Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea

Wait. I thought Hellboy was dead? I mean, yes, he died and went to hell, but I also thought that series ended and Mignola was going to rest the character -- at least for a while, maybe for good. So what is this small hardcover that came out in the spring?

Mignola doesn't explain the discrepancy, but I guess he doesn't have to: he can write stories about his characters whenever he wants to and however he wants to. And the story itself does explain where Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea slots into the series continuity -- after Strange Places, soon before Hellboy's death -- for the comics audience, which cares about that most of all.

Frankly, I suspect Silent Sea exists because Mignola wanted to see Gary Gianni draw some old sailing ships and giant demon-snakes and assorted monsters. (Not to mention Hellboy himself.) And that's OK -- a fairly large swath of comics exists because it's stuff someone wanted to draw, or someone else wanted him to draw, rather than because it's a story that needed to be told. (All of those dinosaurs and motorcycles and purple covers, all of those buckles and pouches and gigantic guns and scars that run precisely over one eye.)

Anyway, no matter why, Into the Silent Sea is a thing that exists. And, given that it's drawn by Gary Gianni, it's beautiful in its creepy horribleness. But it's also, frankly, a bit random and pointless, with Hellboy in the 19th century for some unknown reason (was Strange Places a time-travel anthology?). There he finds a sailing ship, gets tied up, is repeatedly emoted at by two distinctly different monomaniacs, befriends the requisite young boy, and eventually punches a big snakelike monster that seems to have been going away anyway.

In other words, it's a Hellboy story. The shorter ones that don't rely on particular bits of folklore have been tending more and more to type for the past decade or so, and Silent Sea could serve as template for the Standard Hellboy Standalone Story.
  • No Recurring Characters? Check
  • Guest Artist? Check
  • Giant Monster Hellboy Gets to Punch? Check
  • Monster Is Not Actually Defeated? Check
  • Lunatics Meddling Where Man Should Not Go? Check
  • Eerie Ending Returning Hellboy Whence He Came? Check
Look, this is just fine as a Hellboy story. And the Gianni art is, again, very impressive. But none of this means anything. And -- not that Mignola listens to me -- I'd suggest that future one-off Hellboy stories should focus more on actual folklore than throwaway bits of Mignola's Lovecraft cosmology. The mythos stuff works best if it's related to the main story, and the main story is now over -- so that's no longer an option.

This is a nice minor Hellboy story, but we already have a lot of those, and they're starting to rhyme pretty obviously.

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