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The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part XIX: For Whom The Bell Tolls

December 28th, 2016
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And so, at last, we come to the end of my epic project to re-read Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga!

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. Click here for part eleven, in which I discussed the death of Hellboy in The Storm and The Fury.  Click here for part twelve, in which I discuss the new B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” story-line.  Click here for part thirteen, in which I discuss the game-changing B.P.R.D. mini-series The Return of the Master along with the beginning of Hellboy in Hell.  Click here for part fourteen, in which I discuss the beginning of the Abe Sapien ongoing series, as well as the great B.P.R.D. story The Lake of Fire.  Click here for part fifteen, in which I discuss new adventures of Sledgehammer 44, Witchfinder, Lobster Johnson, and Abe Sapien, as well as the epic B.P.R.D.story-line The Reign of the Black Flame.  Click here for part sixteen, in which I discuss Abe Sapien: Sacred Places and A Darkness So Great, B.P.R.D. Flesh and Stone, and the first Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. mini-series. Click here for part seventeen, in which I discuss Frankenstein: Underground and a variety of Abe Sapien and B.P.R.D. adventures.  Click here [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part XVIII: End of Days

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

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. Click here for part eleven, in which I discussed the death of Hellboy in The Storm and The Fury.  Click here for part twelve, in which I discuss the new B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” story-line.  Click here for part thirteen, in which I discuss the game-changing B.P.R.D. mini-series The Return of the Master along with the beginning of Hellboy in Hell.  Click here for part fourteen, in which I discuss the beginning of the Abe Sapien ongoing series, as well as the great B.P.R.D. story The Lake of Fire.  Click here for part fifteen, in which I discuss new adventures of Sledgehammer 44, Witchfinder, Lobster Johnson, and Abe Sapien, as well as the epic B.P.R.D.story-line The Reign of the Black Flame.  Click here for part sixteen, in which I discuss Abe Sapien: Sacred Places and A Darkness So Great, B.P.R.D. Flesh and Stone, and the first Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. mini-series. Click here for part seventeen, in which I discuss Frankenstein: Underground and a variety of Abe Sapien and B.P.R.D. adventures.

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B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #135-139: End [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part XVII: Frankenstein Underground

My epic project to re-read Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning is in its home stretch!

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. Click here for part eleven, in which I discussed the death of Hellboy in The Storm and The Fury.  Click here for part twelve, in which I discuss the new B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” story-line.  Click here for part thirteen, in which I discuss the game-changing B.P.R.D. mini-series The Return of the Master along with the beginning of Hellboy in Hell.  Click here for part fourteen, in which I discuss the beginning of the Abe Sapien ongoing series, as well as the great B.P.R.D. story The Lake of Fire.  Click here for part fifteen, in which I discuss new adventures of Sledgehammer 44, Witchfinder, Lobster Johnson, and Abe Sapien, as well as the epic B.P.R.D. story-line The Reign of the Black Flame.  Click here for part sixteen, in which I discuss Abe Sapien: Sacred Places and A Darkness So Great, B.P.R.D. Flesh and Stone, and the first Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. mini-series.

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With this post, I’ve finally almost caught up with the Hellboy saga!  Onward…

Frankenstein Underground (2015) – This fantastic mini-series, gorgeously illustrated by Ben … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part XVI: A Darkness So Great

September 2nd, 2016
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My epic project to re-read Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning rolls on!

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. Click here for part eleven, in which I discussed the death of Hellboy in The Storm and The Fury.  Click here for part twelve, in which I discuss the new B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” story-line.  Click here for part thirteen, in which I discuss the game-changing B.P.R.D. mini-series The Return of the Master along with the beginning of Hellboy in Hell.  Click here for part fourteen, in which I discuss the beginning of the Abe Sapien ongoing series, as well as the great B.P.R.D. story The Lake of Fire.  Click here for part fifteen, in which I discuss new adventures of Sledgehammer 44, Witchfinder, Lobster Johnson, and Abe Sapien, as well as the epic B.P.R.D. story-line The Reign of the Black Flame.

Hellboy and the BPRD 1952.cropped

When I began this re-reading project and decided to write about it, I never dreamed it would result in this sixteen-part epic blog series.  I have never written about a comic-book series in as much depth.  But I’ve hugely enjoyed the process of keeping this on-line journal throughout my re-reading process.  I hope you’ve enjoyed coming with me … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part XV: The Reign of the Black Flame!

My epic project to re-read Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning has entered the home stretch!

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. Click here for part eleven, in which I discussed the death of Hellboy in The Storm and The Fury.  Click here for part twelve, in which I discuss the new B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” story-line.  Click here for part thirteen, in which I discuss the game-changing B.P.R.D. mini-series The Return of the Master along with the beginning of Hellboy in Hell.  Click here for part fourteen, in which I discuss the beginning of the Abe Sapien ongoing series, as well as the great B.P.R.D. story The Lake of Fire.

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We’re getting close to the end of this Hellboy Re-Reading Project blog post!!  It’s exciting to be so close to the end of this massive re-read.  Onward!

Abe Sapien #6-7: The Shape of Things to Come (2013) – Abe heads to Arizona and meets a spirited woman, … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy re-Reading Project Part XIV: Lake of Fire

My epic project to re-read Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning is finally nearing its conclusion!

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. Click here for part eleven, in which I discussed the death of Hellboy in The Storm and The Fury.  Click here for part twelve, in which I discuss the new B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” story-line.  Click here for part thirteen, in which I discuss the game-changing B.P.R.D. mini-series The Return of the Master along with the beginning of Hellboy in Hell.

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It’s exciting to be so close to the end of this massive re-read project.  Onward!

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #105-106: A Cold Day in Hell (2013) – This two-issue story brings a welcome focus onto Iosif and his relationship with Varvara.  The first page of issue #105 spells out the horror happening world-wide: monsters and upheaval and death.  Our heroes have proven to be woefully inadequate at stopping any of this.  Is this truly the end … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part XIII: The Return of the Master and Hellboy in Hell!

