Monday, October 6, 2014

Hellboy Library Edition, Volume 4: The Crooked Man and The Troll Witch

Regular Crabby Readers will know that I'm a total sucker for all things Hellboy. I've been double, triple, even quadruple-dipped on the collections, I read and reread and study the collected works of Mike Mignola like they're the Rosetta Stone, and I tell everyone that will listen, and even folks who won't: GO BUY HELLBOY!!! So you know the drill.

 This volume is kind of a breather from the huge, important "Mythology" story arcs, and that's probably why I love it so much. (I thought the mythology kind of got away from Mignola towards the end, as HELLBOY rocketed towards a strange and unpredictable conclusion that was a full 180 from what most people that had been reading since the beginning were expecting.) This collection is comprised of short stories and mini-series, and a lot of the art chores are handled by other artists, including Jason Shawn Alexander, P. Craig Russell, and the amazing, legendary, Richard Corben.

 Corben handles the longer-form stories, THE CROOKED MAN and MAKOMA, which ran three and two issues, respectively. THE CROOKED MAN is an Appalachian gothic that may just be my favorite HELLBOY story ever, while MAKOMA is an odd duck of an allegory about an African myth. Part of the brilliance of rereading these books is how you catch things that flew right past you on earlier readings. I liked MAKOMA when I originally read the floppies, but reading it now, after Mignola has concluded the story of Hellboy's It's a brilliant foreshadowing of everything that was still to come in the series, and he Mignola did it without tipping his hand in the slightest. Brilliant, brilliant stuff.

 The non-Corben portions of the book are equally wonderful, especially "The Vampire of Prague", illustrated beautifully by P. Craig Russell, another living legend. It's a bit more tongue-in-cheek (Fang-in-cheek...?) than the rest of the book, but anything goes in the Hellboy universe. The art and the colors set it apart from Mignola and Corben's work, but it still fits wonderfully.

 There's also a massive sketch gallery featuring work by Mignola and Corben, an introduction by Gahan Wilson, a new introduction by Editor Scott Allie, a new afterword by Mike Mignola, and extensive story notes by Mignola, as well as all of the original covers.I'm amazed that Dark Horse can publish a massive, oversized hardcover like this (314 pages!), on thick, beautiful paper, at a $49.99 cover price, and Marvel is charging $19.99 for 112 page pamphlets. Buy quality stuff, people!! Vote with your wallets.

 I really can't recommend HELLBOY enough. Every Horror fan NEEDS to read this book, otherwise you don't get to bitch there being no good Horror comics.

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