Hellboy, Vol. 4: The Right Hand of Doom by Mike Mignola
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
For some reason, I grabbed this graphic novel from my library, thinking it was the second in the series. I read this right after I finished Seed of Destruction, and I have to say I liked this much more. Maybe because of the short story format and the use of different folklore legends. As I've said before in my reviews of Mignola's work, I love his appreciation and encyclopedic knowledge of folklore from all over the world. As a person who is an enormous life-time lover of folklore, mythology and fairytales, I am endlessly charmed by modern writers who plumb the depths of existing folklore traditions and explore those in their work. I share Mignola's interest in the darker folklore and also his appreciation for the Gothic and Classic horror story. He mixes these snippets together into a whole that brings a respectful homage to all and creates something new as a result.
Mignola starts off this collection with a charming story called "Pancakes," in which a young Hellboy experiences pancakes for the first time, and the demons of hell mourn because they know they have lost his loyalty. Pancakes will always trump over ruling in hell. You have to laugh at that!
I had never heard of St. Leonard of Limousin, a folk story about a hero who fights a dragon and where his blood drips, lilies grow. Mignola does a nice twist on this, in "The Nature of the Beast," where Hellboy (with some help from St. Leonard himself) wins the day.
"King Vord" taps into the Norse legends when Hellboy gets sent to Norway to help out an old friend of Professor Bruttenholm, and is both dark and amusing. Be careful what you wish for!
"Goodbye, Mr. Tod," is a nod towards Lovecraft and spiritualist belief in manipulating ectoplasm. I didn't have very strong feelings towards this story.
Hellboy is the narrator through frame stories that revisit dark folktales from as far away as Japan, such as the story "Heads" in which Hellboy spends the night in the house of very strange hosts who have a tendency to lose their heads. Nobody knows how to scare a reader like the Japanese, or so it seems. I am too much of a coward to watch the Japanese horror movies, but here is a nicely chilling story for me to enjoy in that tradition.
Readers of Le Fanu's "Carmilla" will appreciate "The Vârcolac" as it looks at Eastern European vampire legends and has a scene that stood out for me from reading "Carmilla."
My favorite story was "Box Full of Evil", a pure horror story that features the Hand of Glory folk legend and some really evil people who think they can make deals with devils and come out on top.
I have to give this one five stars because it captivated me and had me writing down the various legends to look them up. That's always good when a book makes me want to do research on the background material used in the stories. A very enjoyable read.
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