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. Click here for part eleven, in which I discussed the death of Hellboy in The Storm and The Fury.  Click here for part twelve, in which I discuss the new B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” story-line.

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Wow, we are nearing the home stretch of our journey through Hellboy’s twenty-year publication history!  But with the exciting expansion of the Hellboy universe over the past few years, we still have a lot of great stories to discuss.  Onward!

Lobster Johnson: The Prayer of Neferu (2012) – The Lobster confronts an Egyptian priestess trying to harness the spirits of the four dead high priests of Anubis as we get to enjoy a story first hinted at all the way back in 2007′s The Iron Prometheus #2.  It’s great to finally get to see the full story!  This one-shot features gorgeous art from Wilfredo Torres.… [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part XII: Hell on Earth!

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. Click here for part eleven, in which I discussed the death of Hellboy in The Storm and The Fury.

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Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever (2011) – Although the premise of Sir Edward Grey in America should be a hoot, I don’t much care for this follow-up to the far-superior first Edward Grey mini-series, In the Service of Angels.  Sir Edward seems almost out of character here, floundering and in over his head for almost the entire time.  This doesn’t feel to me much like the more confident Sir Edward we had met before.  And while it is terrific to see comic book great John Severin illustrating these pages — and boy is his work great — it felt to me like the wrong fit for a Witchfinder story.  I missed Ben Stenbeck’s smooth, crisp line.  I did enjoy the flashback sequence in … [continued]

 

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 … [continued]

 

The Top Fifteen Comic Book Series of 2015 — Part Two

And so we come to it at last, my final Best of 2015 list!

A few days ago I began listing my Fifteen Favorite Comic Book Series of 2015, listing numbers fifteen through six.

Here now are my Top Five:

5. Velvet (by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting) – What if Moneypenny was actually a former double-oh agent, now assigned to a desk at HQ but forced back into the field by a terrible betrayal?  That’s the brilliant hook of Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Epting’s phenomenal spy yarn Velvet.  The year is 1973, and Velvet Templeton has been, for eighteen years, the secretary and right-hand woman for the Director of Arc-7, a super-secret British organization of spies.  When their best agent (think James Bond) is murdered on assignment, Velvet finds herself framed for the deed and on the run from everyone she once trusted.  Velvet is a rich conspiracy thriller and a loving homage to the mystique of sixties-era James Bond adventures  Mr. Brubaker’s twisty story constantly has me guessing, trying to put the pieces together (just like Velvet herself is doing).  Mr. Epting’s art, meanwhile, is jaw-droppingly astounding, filled with incredible period detail.  I don’t know how he does it.  I love this book and, as I wrote last year, I desperately need it to come out more frequently.

4. James Bond (by Warren Ellis and Jason Masters) – One of the few 2015 comic book series that was better than Brubaker & Epting’s Bond-inspired saga is Warren Ellis and Jason Masters’ take on the actual double-oh-seven himself!  I’d never have expected to see the phenomenally talented Warren Ellis writing a licensed comic book series, but it’s a match made in heaven.  This James Bond series doesn’t feel like any other licensed comic book series that I have ever read.  This comic is brutal, take-no-prisoners story-telling.  I love Mr. Ellis’ depiction of Bond as a merciless “blunt instrument” of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  And Jason Masters’ art is extraordinary, with clean crisp lines that nevertheless manage to incorporate a staggering amount of detail into every panel.  It’s perfect for this series.  I love this team continues chronicling the adventures of James Bond 007 for many more years to come.

3. The Fade Out (by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips) – The latest collaboration between Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Phillips, the best team in comics, is a riveting whodunnit set in Hollywood of the nineteen-forties.  Hollywood screenwriter and drunk Charlie Parrish wakes up one morning to find himself in a room with the dead body of  young starlet Valeria Sommers.  As the story unfolds, Charlie finds himself in the middle of an ugly story whose tendrils stretch … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part X: The Black Goddess & The King of Fear

November 18th, 2015
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My epic project to re-read Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning rolls on!

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.!

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I was completely unaware when reading B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs that an epic story was beginning, one that would position the B.P.R.D. book as the center of the Hellboy universe and that would wind up rocking that universe to the core.  Things come to a head in the “Scorched Earth” trio of mini-series that I will discuss today (along with a few other stories): The Warning, The Black Goddess, and The King of Fear.  Onward!

B.P.R.D.: The Ectoplasmic Man (2008) – This one-shot gives us a glimpse into the origin of Johann Kraus, and what happened to him immediately following the death of his physical form in 2002.  I wish we’d learned more about the Chengdou disaster in China that wiped out so many psychics, thus setting Johann’s story in motion.

B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #1 (2008) – This was the first of a series of one-shots that told short stories set a few years prior to the current B.P.R.D. books, in the early days of their War on the Frogs.  In this one we see Roger hunting down the two surviving Cavendish brothers, who were transformed into frog-men back in Seed of Destruction.  It’s nice to see that dangling plot thread wrapped up, but there’s not much to this story.  Feels like this would have been an awesome … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part IX: The Iron Prometheus & Others!

Over the last several months I have undertaken an epic project: re-reading Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning!  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.

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Following Darkness Calls, we got three mini-series that explored supporting characters in the Hellboy universe: Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus, B.P.R.D.: 1946, and Abe Sapien: The Drowning.   These mini-series might have been disposable, but to my delight each wound up being hugely important in the larger Hellboy epic.  I will discuss each of them (and a few other stories!) below!

Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus (2007) – I didn’t think too much of The Iron Prometheus when I read it the first time back in 2007.  It seemed like a fun but ultimately irrelevant adventure of the pulp vigilante (who had been such a fascinatingly mysterious part of Wake the Devil and who had just recently re-emerged, in spirit-form, in B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground).  But over the years I have grown to understand what a HUGELY IMPORTANT story Iron Prometheus is.  It’s one of the most important Hellboy universe stories ever published.  We get so many incredible pieces of the puzzle here in this adventure!!!

