back in 1976, showing us her first time out in the field with Professor Bruttenholm.  It’s nice to see the connection to Lord Henry Hood (who popped up in Darkness Calls as well as in Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels), as Bruttenholm & Liz try to deal with the ghost of another of his victims.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Monsters (2011) –– I didn’t think that Guy Davis could be replaced, but Tyler Crook steps up to the plate and does terrific work here in his initial run as the series’ new regular artist (though we’d start seeing a rotation of artists as the frequency of new stories would progress).  We get to catch up with Liz and see what’s become of her since she disappeared at the end of King of Fear.  She’s mixed up with a bunch of hillbillies, but nowhere is safe from the new chaos spreading across the Earth.

We also get to see Kate watching news reports of a terrible storm centered over England, a nice reference to what’s going on with Hellboy in The Storm and The Fury.

Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish (2011) — This is a dynamite, hugely-weird Hellboy short-story, gorgeously illustrated by the great Kevin Nowlan.  A group of kids try to summon the devil — using a book written by Gustav Strobl, the mysterious man who was associated with Memnan Saa, and who will be a major player in the Abe Sapien solo series soon to come! — but wind up getting kidnapped by aliens and experimented upon!  It is super-weird to see sci-fi aliens in Hellboy.  This seems to be a different species of extra-terrestrials than the one we saw back in Seed of Destruction and Conquerer Worm, but we do see one of those original aliens imprisoned on the flying saucer.  And did I mention the kid with a cow for a head?  Like I said, weird!!

Hellboy: Being Human (2011) — Richard Corben continues to kill it with another Hellboy one-shot.  Shortly after reading of young Liz’s first mission for the B.P.R.D. (in The Dead Remembered), here we get a flashback to Roger’s first mission, going out with Hellboy some-time following the events of Almost Colossus.

Hellboy: The Fury (2011) — This three-issue tale brings to a climax the sprawling four-part story begun in Darkness Calls and continued in The Wild Hunt and The Storm.  Duncan Fegredo does the best work of his career bringing this huge story to life.  This mini-series is basically an insane three-issue-long fight as Hellboy finally confronts Nimue, now consumed by the spirit of the Ogdru Jahad.  The force of this battle decimates England.  (Holy cow, issue #3 opens by showing us an innocent family — parents and kids — incinerated on page one!)

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We learn of George Washbrook, who survived World War I by a drink from the Holy Grail.  He takes Excalibur from Alice and becomes King for a day, leading the noble dead of England against Nimue’s assembled armies.  In a horrifying scene in issue #2, Alice finds a field filled with their corpses as far as the eye can see, and we discover that these two armies wiped one another out while Hellboy and Numue battled.  We see that any witches that had survived choose to drown themselves to avoid what is coming.  In a wonderful dip back into Hellboy continuity, we see the headless King Vold (from the short story King Vold) leading the Wild Hunt.

In issue #3, the spirit of Queen Mab tells Alice what will happen: “Monsters long buried will rise again and for a while it will be their world.”  We see a now-familiar scene of the huge Ogdru Hem creatures standing over decimated cities — but this is no longer a vision of the future, this is happening right now in the B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” story-line.  Queen Mab continues: “…till it all burns” and we see the same future that Memnan Saa showed Liz.  Presumably this is Liz’s Vril fire covering the globe to destroy all of the Ogdru Hem.  “Then, out of the ashes, a new world will arise.”  Is this the best we can hope for?  Is this where the Hellboy story is going to end??  Mab goes on, stating that Hellboy buys time for “his friends to do what they must,” and we see an image of Abe, Liz and — surprisingly — Roger.  “So when the new world comes, at least the spirit of man will survive.”  Looks like Mab has just spelled out the end of the Hellboy story.

With some assistance from Sir Edward Grey and Vasilisa (from Darkness Calls), Hellboy is able to kill Nimue, but as she dies she pulls out Hellboy’s heart, causing his body to crumble and his spirit to fall into Hell.  This marks the end of Hellboy’s life as we know it.  His story will continue in Hellboy in Hell…

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Morgan Le Fay and Gruagach head off together to “where such as you and I must always go in the end.”  I’m not sure exactly what that means, nor and I clear on what Morgan’s goal was in all of this.  I’d love for Morgan’s allegiance to be clarified at some point down the line.

It’s a hell of an ending.  Hellboy is dead, England lies in ruins, and we get a glimpse of lilies growing in the rubble (a nice nod back to The Nature of the Beast.)  Amazing!!  This was a thrilling finale to the Hellboy saga that began in Darkness Calls, and a huge milestone in the continuing Hellboy story, now twenty-years-old and still going strong.

I’ll be back soon to discuss the continuation of the B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” saga along with the start of new Lobster Johnson adventures and more!

The issues discussed in this post are collected in: Hellboy vol 11 The Bride of Hell and OthersHellboy vol. 12 The Storm and the Fury, B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth vol 1. New World and vol. 2 Gods and Monsters and Abe Sapien vol. 2 The Devil Does Not Jest.

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