I’ve seen both of the Hellboy films, but I had not read any of his comics before now. I had to change that and now I can safely say that I have delved into the comics where it all began. Hellboy’s a good action title so far and we can be sure that he’ll face off with a lot of demonic beings before the day is over.
This comic naturally goes over Hellboy’s origin a little. The Nazi’s summoned him during World War II, but the allies found him first and trained him to be a hero. Hellboy joined a group of other supernatural fighters and he now aids them in the war against crime. It’s been 30 years, but the villains are still around. The main plot is about a family who constantly climbs a mountain in the hopes of getting rich. For 9 generations they have kept on trying to reach the top, but they continue to fail and all who travel the mountain eventually die. Hellboy’s father figure was the latest casualty in this quest so Hellboy and his team go to the family’s mansion to investigate. They may run into more trouble than they bargained for when they realize that an evil group is around..the same one from Hellboy’s origin!
This is the first volume in the Hellboy comics so we’re still in the process of getting used to the cast. Hellboy’s allies from the films to get a role, but we mostly only get to know about them through Hellboy’s exposition since they tend to get knocked out of the fight pretty quickly. Abe is a water fighter who can breathe under it. This makes him a good ally to have for tactical missions and he appears to be the smartest member of the group. That being said, he’s not much of a fighter and he doesn’t get much of a role here. He seems like a good character although he’s not particularly interesting.
Liz gets a lot of hype as her fire abilities have not been fully explored yet. It seems like nobody can fully contain them at the moment so she has to always be careful not to cut loose. She is knocked out fairly early on in the story so it’s hard to comment on how likable she is, but Liz is decent for now. As with Abe, she doesn’t have a lot of character development and I’m worried that she will be all hype and no action, but she does have good reason to be confident considering that her abilities are easily the most impressive out of all the heroes around.
Hellboy is the lead, but I would argue that he is not the strongest. He has basic super strength and his right arm is impervious to pain. This means that he is definitely stronger than the average human, but he is only as strong as the average monster of that size. He’s pretty experienced and he always seems to have a plan. His narration can sometimes differ with that thought, but at least he never gives up. He’s pretty likable and easily the best character in the volume. It’s always good for the main character to end up being the most likable one because he/she is guaranteed to have a lot of screen time. Hellboy gets into quite a few close shaves, but that’s why he has allies to back him up right?
The villains didn’t seem to have thought things over very carefully. There is one main villain here and he’s the guy who summoned Hellboy in the first place. Since Hellboy will not comply with his demands, he will have to force him to use his right arm for something. The guy has summoned the legendary monsters and his plans are vague, but deadly for the planet. He talks a very good game as he admits that he could wipe Hellboy out if he chose to do so. Little did he know that he should have held nothing back since it comes back to bite him.
The art is on the grim side to fit the tone of the volume. That being said, it’s not meta at all, which is always a good thing. It’s not quite as polished as what you tend to see in today’s Marvel/DC comics, but it still looks good overall and doesn’t hold the series back. Hellboy’s red design certainly stands out here since there isn’t a lot of color to be found. It’s an art style that you may find nostalgic or associate with some comics from back in the day. It’s a little similar to the Hawkeye/Daredevil series, but not nearly as cartoony or undetailed, which is a good thing.
This series definitely has a lot of text in it and it works in some ways while hurting it in others. On one hand, I like the fact that Hellboy is constantly thinking. His thought bubbles can certainly be amusing and it lets you get to know the character better than if he didn’t think that much. On the other hand, the series does have a lot of exposition and I think some of it could have probably been cut out. At the very least, I would have liked to have made the text a little bigger so that it would be a little easier to read.
The main reason why this volume ultimately didn’t crack a 7 is just because it didn’t have enough popcorn entertainment or interesting characters needed to make it reach the next level. A 6 still means that it’s good, but that I simply have some more reservations than the average 7. For example, this comic likely wouldn’t have a whole lot of replay value compared to the average superhero adventure. As the series goes on and the characters get more likable, it could easily rise up to 7 status. Due to the dark atmosphere of the series, the writer/artist will still have to be careful to keep the atmosphere as it is without going too far. I’m sure that the series can pull it off though and hopefully we’ll see more cool monsters for Hellboy to fight.
I’m not sure if the series will keep the mystery aspect that this volume had, but hopefully it will. A good mystery can always make a comic more exciting and mixing action with mystery is brilliant. Why do you think Batman is so popular? This was a good start and the series should stay episodic for a little bit so that we can really see how the agency fares against everyday threats. After that, then I expect to see some real organizations or at least a really powerful villain. Hellboy may need a power up soon.
Overall, Hellboy starts us off on a good note. He’s definitely a good lead and the art works for the series. It’s an action with some elements of horror, but we haven’t seen anything that goes over the top in either direction so that’s a good show of restraint considering the title of this comic. The supporting characters do need to improve a little, but they’ll certainly have time for that. I recommend checking out this comic if you’re looking for a new action title. Watching Hellboy take on demons is pretty fun and the writing is good. We’re still waiting for Hellboy 3, but this will help to tide you over until then.