The series opens with Jim Sacks, who is carrying a prototype Vril energy suit.  We saw photos of this in the scrapbooks that Johann found back in B.P.R.D. The Dead #3 and B.P.R.D.: Garden of [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part VIII: Darkness Calls

I have recently begun an epic project: re-reading Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning!  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 discuss 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 discuss on the incredible B.P.R.D. mini-series that became the new central focus of the continuing Hellboy saga.

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The Troll Witch and Others (2007) – The seventh Hellboy trade paperback collection, called The Troll Witch and Others, collects Makoma (which I reviewed in part 7 of my re-read) along with several other great short stories, all of which I had missed when they were originally published.  (Most of them appeared in Dark Horse’s various Book Of… short story collections.)  The Penanggalan has a spooky supernatural villain with an awesome name.  The Hydra and the Lion, which tells the story of a creature who might be the real Hercules, has what is possibly the single greatest line I have ever read in a comic book: “You think the little girl was the ghost of his pants?”  The Troll Witch is a very sweet, very sad story, my favorite of the collection.  It’s unusual in that Hellboy doesn’t fight anyone and winds up letting the creature he encounters live.  The Vampire of Prague is illustrated by comics master P. Craig Russell but it doesn’t work for me.  I wasn’t that interested in the story and felt Mr. Russell’s artwork was too light and bubbly for Hellboy.  (Though the story is notable in that it will be referred back to several years down the line in Hellboy in Hell.)  Dr. Karp’s Experiment is my second favorite story … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part VII: The Black Flame

I have recently begun an epic project: re-reading Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning!  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 discuss the major shift in the Hellboy story that took-place in The Third Wish and The Island.

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B.P.R.D.: The Black Flame (2005) – If there was any doubt in my mind that these B.P.R.D. stories were now the centerpiece of the Hellboy universe, that was swept aside by the phenomenal mini-series The Black Flame, which saw the introduction of an important new villain (the titular Black Flame), a horrifying expansion of the threat facing the B.P.R.D., and the devastating death of a major character.

The story opens with the B.P.R.D. in full combat mode, engaged in vicious fights all over the United States, trying to stop the spread of the frog-creatures but daunted by the new nests popping up everywhere.  The conflict with the frogs has turned into a WAR.  The B.P.R.D. agents are no longer bookish academics, they are soldiers.  The fight with the frogs in issue #1 is brutal.  I love the development of Roger’s relationship with Captain Daimio and Roger’s mimicking of Daimio.  It’s such an interesting progression for the sweet Roger.  I love that Zinco finally re-enters the main story, after having been mostly on the sidelines since way back in Wake the Devil a decade earlier.  Issue #2 of this series introduces the new Zinco head, Landis Pope, and his assistant Marsten, both of whom will remain major players in the Hellboy universe for quite a while.

The introduction of The Black Flame is (as I have discovered in this re-read) classic Mignola, once again giving us the end of the story before the beginning.  The … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part VI: The Island

I have recently begun an epic project: re-reading Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning!  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.

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Hellboy: The Island (2005) – Following the two-issue Hellboy mini-series The Third Wish in 2002, it was a long, long, long wait for a follow-up.  Finally, the two-issue The Island arrived in 2005.  This was a tough period for Hellboy fans, with the newly-launched B.P.R.D. mini-series having not yet caught fire (at least, not yet with me), and with such an unprecedentedly lengthy stretch between Hellboy issues.  More frustratingly at the time, The Island was just another short, two-issue story, and it continued with the new, more obscure and slowly-paced style that seemed to have begun with The Third Wish.

The first issue of The Island seems almost like a haiku version of a Hellboy story. It feels extremely experimental, filled with repeated phrases (that seem to have great significance but whose meaning was, at the time, unclear) and abstract imagery.  Both Mr. Mignola’s drawing style and his prose have been simplified to the point of extreme.  At the time, I didn’t know what to make of it.  THIS is what we waited over two years for??  What the heck is going on??!!

Back in 2005 it was frustrating, but over the years I have grown to recognize the genius on display in these issues.  The Island achieves true poetry in its simplicity, and Mr. Mignola’s artwork has never been more haunting and mysterious and beautiful.

Hellboy.TheIsland

Interestingly, this series continues with Mr. Mignola’s approach of aging his characters along with the comic’s publication history.  As such, an editorial note acknowledges that Hellboy has been hanging out at the bottom of the ocean (where he was left in the cliffhanger ending … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part V: Plague of Frogs

I have recently begun an epic project: re-reading Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning!  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.

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At the end of Conquerer Worm, Hellboy left the B.P.R.D. and then, in the two-issue The Third Wish, H.B. got himself into a lot of trouble at the bottom of the ocean.  We left him floating, alone in the dark waters; a heck of a cliffhanger.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it’d wind up being a while before we returned to Hellboy’s story.

Meanwhile, with Hellboy departed from the B.P.R.D., it became clear that Mike Mignola was interested in expanding the scope of his stories to move beyond focusing only on the big red guy.  Following up on B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth, 2003 saw the release of four B.P.R.D. one-shots, written and illustrated by a variety of individuals.   These were: The Soul of Venice, Dark Waters, Night Train, and There’s Something Under My Bed.  Mike Mignola wasn’t credited as the writer of any of them, and (as a result) none of them are all that interesting.

This was not a good start to the idea of an expanded Hellboy universe.  It just felt like a lame dilution of the series, with lesser artists and lesser writers.  Re-reading it now, Night Train doesn’t even feel like it should be considered in continuity.  Shouldn’t Lobster Johnson be abroad, getting himself killed, in 1939?  Dark Waters is notable because it’s the first Hellboy-universe work of artist Guy Davis, who will soon become the main B.P.R.D. artist.  But other than that, these one-shots are forgettable (and the last one, There’s Something Under My Bed, is almost unreadable).  I was extremely unenthused by these early attempts to expand the Hellboy universe, and I was disappointed by the increasingly slow pace of new Mignola written-and-drawn Hellboy stories.  This was a low point for me as a Hellboy fan.  Which brings us up to … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part IV: The Conquerer Worm

I have recently begun an epic project: re-reading Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning!  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.

Onward!

