Growing up with comics you were either a Marvel Boy or a DC Boy (I say “Boy” cuz it was my experience at the time that girls did not read comics and if you ran into one you were immediately suspicious of their sexual standing; I am happy to report that these days this is not the case and when you attend a San Diego Comic Con or a Baltimore Comic Con the floor is swarming with the opposite sex). You either wanted to swing through the city and suffer teen-life with Spidey or battle cosmic gods alongside Superman. Me, I chose Webhead & Company. Sure, every now and then a sexy Dark Knight cover would lure me away but I would hide such indiscretions from fellow True Believers.
Now, being either a Marvel or DC Boy you had to accept the Status Quo. Example: X-Men’s Jean Grey is going to die, be resurrected as the Phoenix, die, be resurrected as the Phoenix, repeat ad nauseam. This is still the case with the Big Two companies. Characters get killed off, cities get wiped out, Earth gets flipped on its axis. BUT! The new Captain America movie is on its way, reset everything back to normal. Lame.
In college, I discovered a third option: Dark Horse Comics. Frank Miller’s Sin City. Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. Bob Burden’s The Flaming Carrot. Paul Chadwick’s Concrete. And Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. Here was a place where Death meant something, a place that when a city was wiped off the map by some horrible Lovecraftian Kaiju behemoth it’s not magically restored by some jeweled gauntlet. And it wasn’t just one place. Usagi Yojimbo doesn’t walk the alleys of Sin City. Each creator was given its own realm and rules to play with. Dark Horse opened the world of comics for this fanboy. It lead to other companies like Oni Press, Top Shelf, Fantagraphics.
So even though I still love reading my Captain Americas and my Daredevils, I’m no longer able to claim myself as a Marvel Boy. Honestly, if you twist my arm till I squeal “Uncle” I’m gonna choose The Mignolaverse over any other comic book reality. Hellboy (and its related titles), despite their somewhat sporadic release schedule, have become my go-to books where I can’t imagine missing a single issue and falling behind on the catastrophic events currently plaguing the brooding heroes. Honestly, if you haven’t picked up either Darkness Calls or The Wild Hunt than you have missed out on some of the highest stakes books on the market.
Now, what follows contains some minor SPOILERS. If you’ve been reading anything written about Hellboy lately on the internet than you already know this stuff, but you’ve been WARNED.
After the events of The Third Wish and The Island (collected in the trade titled Strange Places), Mike Mignola’s hands apparently couldn’t keep up with the thoughts in his head, so he gave the artist’s reins over to Duncan Fegredo for the next chapter in Hellboy’s saga. A decision that had all us nervous fanboys gnashing our teeth and wringing our sweaty palms. But one look at the first panel of Darkness Calls and we knew we were in the right hands. That book and its sequels, The Wild Hunt & The Storm, explored Hellboy’s ties to not only the fairy mythology of England but to the King Arthur Legend itself. By its conclusion, Hellboy was reeling from the revelation of his origin and missing an eye.
Just weeks ago saw the release of The Fury #3, the final issue in Mignola/Fegredo’s epic collaboration and it has left Hellboy in a place where I can’t imagine the next step. The Fury is a brawl of a book. A VS. story pitting man’s reluctant champion against Nimue. The sorceress who seduced Merlin, became Queen of the Witches, then Goddess of War, and eventually the vessel for the Dragon Ogdru Jahad who has been forecasted as the Big Bad since the very first story arc ,Seed of Destruction, in which Rasputin cracked its dimensional prison while simultaneously birthing baby Hellboy into our world. For three issues these two smash and pummel each other, marking England as the site of Ragna Rok and the United Kingdom does not escape unharmed. Big Ben and Tower Bridge are going to need some serious attention after these events.
The Fury leaves the diehard Hellboy fans in a state of melancholia. Which, of course, fans of The Mignolaverse are somewhat used to but without giving away too much information I’m willing to bet you haven’t suffered a blow quite this hard. True, the final page/advertisement gives us some hope with its promise of the ongoing Hellboy In Hell title in 2012 and with Mike Mignola returning to artist duties to boot. I love you Fegredo, but please understand our collective rejoicing howls.
So while we wait for the next chapter, Mignolaverse fans still have plenty of reading to accomplish. Hellboy’s Ragna Rok and the Plague of Frogs storyline have given the folks over at the B.P.R.D. (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense for those not in the know) a new chapter in their saga as well. Their latest trade Hell On Earth: New World sees the Bureau operating with a larger budget under the thumb of the United Nations and trying to comprehend an Earth in which a giant slug monster constantly emits noxious transformative gas over the state of California. But this new direction in the series doesn’t immediately delve into the epic nature of the plot just yet.
New World is a much more intimate tale, focusing on fishman Abe Sapien journeying North to British Columbia where a small town’s population is mysteriously disappearing. What starts with a Bigfoot clue, leads to jaguar gods, Lovecraftian basket cases, and the return of everyone’s favorite Guy Davis creation, Daryl the Wendigo. There is a B plot about the ectoplasmic man Johann obsessing over his new body growing in a tube and the undead mummy Panya sneaking about with her mind-controlled animal mutations, but after years of B.P.R.D. developing the War on Frogs storyline, this first entry in the Hell On Earth aftermath feels a little too X-Files lite. However, it’s obvious that Mignola, co-writer John Arcudi, and artist Guy Davis are giving us a little downtime before the proverbial excrement hits the fan. Again, there are giant slug beasts shadowing California, Volcanoes erupting in Houston, and more Kaiju-sized beasties toppling Seattle. Gulp.
And there are no rewind or reset buttons here. No magical gauntlets. No return to the status quo. The events in The Fury and New World are here to stay in The Mignolaverse. So if you want high stakes and brutal consequences that last beyond a film adaptation, skip the big two companies and bask in the aftermath of Ragna Rok.
Have I mentioned they’ve got Kaiju monsters?
IT’S BIG BOOTAY!
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