Here we go, another Hellboy review, and sadly that’s kinda how it feels. Hellboy’s stagnated a bit with Hellboy, Vol. 9: The Wild Hunt, which disappoints me just a little, because generally I’m a pretty big fan of Mike Mignola‘s world-ending demon with a heart of gold.
Let’s talk about the good stuff first – that’s the art.
Back in the day, Mignola used to write and illustrate these Hellboy stories all by himself. Nowadays, he mainly just writes, and then gives his Rolodex of guest artists a spin to see who will jump at the chance to draw ol’ Anung un Rama. This time, that honor was bestowed upon Mr. Duncan Fegredo, who has worked on Hellboy several times in the past.
Perhaps not unexpectedly then, Fegredo does an excellent job of staying true to Mignola’s style. That’s a good thing, because there are few series out there with as characteristic a style as Hellboy. In fact, the uninitiated might not notice the difference between Fegredo’s work and Mignola’s. If you have The Wild Hunt in front of you and you want to do a quick comparison, check out the chapter leaves (drawn by Mignola), vs. the story pages (Fegredo). There are subtle differences, but Fegredo preserves the same bold, dark, expressive linework & dramatic shading that are Mignola’s hallmarks. Dave Stewart‘s flat, earthy colors add that oppressing touch of melancholy to the whole thing.
Melancholy may be a bit of an understatement – this is one of the more morose Hellboy volumes thus far. Hellboy himself seems downright clinically depressed – even more than usual, I mean! And that’s beside the fact that he seems to be losing his grip on sanity, reality, and self-control. Makes you feel kinda bad for the poor guy…
But my real gripe is that at this point – meaning VOLUME 9 – these Hellboy stories are getting a little formulaic. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Hellboy encounters a massively powerful paranormal foe, Hellboy talks smack, Hellboy goes on a rampage, Hellboy kicks ass. Oh right – that’s all the Hellboy books. Ok, it’s a little better than that, and to Mignola’s credit, he continually makes that formula damn entertaining.
The stars might be aligning for some epic changes in the Hellboy universe, however. It does feel like, in the Wild Hunt, we might be building to the oft-alluded-to final battle for the fate of the world. Armies are being assembled. Crowns are being donned. And still, tongues are being in-cheeked. Just how we like it.
At the end of the day, I’ll keep reading Hellboy, because I love him and all of Mignola’s characters. I do hope he ups the ante a bit (and throws a few curveballs) with the next volume though. I think I’m ready for the apocalypse. Hell, bring it on.
I give Hellboy, Vol. 9: The Wild Hunt a 6 out of 10.