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Conquerer Worm (2001) — Back in 1939, the vigilante adventurer Lobster Johnson was killed while destroying a key installation of the Nazi space program in Austria.  But now, sixty-one years later, a capsule the Nazis shot into space returns to Earth, with a very dangerous passenger.

Conquerer Worm could be my very favorite Hellboy mini-series.  I just love it.  It’s got all the now-classic Hellboy elements: Nazis, crazy creatures/monsters, and a World War II back-story.  But this mini-series also feels like a huge leap forward for Mr. Mignola and the series.  It is short, only four issues, but holy cow is each issue jam-packed with all sorts of wonderful, original, truly unique weirdness.

The series opens with the death of Lobster Johnson in 1939.  I have now realized this has become something of a delightful trait of Mr. Mignola’s Hellboy stories — starting with the end of a character and then, over the years, going back to slowly flesh out that individual’s character and history.  (Just like Mr. Mignola did with Professor Bruttenholm and, later, Sir Edward Grey!)  It’s a fascinating story-telling device, and it makes a re-reading project like this phenomenal fun as I work my way through these stories and discover all sorts of connections.  Dr. Manning’s briefing about Lobster Johnson in issue #1 is short but wonderfully dense with details, and over the years as the Lobster Johnson story has progressed, I have often returned to these pages to try to parse whatever secrets and details I could find.  (I love Manning’s comment about “weirder stuff,” while we see a panel of the Lobster fighting a living brain.  It’s funny, for years I thought that was just a one-off joke; I had totally forgotten, until this re-read, that we actually saw that specific Lobster Johnson adventure back in Box Full of Evil!)

Von Klempt and his monkeys appear!  I love this crazy villain, it’s … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part III: The Right Hand of Doom

December 19th, 2014
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I have recently begun an epic project: re-reading Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning!  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 1, in which I discussed the very first Hellboy tale: the four-part mini-series Seed of Destruction.  Click here for part 2, in which I discussed The Wolves of Saint August, The Corpse and the Iron Shoes, and Wake the Devil.

Onward!

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Almost Colossus (1997) – This two-issue mini-series serves as something of an epilogue for Wake the Devil, exploring what happened to Liz and Roger the Homonculus following their fateful encounter in Wake the Devil #3.  Liz has been left alive but apparently sapped of her very life-force, leaving her as little more than a shell that is wasting away towards death.  Meanwhile, Roger is loose in Romania, where he eventually finds a fellow Homonculus with a terrible plan, forcing him to choose whether he is a monster or a man.

Roger is a great character, an innocent heart in a monster’s body, and I can see why he caught on.  I wasn’t sure where his story would go after he was introduced in Wake the Devil, but I was pleased, when I originally read this, to see that he was getting this two-issue story to focus on him.  But, at the end of this mini-series, I never expected to see the character again.  Who knew??

A Christmas Underground (from The Hellboy Christmas Special, 1997) – These days I am not so interested in the other stories in this collection, by other creators, but it opens with a humdinger of a Hellboy tale written & drawn by Mr. Mignola.  This is a classic Hellboy short story, whimsical with a touch of sadness.  The “happy ending” in which the kidnapped daughter is “saved” doesn’t wind up meaning that she is returned to life, once again pure and innocent, just that she is dead and her spirit free.  Often in the Hellboy world that’s the best you can hope for.  This short story is also chock full of wonderfully weird creatures and Hellboy hitting a lot of things.  What more could I ask for?

Abe Sapien: Drums of the Dead (1998) – We can see in this one-shot the desire of Mr. Mignola (and perhaps, the team at Dark Horse Comics) to expand the Hellboy universe, but there were only so many comics that Mr. Mignola could write and draw himself.  Thus we get this one-shot, written … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part II: Wake The Devil

November 19th, 2014
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I have recently begun an epic project: re-reading Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning!  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 1, in which I discussed the very first Hellboy tale: the four-part mini-series Seed of Destruction.

Onward!

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The Wolves of Saint August (1995 — originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents #88-91) – One of Hellboy’s old friends, Father Edward Kelly, gets himself killed in a small village in the Balkans.  Hellboy comes to investigate and winds up in a bare-knuckle brawl with a very long-lived werewolf.  This is a dynamite short-story. I love the big epic Hellboy stories, but I also love the shorter stand-alones, in which Hellboy must face-off against some sort of occult phenomena.  It’s delightful fun watching Mike Mignola filter all sorts of mythological stories from all over the world through his particular lens, and this early werewolf story is no exception.  I like that this story also spotlights Kate Corrigan, fleshing her out a bit and developing her friendship with Hellboy.  She has a different type of bond with H.B. than he has with his fellow field-agents like Abe and Liz.  It’s nice.  Kate is a phenomenal character.  It’s great getting to see a middle-aged woman who is smart and fun and brave.  As for poor doomed Father Kelly, he is the first but by no means the last of Hellboy’s old friends who get themselves nice and dead.  (Actually, I guess Professor Bruttenholm really counts as the first!!)

The Chained Coffin (1995 — originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents #100 Part 2) – Holy cow I had forgotten all about this short story, I don’t think I’d ever re-read it since it originally came out.  How could I have forgotten about this crazy story in which Hellboy returns to the site of his birth/first appearance on Earth and sees a vision of his demon father and the human woman who was his mother??  Turns out Hellboy’s mom was a witch who repented her ways before her death.  But her children chaining up her corpse in its coffin (hence the story’s title) didn’t prevent that big bad demon from coming to find her.  This is a really crazy-weird tale, and it’s unclear if Hellboy’s mom is/was really in love with that demon or if this should be viewed as a forceful abduction.  Is Hellboy the child of a rape?  That is dark.  The demon impales the witch-woman’s spirit on a hook at … [continued]

 

The Force Awakens and News Around the Net!

