Monday, January 24, 2011

Hellboy Volume 6: Strange Places (April 2006)

Its been four years since the last Hellboy trade. There have been four B.P.R.D. trades, but what people really want to know is, Where is Big Red?

Last time we saw him he was headed to Africa and that’s where we find him, but rather than take us on that journey we join him right at the end. The first of the two stories that make up this volume, ‘The Third Wish,’ begins there, but almost immediately it wipes him from African soil. Pretty much literally. The second, ‘The Island,’ continues where the first left off, albeit an unspecified time later.

‘The Island’ tells a fascinating story, but isn’t really a story in itself. In the intro Mignola writes that he put this story together because he wanted to tell the true origin of the Ogdru Jahad. We’d seen a version in the movie. Now he wanted to give us the real thing. He had long sorted it out for himself, but he had consistently been teasing readers with little bits of information. In volume one we see Hellboy’s birth and learn of the Ogdru Jahad. In volume two we meet Hecate and learn more of Hellboy’s nature and destiny, but everything is eluded to. Nothing’s explicit. In the third volume the story ‘The Chained Coffin’ introduces his parents. In the next trade we got ‘The Nature of the Beast’ and ‘Box Full of Evil,’ which are, again, full of implications and ‘The Right Hand of Doom’ reprises much of what we’ve learned and points our attention to his stone hand. Finally volume five adds the idea that the frogs represent a new race of man. In ‘The Island’ Hellboy meets the spirit of a centuries old priest, who once marched along side Spain’s Conquistadors. In the New World he came upon an ancient temple and learned the true story of the creation of the world, man’s origin, and pretty much everything. Naturally the Inquisition was having none of it.

Here he relates that story to Hellboy. As I mentioned in my first entry, Mignola draws on a diversity of sources, including I Enoch and Theosophy. Those influences are at the forefront here. How God set the Watchers over His creation and how one of them reached out with his hand, took the fire of creation and, with the others, created the Ogdru Jahad. They, in turn, created the Ogdru Hem. Horrified, the Watchers first warred against their creation and then turned against the Watcher who had started it all, cutting him up and destroying everything but his hand. The hand that had taken the fire, first created the Ogdru Jahad and then imprisoned it. The priest then tells Hellboy the bloody history of what is now his right hand. Naturally Hellboy is having none of it.

‘The Third Wish’ is Mignola’s take on ‘The Little Mermaid.’ Interestingly the genesis of the story began with a Sub-mariner story idea he had when working for Marvel in the early 80s. It starts with Hellboy in Africa, visiting the witch doctor Mohlomi. The night of the visit he dreams of three lion spirits who warn him to leave the continent at once. In the morning he finds himself somehow transported to the sea coast, where a giant wave sweeps him out to sea. This is the work of the Bog Roosh, a sea hag with magical powers. There are mermaids and wishes in the story, but the Bog Roosh’s main goal is capturing Hellboy and the destruction of that right hand of his before it brings about the end of the world. You guessed it, he’s having none of it.

This is a great story, and it immediately brings to mind the many shorter stories in which Mignola has successfully invoked the feeling of a traditional fairy tale, rather than a comic book adventure. And he’s done it as a longer, two issue piece. It would be great to see him do more like it, but, unfortunately, this book also marks the end of Mignola’s run as his own series’ primary artist. He has continued to do shorter pieces and remains the cover artist, but from this point on a variety of other artists would begin to illustrate the stories. None of them would earn a place akin to Davis’ on B.P.R.D., though many of them have something interesting to bring to the table.

No comments: