Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hellboy: The First 20 Years, by Mike Mignola


Anyone who's been reading my reviews knows what a mark I am for Mike Mignola. I'm a sucker for his work in general, since way back in his ROCKET RACCOON, INCREDIBLE HULK, and ALPHA FLIGHT days. But I'm more of a sucker for his HELLBOY work. HELLBOY is one of the rare books that I will double-dip on. Hell, I've been known to triple-and-quadruple-dip, buying the floppies, the trades, the inevitable hardcover, and now the Library Editions. His stuff is THAT GOOD. HELLBOY, and by extension, B.P.R.D., ABE SAPIEN, WITCHFINDER, and LOBSTER JOHNSON, are feasts for the eye and the mind, providing beautiful art, thrilling adventures, spooky atmosphere, and thought-provoking plots. So I was happily intrigued when Dark Horse announced HELLBOY: THE FIRST 20 YEARS. Folks around the message boards were speculating about just what the book would be...a massive omnibus? A "Best of" collection? A new adventure? Turns out it's an art book....my excitement remained undiminished, though. I was looking forward to whatever Mike Mignola and longtime editor Scott Allie had in store...

 Having actually read, or looked at, the book, my excitement is gone.

 This is an art book, and that's it. There's an introduction by Mike Mignola, where he briefly touches on a few of the pieces in the book, but aside from that, it's all art. Mostly cover art, which completists like me will have seen dozens of times by now. There are a few pieces which are new to me, but that's mostly because they're covers for issues that haven't been collected yet. (I have long since dropped floppies, having moved to collecting trades exclusively.) My favorite art books are ones that have comments by the artist. There's nothing here.....nothing by Mignola, and no indication of where the art came from. (In fairness, there is an index at the end of the book, but by the time I discovered it, it was too late to care.) I realize that the intent was to show the art, as they say on the back cover, "Gallery style", which I assume means with no text of any kind, but that just didn't cut it for me. The art is beautiful, but having nothing but art left this particular fan feeling unfulfilled, especially when you consider that virtually every HELLBOY collection has a huge gallery of Mignola sketches at the end that's brimming with Mignola commentary.

 Different strokes, and all that...I'm sure some fans will treasure this book, but I was vaguely disappointed.

 Dark Horse Comics provided a review copy.