So the new Star Wars film is going to be called The Force Awakens?  Sigh.  Someday I would love to be really EXCITED by the announcement of a new Star Wars title.  While The Force Awakens is certainly a better title than The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, it seems very nondescript and bland.  It also seems to imply that somehow the Force has been asleep or not present during the events of the previous six films, which puzzles me.  What’s most interesting is that this new film is no longer being referred to as Episode VII.  I am all for dropping the numbers — I prefer subtitles over numbered sequels, and at a certain point the high sequel numbers just get silly.  But it means the new “main” trilogy won’t be distinguished from the spin-off films that are also being worked on.  That is likely Disney’s intent, as they wouldn’t want those spin-off films to be seen as any less important than the “main” films.  (Though I suppose it’s also very possible that the film will still be identified as Episode VII in its opening crawl.  We should remember that, for the Original Trilogy, the episode numbers weren’t really used in the advertising of the films, including their logo designs and posters.  They were only identified as Episode IV, Episode V, and Episode VI in their opening crawls.  It was only with the prequels that the episode number became so prominently incorporated into the titles and logo designs of the films.  Hmmm.  It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out with Episode VII.  I do very much like the idea that J.J. Abrams and his team are returning to the approach used by the Original Trilogy when it comes to the episode numbers.)

Speaking of Star Wars, this is fun: five minor actors from the original Star Wars trilogy who you didn’t realize were in everything you liked.

Who doesn’t love spending a little time reading about The Shawshank Redemption?

I wasn’t at all interested in NBC’s live telecasts of Peter Pan or The Sound of Music.  But A Few Good Men?  I’m in!!  Boy I hope this happens, and with a great cast.  You want me on that wall.  You NEED me on that wall!!

This is cool: as an alternative to the hideously ugly U.S.S. Enterprise re-design from J.J. Abrams’ films, here is a very cool looking, fan-designed, souped-up version of the Big-E that hews very closely to the ship’s original design from the Original Series.  Matt Jefferies’ design from the sixties ain’t broken, friends.

This is a great, fun interview clip with Benedict Cumberbatch.  Behold his perfect Jar Jar … [continued]

 

The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part I: Seed of Destruction

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I was a fan of Mike Mignola’s Marvel and DC work when, in 1994, he launched a new creator-owned comic for Dark Horse Comics with the four-issue mini-series Hellboy: Seed of Destruction.  I’m not sure what drove me to pick up that first issue.  Likely it was my previous enjoyment of Mr. Mignola’s mainstream super-hero work.  It probably also didn’t hurt that Hellboy’s actual first appearance wasn’t in Seed of Destruction #1, but in a cameo in John Byrne’s Next Men #21.  I was a monstrous fan of Mr. Byrne’s magnificent Next Men series, and that might have been what sealed the deal for me with regards to Hellboy.

I enjoyed the first mini-series, and eagerly followed Hellboy for many years that followed.  Mr. Mignola released about one mini-series a year, plus a variety of short stories and a few spin-offs.  After about a decade, Mr. Mignola’s productivity began to decrease (at least in terms of actual comic books published — he was still involved in a variety of projects) and new Hellboy stories became fewer and father between.  Around 2004 was an important turning point for the series.  Mr. Mignola brought in a small group of writers and artists to assist with some spin-off titles, most notably a series of B.P.R.D. mini-series (exploring the supporting cast at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) and, eventually, to draw the main Hellboy mini-series.  At first I was extremely worried, and not at all eager to see these other writers and artists dilute the quality of the Hellboy stories.  But something magical happened.  Bringing in these talented collaborators allowed Hellboy to flourish, and what had been a sporadic series of mini-series grew to become a whole line of books (albeit one that, thank goodness, has remained small and tightly-knit, avoiding the common mistake that comic-book companies and creators make of overexposing their characters and diluting what had once been a special, unique product).

Today, twenty years into the Hellboy saga, there are often two-to-four Hellboy-related books published every month, and they are all amazing.  Over the years, Mr. Mignola and his team have published a wealth of mini-series focusing on many different characters and corners of the Hellboy universe.  Mr. Mignola and his collaborators have created an extraordinary fantasy universe, and because we don’t have to wait for Mr. Mignola too write and draw every single thing himself, we’ve been treated to lots of different stories that have explored numerous facets of this universe and its characters, their past and present.  Mr. Mignola has kept a very close handle on things and has been centrally involved with all of the new comics, giving the many different mini-series an impressively cohesive … [continued]

 

The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013 — Part Two!

We are nearing the end of my Best of 2013 lists!  I hope you enjoyed my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013 (click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three) and my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013 (click here for part one and here for part two).

Yesterday I began my third Best of 2013 list – The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013!  Click here for part one, numbers 15-6.  Here now are the top five:

5. Velvet What if Moneypenny had actually once been a double-oh agent?  That’s an overly simplistic summation of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s magnificent new spy series, but I think it conveys the series’ extremely clever hook.  Set in 1973, Velvet Templeton is the secretary for the Director of Arc-7, an organization of British spies.  When several of the very best Arc-7 agents wind up dead, Velvet finds herself framed as the prime suspect.  Of course, she resists arrest, and the story takes off from there.  Every frame of this comic book is absolute perfection.  I adore the world of James Bond, and Velvet taps right into that golden age of classic Bond stories.  But don’t mistake this book as something derivative.  With only two issues having been published so far, I am already hugely hooked into this world and these characters.  The combination of Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Epting is a match made in heaven.  (Oh man can Mr. Epting draw.  Each panel is a work of gorgeous art.)  These two men did extraordinary work together several years ago with their “Winter Soldier” arc on Captain America (a story-line that is, apparently, being heavily mined for this year’s Captain America sequel film), and seeing them reunited on an original, creator-owned project is heaven.

4. Powers: Bureau I can’t believe how long I’ve been following Brian Michael Bendis’ Powers.  I bought that very first issue, right off the stands, back in 2000.  It was my first introduction to Mr. Bendis’ work, and I have followed him through countless issues of many, many different comic book series (both creator-owned stuff as well as a LOT of work for Marvel Comics).  But Powers will always remain my favorite.  The series has had quite a sporadic publishing schedule these past few years, but this fourth volume of the series, titled Powers: Bureau, has not only come out on a decently regular schedule this year, but it’s also represented a nice return to form for the series, with Deena and Christian once again paired up to investigate the deaths of superhumans.  Except now they … [continued]

 

The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012 — Part Two!

