Hellboy, Vol. 7: The Troll Witch and Others — Review
This is another one of the periodic clean-up volumes to collect shorter Hellboy stories – like The Chained Coffin & Others (volume 3) and The Right Hand of Doom (volume 4). Shorter doesn’t necessarily mean less interesting, but these aren’t stories that advance the Hellboy mythos or continue his main story – they’re all set in his past (from 1958 through 1993, up until about the time of the first major Hellboy storyline, Seed of Destruction) and mostly feature retold bits of folklore or tales.
The most substantial work here is Makoma, a two issue series written by Mignola and with art mostly by Richard Corben (inside a Mignola framing story). It’s a little odd to see Hellboy drawn by someone else – Mignola has let other hands illustrate the B.P.R.D. stories, usually Guy Davis, but this was the first Mignola Hellboy story of any length illustrated by someone else. Makoma retells an African folktale – of the “series of trials of the hero” variety – with Hellboy taking the place, and name, of the original hero. Corben’s people are less stylized and fleshy than they sometimes are, which suits my tastes, but it might feel like lesser Corben to those who prefer him at his most distinctive. The story itself is pretty straightforward, and adapts well to Hellboy – Makoma also was the kind of hero who walked up to giant monsters and started hitting them until they either died or gave up – though it’s fairly thin.
The short pieces, as in the previous miscellaneous collections, are mostly very atmospheric and creepy, serving to introduce or highlight a particular bit of mythology or folklore that Mignola particularly liked. Four of these stories are from the “Dark Horse Book of…” series, so those of you who, like me, hesitated about buying those book just to get a few pages of Mignola will feel gratified by the result of that tight-fistedness. In those stories – and one from a Wizard promotion – Hellboy meets a Penanggalan in Malaysia, a Hydra in Alaska, Trolls in Norway, a demon monkey on Long Island, and a ghoul in London. And he generally clobbers the crap out of all of those things.
There’s also a new story, along the same lines – “The Vampire of Prague,” about… well, you can figure it out… but it’s illustrated by P. Craig Russell, which gives it a different look. Russell’s figures are usually much more ethereal and light than Mignola’s are – and his blacks are never as deep, inky, and prominent on the page – but he draws a good, muscular Hellboy, and the story has a lot of energy and drive. In plot and outline, it’s very much like a typical Mignola Hellboy story – Hellboy comes to town, finds supernatural thing, causes great devastation while battling said thing, and then wins – but the look of the piece is quite different.
So, this is certainly not a good place to start reading Hellboy, and it’s not a major new story, either. But it does collect a bunch of good stories from various places, and it sits nicely on the shelf with the other Hellboy books. And that’s pretty good.
Hellboy, Vol. 7: The Troll Witch and Others
Mike Mignola with Richard Corben & P. Craig Russell
Dark Horse Comics, 2007, $17.95
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
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