Monday, June 9, 2008

The Latest Hellboy TPB, and It's Not Good News.

EDIT: please also see my retraction of this statement

So it turns out that the latest Hellboy trade paperback (TPB), Darkness Calls, has been out for a month, and I had no idea. Then I noticed the artist: Duncan Fegredo.




For those of you wondering what the big deal is, let me spell it out for you: I love Hellboy. Not like, love. It's my favorite comic book series of all time, and, as far as I'm concerned, it can do no wrong. It features a demon and some monsters from folklore fighting other demons and monsters from folklore, with generous dollops of Lovecraft and steampunk-ish Nazi superscience thrown in for good measure. I own every Hellboy trade. I've lent them out to friends. I've bought them for friends. The art, the folklore, the characters, and the storytelling all combine to make a series that's head and shoulders above anything else in the graphic novel format. It all comes down to Mike Mignola's use of blank, black spaces, both literally in his art and metaphorically in his storytelling. Mignola's minimalistic art evokes the dark spaces of Lovecraft and Nietzsche. I especially love his gorgeously gothic sculptures and manuscripts. Nobody does darkness like Mike Mignola.

Okay, so Mike didn't write or illustrate Hellboy: Weird Tales, a series of stories featuring Hellboy and nominally set in the Hellboy universe, but produced by a variety of authors and artists. No worries; I just didn't read it (I've looked into it, and wasn't thrilled with what I saw, but I let it go). And he consulted on, but didn't do the art for, the BPRD series. No worries there, either. I bought them all and learned to accept Guy Davis's art for what it is: he can't draw people worth a damn, and he insists on giving Johann noodle arms that pretty much ruin the character for me, but his monsters are stunning and imaginative.

My biggest gripe with BPRD, other than Mike's lack of involvement in it, was that it reads like a superhero story. The characters fight monsters to try to prevent the end of the world, but the folklore elements fades into the background as the heroes tend to go up against the same sorts of bad guys again and again. One of the great things about the "real" Hellboy stories was that they always featured something new. Hellboy would find himself in the middle of a folktale, and he would have to see it through to the end. There was no grand, overarching scheme, other than the general Right Hand of Doom, apocalyptic stuff that would be sprinkled on without dominating the plot.

So I learned to live with BPRD, and even like it. Like I said, Guy Davis does some great monsters, and the collection of bizarre items and relics in The Universal Machine really made me happy. Just so long as Mignola was still doing the regular Hellboy series. Sure, there was a huge wait between Conqueror Worm and Strange Places, but it was worth it. Another long wait between Strange Places and Troll Witch? A bit painful, but no worries. Again, it was worth it, and again Mignola was on top of his game. True, Troll Witch brought in a guest artist for a pointless dream sequence in which Hellboy has a dream in which he stands in for Makoma in Makoma's story. It was one of the laziest bits of storytelling I've ever seen in Hellboy, but hey, the rest of the stories were original and drawn by Mignola, so I was happy.

So I thought I had things figured out. Other people would be working on Weird Tales and BPRD, while Mike continued plugging away on Hellboy. He would move slowly, as was his right, but it was his baby. And now this.

And now this.


bluefish said...

Have you seen the newest trade? Don't shoot it until you know it's evil. That's good advice if you ever come face to face with a horrible monster from your deepest nightmares, too. It might just want to borrow a cup of sugar.

You'd be surprised how rare sugar is in the City of the Elder Ones.

Kawaika said...

So is the latest TPB going to be TP* for the TP**?

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