Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Drums of Heaven

Hellboy: The Storm and the Fury: written by Mike Mignola; illustrated by Duncan Fegredo and Dave Stewart (2011-2012): The Duncan Fegredo-drawn 'middle section' of the main Hellboy saga (as opposed to the time-and-space-ranging standalones and miniseries, drawn by many) apparently comes to an end here. The last part of the saga begins in December with the first issue of Hellboy in Hell as Mike Mignola returns to the drawing board.

Fegredo really did a marvelous job over the last five years or so on the main sequence, his style similar to Mignola's without slavishly mimicking it. Fegredo really became a master of grotesqueries as he went along, though his Hellboy and others always seemed a bit skinnier to me than some of Mignola's blockier creations.

But it's been a heck of a ride, and probably not an easy one to illustrate: the second act of Hellboy left the more familiar plots of the first act behind, moving Hellboy from being a paranormal investigator with the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence to a wandering hero whose quest never seemed entirely clear because Hellboy himself wasn't clear about it -- or sober for long sections of it.

Mignola and Fegredo supply a handy bit of summary towards the beginning here, voiced by Hellboy himself, before moving to the main action. And what action it is, as Hellboy and his giant hand of doom must stop the end of everything or die trying.

Unlikely allies arise, including Queen Mab and Baba Yaga and a mysterious little girl. Loose ends, signs, and portents set up in the previous 11 volumes suddenly start to make sense, often in startling fashion. There is Ragna Rok and King Arthur and the last weird battle in the West. There is an evil badger and a repentant pig. There's a dragon that bleeds molten gold.

And there's Hellboy, perhaps overmatched but always game for a fight. He doesn't know when to stop punching, and while he was born a demon, he's ultimately humanity's best friend. Or fiend. And boy, can that guy take a punch!

Everything comes to a crashing conclusion which is really only an intermission between one important battle and what will ultimately be the war for humanity. And I'm excited to see what's next. Highly recommended.

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