Yesterday I published part one of my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012.  You can also check out my Top 15 Movies of 2012: click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.

And now, on to the conclusion of my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012!

5. Batman: Earth One  A staggeringly entertaining ground-one reinvention of Batman, I can’t believe how much I loved this hardcover graphic novel by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.  I don’t have too much patience for creators reworking classic super-hero origins — do they think they know better than the original creators of these long-lived, much-beloved characters?  And if you’re going to re-tell Batman’s origin, how could anyone possibly do it better than Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s superlative Batman: Year One from the eighties?  While I wouldn’t consider this origin story to be superior to Batman’s established origin, it’s a marvelously entertaining what-if version in which all of the familiar beats play out differently.  (And it’s hugely superior to DC’s first “Earth One” graphic novel, J. Michael Straczynski’s woeful Superman: Earth One.)  Mr. John’s tweaks to the familiar characters (I particularly love Earth One’s versions of Alfred and Harvey Bullock) plus Mr. Frank’s exquisite art make this a knockout.  I hope they make lots more sequels so that I can return to this world for further adventures.

4. America’s Got Powers – This six-issue mini-series (of which four issues have been published so far) has been blowing my socks off.  Superstar artist Bryan Hitch (for my money, the very best illustrator of super-hero comic books working today) and Jonathan Ross have teamed up to create this original, powerhouse new series.  Something has gifted a whole generation of young people with super-powers.  A fearful government has rounded up anyone exhibiting special abilities, but to keep them (and the general population) from focusing on the hideous human rights abuses, they have created a super-powered reality TV show in which the super-powered kids compete for fame and glory.  No surprise, the behind-the-scenes reality is far different than the happy, televised spectacle.  This series is deft speculative fiction of the very best kind, crossed with a terrific super-hero adventure story.  I have loved every single page.  I hope this series continues beyond the scheduled six issues.

3. All-New X-Men The biggest surprise of the year for me has been Brian Michael Bendis’ new X-Men series.  The Beast, fearing that his life is nearly over and distraught at the state of the X-Men, the world, and the actions of his former best friend Scott … [continued]

 

Joe Golem and the Drowning City

December 10th, 2012
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I’ve been a huge fan of Mike Mignola’s for over two decades, ever since I read Gotham by Gaslight (1991) as a kid and was first impressed by Mr. Mignola’s weird, highly-stylized artwork.  I started following his work, and when he branched into the realm of creator-owned comics with his creation, Hellboy, I eagerly followed.  For that very-first four-issue Hellboy mini-series, 1994′s Seed of Destruction, Mr. Mignola brought with him another writer, John Byrne, but after that Mr. Mignola took over the writing of his series.  As the Hellboy comic continued, with mini-series following mini-series, and as the Hellboy universe gradually expanded into other titles featuring other characters (the B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien, and more), Mr. Mignola’s work as a writer grew more and more confident.  I would now say that Mr. Mignola is as good a writer as he is an artist (and he is a VERY good artist), and these days he writes far more comic-books than he draws.

Mr. Mignola had stepped into the world of prose novels once before, with 2007′s intriguingly-titled Baltimore , or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, co-written with Christopher Golden.  I don’t know why I never read that novel — it’s been on my “to-read” list ever since it was released, but I’ve just never gotten around to it.  Nevertheless, I was immediately intrigued and captivated by the announcement of Mr. Mignola and Mr. Golden’s latest novel: Joe Golem and the Drowning City. That’s another fantastic title, promising all sorts of pulpy adventure fun, and if that wasn’t enough, there was Mr. Mignola’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous painted cover.  BEHOLD!  First of all, I wish I could draw that well.  Secondly, that title and that cover-image immediately captivated me with its mix of Jewish mysticism and Lovecraftian horror.

Let me say that this delightful novel is just as much fun as the cover promises!

Joe Golem and the Drowning City is a marvelously fun pulp adventure, with two-fisted heroes battling dastardly villains.  It’s style is nostalgic, but never at the cost of feeling dull or old.  The book is very much alive, shooting the reader along through the rich adventure story being told.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Mignola and Mr. Golden’s world-building, and as the story progressed I was intrigued to learn about the alternate version of 1970′s Manhattan depicted in the story, one in which a 1925 catastrophe has left much of the city sunk under-water.  The book is filled with colorful, fascinating characters, from the tender, elderly Orlov the Conjurer; to the ancient and part-mechanical occult investigator Simon Church; to the mad Dr. Cocteau, and finally to the two main characters in the book: Joe Golem himself and the young … [continued]

 

The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011 — Part Two!

Welcome back to the conclusion of my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011!  Click here for part one.  (And click here for my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2011: part one, part two, and part three.)

5.  Moon Knight I really enjoyed Brian Michael Bendis’ years-long run on Daredevil with Alex Maleev, and their relaunch of Moon Knight has been pretty terrific so far.  I love the new conceit that the slightly unhinged Marc Spector is now hearing the voices of Spider-Man, Captain America, and Wolverine in his head.  The result is some great comedy as the three super-heroes banter back and forth in Moon Knight’s head.  (Comic banter is a Bendis specialty!)  Seeing Echo back in a lead role is just icing on the cake.  I never thought Moon Knight could be at all interesting, but I guess the character was just the right sort of tabula rasa for an exciting reinvention.  I hope this is the start of a long run for Mr. Bendis and Mr. Maleev on the character.

4.  RASL I wish Jeff Smith’s sci-fi opus would come out a little more frequently, but I can’t really fault creator/writer/artist/self-publisher Smith, seeing as how he’s pretty much doing everything himself on this comic.  It’s just that the series is so good!  I want more!!  This adventure/love story is just grounded enough in real scientific theories to anchor all of the fun flights of fancy involving parallel universes, lizard-men, and weird-looking little girls.  Jeff Smith’s art is perfection — with a cartoony stylization that is endearing, but also an extraordinary amount of detail to give all of the settings and characters a distinct, “real world” feel.  It feels like things are really starting to come together with the story, which is very exciting.  The wait between issues is BRUTAL!!  If you’re a comic book fan but you’re not reading this self-published gem, do yourself a favor and remedy that immediately.

