Hellboy, Vol. 2: Wake the Devil by Mike Mignola
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This second volume in the Hellboy series is menacing and intensely creepy. People familiar with the first film by Guillermo Del Toro about Hellboy will recognize some elements of the story, but a good bit of the story was also adapted to the animated film "Blood and Iron." I think that as dark as both film adaptations are, the source material is moreso.
Hellboy managed to overcome his origins through sheer force of his self-determined will in Volume 1, Hellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction. He is challenged yet again, because forces of evil want him to take his role as the bringer of the apocalypse. Back to cause more trouble is the spirit of Rasputin and his cadre of Nazi devotees. In this volume, their plan is to gain control of the remains of notorious vampire Vladimir Giurescu and use his vampiric nature to create a super-army to help bring on Ragnarok. Rasputin has a grander final plan in mind that gets his group even closer to the desired end-time apocalypse. When Giurescu's remains are stolen from a museum in New York after the murder of its curator (a man with past Nazi connections), The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense sends small teams in various directions to investigate and eliminate this threat, with tragic results.
Mignola mixes in a surprising amount of folklore and mythological traditions, from Eastern European vampire lore, to the Greek mythology of Hecate, not to mention some Russian origin Baga Yaga elements. It works very well. Let's not forget a bit of Lovecraft thrown in. I can tell you my stomach was fluttering as I read this story. There is something deeply creepy about the characters who truly believe in their dark plans for humanity and the world, that they would have so many followers who fully ascribed to such perverse beliefs. While intellectually we know that Hellboy is practically invincible, the triumph of good does not feel like a guarantee.
The artwork is beautiful as always, the colors mainly confined to a mix of red, tan, black, and gray. It might seem monochromatic, but it works very well for this book. There is an appreciated harmony between the script and dialogue and the artwork, making for excellent storytelling.
While I found this graphic novel very unnerving, I can't deny its brilliance. Dark folklore with a good dose of horror, classic and cosmic in a congruous final product makes for an appealing graphic novel for fans of these genres.
If you've watched the Hellboy movies, I highly recommend checking out the graphic novels.
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