To reach an ominous looking castle, Hellboy must battle a guardian of a stone bridge that crosses a flaming horde of demons. He must crusade to save his fair lady Alice, poisoned last issue. Meanwhile, the Queen of the Witches soothes the troubled brow of the pig demon who seeks vengeance against our big red monster hunter.
Hellboy unfortunately bears similarities to two scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I am amazed that Mignola did not see the reflection. It seems so blatant to me.
The guardian's black, and he even states, "None shall pass this way." Once you make that connection, it's impossible not to think of Arthur's over the top bloody battle against the Black Knight. In comparison, Hellboy's violence is just somewhat bland, even when rendered by Duncan Fegredo.
The castle occupant’s identity comes as a genuine surprise and her presence makes sense. Hellboy's battles did not just involve Lovecraft inspired horrors. He also took up iron against evil faeries like Jenny Greenteeth. These past adventures almost foreshadow her appearance.
Because of the comical association, Hellboy's portion of the book isn't all that exciting. However, the Witch Queen’s eerie displays of intense power rivet one‘s attention to the pages. At one juncture, she orchestrates a murder simply through the force of her will. Fegredo's art in these scenes replicates the shadowy elegance of Mignola's style and recreates the macabre ambiance of previous Hellboy stories.
Gary Gianni's Monstermen feature returns to the pages of Hellboy for a promising backup tale. The star is St. Benedict, a knight in a three-piece suit. If Monstermen were a movie, for my money, Basil Rathbone would have been the only actor capable of conveying St. Benedict’s dramatic dialogue and wonderfully emotive body language. Indeed, I kept hearing Rathbone when following St. Benedict’s foray, albeit with a metallic echo due to the helmet.
Gianni's artwork currently beautifies the world of Prince Valiant. His style does fall in the detailed and delicate Hal Foster category, but I would also classify his illustration as indicative of Ed Cartier, who imparted extra verve to the Shadow pulps.
Gianni's imagination taps into the spirit though not the brushwork of Hieronymus Bosch. This is evident in the grotesque design of the ghosts and some of the cast‘s twisted bodies.
Hellboy is somewhat disappointing, but the surprise guest star and the return of the Monstermen makes this issue a welcome addition to any collection.
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