3.  Criminal: The Last of the Innocent The work that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips do together just keeps getting better and better and better.  I love all of their projects, but the crime-comic Criminal has always been my favorite, and The Last of the Innocent might be the very best installment since the first story-line, “Coward.”  In this dark tale, we meet young man Riley Richards, who is married to a beautiful, wealthy woman.  But he’s tremendously unhappy, and when he returns home and reconnects with his old goof-ball friend and the blonde girl-next-door he used to have a crush on, he realizes that he just might have chosen the wrong girl.  … [continued]

 

Tale From the Longbox: Comics I’ve Been Reading!

Here are some of the comics I’ve been reading lately:

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis — It took such a long time for Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrew’s five-issue mini-series to come out, I decided to wait for all five issues to be published before reading it all in one go.  I’m not quite sure why this was a miniseries, as opposed to just being published as part of the regular Astonishing X-Men series, but whatever.  A decently entertaining story really rose in my interest mid-way through with a surprising twist that connected the narrative to a long-forgotten Captain Britain story-line: the Jaspers Warp.  I adore those old Captain Britain stories, and getting to see Warpies and the Fury again really tickled my fancy.  I do wish this story had lasted a few more issues — after a slow-burn build-up, everything got wrapped up surprisingly quickly.

Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever #1 — The first Witchfinder mini-series, about paranormal investigator Sir Edward Grey’s adventures in London in 1879, was phenomenal, so I was very excited to read the first issue of the follow-up.  The switch in art-styles and setting (this adventure is set in the Old West!) threw me for a bit of a loop, but by the end of the issue I was hooked on this new tale.  John Serverin is a comic-book master illustrator, and seeing him work in Mike Mignola’s world is a thrill.

Powers #7 — After a weird detour during the first few issues of this third volume (that Rat Pack stuff just did NOT do it for me), with this issue I felt we were finally back with the Powers series that I knew and loved.  I’m not sure where all of this Golden Ones stuff is going, but Christian Walker is back investigating the grisly death of a super-hero, and I couldn’t be happier.  Plus, this issue sported a gorgeous cover by Michael Avon Oeming. I wish this book came out more frequently, but I’ll happily take what I can get.  (And if the Powers TV series actually gets made, I will be super-excited!!)

Secret Warriors #25 — Puzzle pieces are falling into place fast and furiously as Jonathan Hickman’s series rushes to its conclusion.  This issue was fun on every page as we learned a lot of key pieces of information about the linked histories of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, and Leviathan, and the story finally connected with Mr. Hickman’s superlative millennia-spanning S.H.I.E.L.D. series.  I have no idea where any of this is going, but I’m enjoying the hell out of the ride and I’ll be sorry to see it end.

John  Byrne’s Next Men #4 — I found the first three issues of this … [continued]

 

The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2010 — Part Two!

Yesterday I posted the first part of my list of my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2010!  Click that link to read numbers 15-6, now here we go with the final five (yes, I am a Battlestar Galactica fan):

5. Incognito: Bad Influences Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ sequel to their terrific series, Incognito, has only just begun but I’m already deeply hooked again on the story of former super-villain Zack Overkill.  At the end of the last series, Zack had thrown in with the S.O.S. (the agency that tries to hold the line against the super-villain crime gangs).  Now they’ve sent him back undercover into the criminal world, in an attempt to contact another S.O.S. undercover agent who has apparently gone rogue.  There’s no way this is going to end well.  Mr. Brubaker’s fusion of super-hero and crime stories is as engagingly clever as ever, and Mr. Phillips gritty, evocative art (aided by Val Staples’ gorgeous colors) makes each page a real work of art.  Phenomenal stuff.

4. Baltimore: The Plague Ships — Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden bring their vampire-hunter character, Baltimore, from the pages of their novel (Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire) into the comic-book world, and the result is a wonderfully creepy mini-series.  In France in 1916, Lord Baltimore hunts the vampire, Haigus, who destroyed his family.  But when he and the Gypsy young woman traveling with him find themselves shipwrecked, they discover a graveyard of German submarines and an even more terrible threat.  Ben Stenbeck’s illustration work and Dave Stewart’s colors work together beautifully to bring this dark, suspenseful tale to life.  It’s a compelling horror story that has really stuck with me since I finished reading the series.  I am very excited for the next Baltimore mini-series, coming this year!

3. S.H.I.E.L.D. This series took me completely by surprise.  I almost didn’t buy the first issue, but thank goodness that I did!  Jonathan Hickman’s story about the secret origins of the Marvel Universe — from Leonardo DaVinci’s encounter with a Celestial to Galileo’s fight with Galactus to the secret work that Anthony Stark and Nathaniel Richards (the parents of Tony Stark — Iron Man — and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four) did together, this series is stuffed to the gills with interweaving characters and story-lines that span centuries, and a heck of a lot of BIG ideas.  Mr. Hickman’s story is complex, inventive and unique, and the artwork by Dustin Weaver and Christina Strain is absolutely gorgeous.

2. Serenity: Float Out and The Shepherd’s Tale — Dark Horse Comics only released two short stories, this year, set in the universe of Joss Whedon’s … [continued]

 

The Top 10 Comic Books of 2009!

Time to wrap up my Best of 2009 lists!  I hope you all enjoyed my lists of the Top 10 TV Shows of 2009, the Top 10 DVDs of 2009, and the Top 10 Movies of 2009!

Now here we go with my list of the Top 10 Comic Book Series of 2009!

First, let’s start with some Honorable Mentions:  RASL, Ex Machina, Young Liars, Astonishing X-Men, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Superman: Secret Origins, Supergod, Aliens, The Dark Tower, and X-Factor.  All of those are series that I absolutely love — and if you’re not reading them, you should be! (I also have great affection for Powers, but since only one new issue saw the light of day in 2009, it was hard for me to justify including it on this list.)

