Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hellboy Volume 2: Wake The Devil (June 1997)

Hellboy meets Dracula! Well, not Dracula per se, but Vladimir Giurescu is Mignola’s attempt to integrate him into the Mignola-verse. It’s even dedicated to Dracula. And while Giurescu himself isn’t destined to become a major player, a huge number of players are introduced, including Baba Yaga, Kate Corrigan, Hecate, the Fairy kingdom, Roderick Zinco, Roger, and Sir Edward Grey.

Rasputin reaches out to an industrialist named Zinco, who goes north to another Arctic fortress and meets Rasputin’s Nazi cohorts, Ilsa and the Three Stooges. She goes to recover the remains of Giurescu, her former lover, and in so doing alerts the Bureau to his possible return. They don’t know how, but he has been brought back many times before through a ceremony that has to happen at his castle. The Bureau sends people to three possible locations, and, of course, its Hellboy who hit’s the jackpot.

Mignola does a great job of setting things up. A briefing full of exposition is one of the worst ways--possibly the worst (remember Batgirl: Redemption Road #1?) and the laziest--to gets things rolling, but Mignola carries it off with aplomb. The breadth of this story is amazing: Classical mythology, Celtic and Russian folklore, alchemy and Bram Stoker. Mignola pens the story himself this time, writing Hellboy as the taciturn character we’ve come to expect, and nicely balancing the adventure, the mythmaking, and the comedy. And there is a lot of comedy. Apart from Ilsa, the Nazis in this book really are the Three Stooges. I mean a big, red shiny button? Really?!

Miscellany:

Alan Moore wrote a great intro. I especially liked his point about Mignola not only evoking stories we’ve read before, but making them as good as we remember them being (as opposed to as bad as they often were).

Jet packs! The B.P.R.D. has jet packs -- but only for this arc. They even have a red shirt with an eye patch. Did any of you not think of Nick Fury?

The first red shirt to get it? The black guy.

Did you notice that communication problems they we’re having with their phones? Their Zinco phones? I can’t help wondering what his role was in the plane explosion.

This story also gave us our first look at Liz’s self-destructive side.

I once read a book on Elizabeth Bathory. A 16th century Transylvanian noblewomen, she bathed in the blood of young women in order to preserve her beauty. In spite of her cruelty she was adamant that each girl get a proper Christian burial. That was fine until they got a new priest. Horrified, he did a little research and then turned the names of hundreds of girls over to the authorities. Because she was nobility they refused to execute her and instead walled her up in a room. Four years later she stopped taking the food that was slid in through a slot, and they realized she was dead.

I said that Giurescu isn’t destined to become a major player, but the Nazi program he was a part of, Vampir Sturm, will play a part in the late B.P.R.D. trades 1946 and 1947.

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