Hellboy Volume 3

Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Mike Mignola
Dark Horse

You know, if I was told, "You can only read one publisher for the rest of time," I'm starting to think I'd opt for Dark Horse. They really publish great comics, even when they're just collections of smaller works, like this third Hellboy collection.

The stories here are from various sources, like a Christmas special, Dark Horse Presents, and the odd limited series. All of the art is by Mignola, and many of them feature a few things redone here and there.

First off is a story I read when reprinted to a comic, "The Corpse and the Iron Shoes." The first is a mishmash of folktales in the mighty Hellboy manner, as our hero fights against the wee folk to save a baby for its parents. The second story is a fun little sketch of thing, "a weird little incident" as Mignola puts it.

"The Baba Yaga," original for this trade, provides the back story to things referenced in the second Hellboy Arc, as Hellboy faces off against the Baba Yaga herself. She's just as evil here as over in Fables and Hellboy tries to take her down.

Next up is a Christmas story, well, sort of. Mignola admits the Christmas elements are kinda added on. But the story itself is vintage Mignola--a folk tale inspires him to lead our investigator of the paranormal off into the depths of a creature that holds a poor girl hostage from the afterlife. As her last remaining relative lies dying, can Hellboy free her?

Well, I'm sure you know by now, but the best parts are the very modern-speaking Hellboy telling gothic monsters to "Take it like a--" and so forth. It's that juxtoposition that keep the stories fun for me.

Mignola takes another folk tale (big shock, I know) to the page for a Hellboy origin, as we meet the woman who may or may not be his mother. This one is fairly straightforward, as Hellboy doesn't do much. I'm not entirely shore that was the best way to approach it, but see what you think.

"Wolves of Saint August" is the second Hellboy story, in terms of its creation, and features Mignola's first scripting work on the character. One of the longer pieces in this trade, Hellboy faces off against werewolves that live in a long-cursed town. The artwork is not quite as polished as the Hellboy seen now, but the energy of the character shines through. Plus, you get things like a werewolf skeleton, drawn only as Mignola can.

Last up is "Almost Colossus," a story that sets up some of the events in later Hellboy and BPRD trades. Liz is dying, and no one can figure out why. While Abe watches over her, Hellboy goes off to investigate missing corpses. A link soon forms between the two stories as Hellboy lurks in cemetaries and Mignola gets to do a Frankenstein story of Colossal proportions. This story featurs my favorite line so far in a Hellboy comic, "Now God has a tree in his neck."

I think this one is most notable, however, for the fact that while doing the olbigitory monster scenes, Mignola puts some subtle touches to his art, as when Liz can no longer muster the strength for a cigarette. Despite his blocky style, Mignola often finds inventive ways to frame stories, whether it's a death scene or Hellboy fighting a 100 foot tall golem.

None of these stories are "essential" reading, but they sure are fun. I really like Hellboy and am glad there's a lot more still to read.