OK, now here we go with the Top Ten:

10. Witchfinder: In The Service of Angels (issues #1-5 published in 2009) — I am an enormous fan of the Hellboy universe, and I’ve picked up every single Hellboy-related limited series or one-shot ever since Seed of Destruction way back when.  But somehow I almost missed this series about occult investigator Edward Grey, set in London in 1879.  Boy oh boy I’m glad I remedied my error and picked up all five issues.  Not only is it a terrific, creepy adventure tale, but issue #3 connects some ENORMOUS dots and basically gives us the secret history of the Hellboy universe.  This is a critical piece of the unfolding Hellboy saga, and not to be missed.

9.  Stephen King’s The Stand (issues #2-5 of Captain Trips, issues #1-5 of American Nightmares, and issues #1-2 of Soul Survivors published in 2009) — I’ve never read Stephen King’s epic novel The Stand, but I have been absolutely devouring the series of mini-series based on that work.  Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa deftly handles the enormous canvas, weaving multiple story-lines in and out of one another with ease, and Mike Perkins’ beautifully rendered artwork brings a devastated America to glorious, haunting life.  I am chomping at the bit to know what happens next — so much so that I went out and purchased Mr. King’s novel last month!   Now I just need to decide if I want to experience the story through the comic adaptations first, and THEN go read the novel… or dive into the novel right now.

8.  Astro City: The Dark Age Book 3 (issues #1-4 published in 2009) — This four-book Astro City saga has been taking its sweet time to reach a conclusion, but boy is each installment worth the wait.  The Dark Age is the story of two brothers, Charles … [continued]

 

Last week I wrote about some of the great comics I’ve read lately.  That list was just scratching the surface!  Here’s some more fantastic stuff that I’ve been enjoying recently:

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt and BPRD: 1947 – The Hellboy saga continues in these two new wonderful mini-series.  In Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, things are coming to a head for the big red guy.  Cut off from his old friends and comrades in the BPRD, and hunted by the newly-resurrected Queen of Blood, things are looking grim for our hero!  Last month’s issue (#6) was jam-packed with astonishing revelations about Hellboy’s origin that I never saw coming, but that I thought worked absolutely PERFECTLY.  Meanwhile, BPRD: 1947 takes us through a rollicking tale of the second year of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense as Professor Bruttenholm struggles against vampires and a lot of other weirdness.  The Hellboy universe has really richened and deepened over these last few years, and I am really excited to see where things go from here.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man — The relaunch of Brian Michael Bendis’ take on Spider-Man (three issues have been published as of this writing) continues just where the previous 133 issues (plus a handful of annuals and other specials) left off.  Young Peter Parker must juggle his, um, interesting love-life with a boring job at a fast-food joint (since he lost his job at the Daily Bugle following the devastation of NYC in the truly awful Ultimatum miniseries) with, oh yeah, his crime-fighting escapades as Spider-Man!  Mr. Bendis is well-known for his witty, true-to-teenaged-life dialogue, but I think his real strength is the depth of characterization he brings to Peter Parker and all the rest of the extraordinarily numerous cast of this comic.  Mary-Jane, Flash Thompson, Aunt May, “Kong,” Kitty Pryde from the X-Men, Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four (and it is almost embarrassing how much more interesting Kitty and Johnny are here than in their “home” comics) and many more characters are all brought to amazingly real life in these pages.  I’ve been following Bendis’ run on “Ultimate” Spider-Man and I’ll be with the series until he leaves.  Spider-Man has never been done better (in my comic-reading life-time, at least!).  My only small complaint: I’m not quite taken with the overly stylized work of new series artist David Lafuente.  Let’s see if it grows on me any more after a few more issues…

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower — I fell way behind on this series of mini-series, adapting and expanding upon the back story of Stephen King’s seven-book The Dark Tower opus, but I was finally able to catch up last month.  Breathtakingly gorgeous art by … [continued]

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed my lists of the Top 10 TV Shows and the Top 10 Movies 0f 2008.

But, you know, EVERYONE writes those sorts of top 10 lists!  So today, I wanted to send some love in the direction of the best comic books that I read in 2008.  2008 was a PHENOMENAL year for comics, with a lot of great material out there.  Here’s what I felt was the best of the best.

15.  Top 10: Season 2 (issues #1-3 published in 2008) — One of Alan Moore (Watchmen, V For Vendetta)’s greatest works of the past decade was the first “season” of Top 10, published between 1999 and 2001.  It chronicled the efforts of a police force in a bizarre city that seemed to be a meeting point for all sorts of fantasy characters from comics, TV shows, and movies.  Although Mr. Moore has not returned for this second installment, talented writer Zander Cannon along with returning artist Gene Ha have crafted a story every bit as weird, complex, and compelling as Mr. Moore’s original.  Ha’s art remains staggeringly complex and detailed, filled with lots of fun surprises in the background for an attentive reader.

14.  Detective Comics #846-850, “Heart of Hush” – Although Grant Morrison’s “Batman: R.I.P.” storyline over in Batman got all the attention this year, it was writer Paul Dini (one of the guiding forces behind the amazing Batman: The Animated Series) who was behind my favorite Batman story of 2008.  Enigmatic villain Hush returns with a complex scheme to take down the Dark Kight, while in a series of flashbacks we learn how the friendship between young Bruce Wayne and Tommy Elliott went wrong.  Throw in Catwoman and gorgeous art by Dustin Nguyen, and you have a classic.  (Collected edition available here.)

13.  Ultimate Spider-Man (issues 116-128 published in 2008) — I cannot believe how much I continue to enjoy this Spider-Man book.  Guided by the incredible writing of Brian Michael Bendis, who has been writing this reinvention of Spider-Man since issue #1, this is everything a super-hero comic book should be.  It is filled with great action, terrific humor, and incredible continuity and character development.  I don’t know of any comic that is consistently more fun, and the fact that such a high standard of quality has been maintained for 128 issues and counting is amazing.  (The entire run of USM is available in collected editions.  Here is the latest.)

12.  Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (issues 1-5 of “The Long Road Home” and 1-4 of “Treachery” published in 2008) — A complex but coherent story and absolutely gorgeous art by Jae Lae and Richard … [continued]