Monday, August 11, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #223: Hellboy Vol. 12: The Storm & The Fury by Mignola & Fegredo

I've got a stack of unread books about Mike Mignola's Hellboy and his world, so I'm declaring this A Week in Hell. I've got five different pieces of that world to cover, though I do have to admit -- I am behind, remember? -- that these are nowhere near the most recent titles.

I came to the twelfth and last collection of the original run of Hellboy stories -- Hellboy, Vol. 12: The Storm and The Fury, written by series creator Mike Mignola and drawn by Duncan Fegredo -- from both ends; I'd read the previous books (volumes ten and eleven were miscellaneous art-by-other-hands collections; nine covered the immediately preceding events) and had also, semi-accidentally, already read Hellboy in Hell, Vol. 1: The Descent earlier this year as Day 122 of this Book-A-Day stretch. So, unfortunately for me, this book had no surprises: I'd already spoiled myself.

And this is the end of that sequence of Hellboy stories -- not to spoil anyone further behind than I was, but it's a very definitive end, as you might guess from the title of the follow-up series.  This book collects two three-issue mini-series, but it's all one story: this is the immediate follow-up to The Wild Hunt, which ended with Hellboy (once again having denied his heritage and refused to start the apocalypse) in possession of Excalibur and secretly the rightful King of Britain. (Somewhat of a left-field event, certainly.)

This time out the no-shit apocalypse finally does happen, with massive armies of evil following Nimue and the risen "noble dead of Britain" looking for a king to lead them against said armies. Writer Mignola throws a lot of elements from earlier books into the mix here -- Morgan le Fay is more-or-less backing Hellboy, Merlin is tormenting the pig-man who set this all in motion, Baba Yaga is willing to aid Hellboy for a price, and that demon brother of Hellboy's (unnamed here) shows up again for one last won't-you-please-start-the-apocalypse talk. The seven gigantic pseudo-Lovecraftian stones from beyond space that want to destroy the world -- the Ogdru Jahad -- have infected Nimue somehow, and what she thought was the fight to eliminate humanity and return the Earth to the creatures of legend has been subverted into that same ol' Aung An Rama apocalypse.

In the end, Hellboy gets to Nimue, who has transformed into a dragon, and they fight. Hellboy stories are always about that big old red right hand of doom punching mythological creatures really hard, so it's no surprise that this big ending features the biggest and nastiest of mythological creatures. It's an impressive battle, with striking pages by Fegredo and a real sense of apocalyptic doom in all aspects of the story.

Does Hellboy save the world? Well, there have been about a dozen collections of B.P.R.D. since this point, reprinting a hundred-plus issue storyline, so the world definitely is not utterly destroyed. But this is the point where it's finally clear that Hellboy's world is not ours; he slipped down the other leg of the Trousers of Time at some point.

This was a fine ending for the original run of Hellboy stories, and it set Mignola up for his new series, with renewed fervor and unabated energy. This is about as apocalyptic as an ongoing comic will ever be able to get, full of eyeball kicks and payoffs for a thousand story hooks that Mignola planted over the past two decades. This is not the place to begin reading Hellboy, but, if you were waiting to see if that story would have an ending, this definitely counts as one.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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