Now for a graphic novel that combines B-Movie Monster Action, Nazis, the Apocalypse and stunning visuals by one of the industry’s most distinctive artists with dialogue from one of its most iconic storytellers
I hate horror in any and all of its forms, but sometimes even I get swept up by the currents of pop culture and end up having my brain scourged by the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Supernatural.
Hellboy was not one of those times! It’s a visually stunning ride through a terrifying vivid world in which a few brave souls stand against darkness and evil that threatens to consume everything.
The Hellboy Incidence
Hellboy: Seed of Destruction begins in the ruins of a sinister ruined church somewhere in the English countryside during the height of World War 2 in 1944. A crack team of American commandos and British paranormal investigators are hot on the trail of a Nazi infiltration squad that is planning to hold some sort of supernatural summoning ritual codenamed ‘Project Ragna Rok’ (after the Viking end of the world myth).
Only our heroes are in the wrong place, the Nazis are actually holding their little spook session on a Scottish island that is linked in some paranormal way to the ruined church. After an ominous and impressive summoning ceremony, nothing happens in Scotland. But in England a demonic little boy with red skin and a giant stone hand appears in a ball of fire.
Cut the present day and a now grown up Hellboy answers a mysterious summon from his guardian and mentor Prof. Trevor Bruttenholm, who was believed lost during an archeological expedition to the Arctic circle 10 months ago. The good Professor has something very important to tell Hellboy but seems to suffer from amnesia. He and the Cavendish brothers, who financed the Arctic expedition, found something ancient and evil in the frozen north of the world.
But before the Professor can remember anything further it starts raining frogs inside his apartment! The Professor freaks out and takes of running with Hellboy close on his tail, only to be attacked by a vicious frog monster man. After Hellboy sees his ‘father’ die in front of him, he fights the frog monster to the death.
The Mystery of Cavendish Hall (and Apocalypse Obsessed Madmen)
This sets off a serious of events that lead him and his team, fire element user Elizabeth Sherman and fish creature Dr. Abraham Sapien, from the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) to Cavendish Hall. The ancestral home of the Cavendish’s who organized the doomed Arctic expedition.
Needless to say things are not as they seem in the creepy old house and our heroes investigations soon turn into a bitter fight for survival. An ancient family obsession that has destroyed 9 generations of a family will be exposed. Project Ragna Rock comes back to haunt Hellboy. And an ancient evil is unleashed with dire consequences for the world. If Hellboy can’t do what he does best it may be lights out on planet Earth…
Ancient world destroying evils, frogmen and archetypal madmen, Hellboy: Seed of Destruction does not disappoint in ambition or execution!
More Value for Money –Extra Goodies in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction
What’s great that in this 128 page trade paperback we don’t only get the original four-part Seed of Destruction miniseries but the two original short stories used to introduce Hellboy to the graphic novel reading public. Wanna see the big red guy beat ancient Egyptian gods into pulp or destroy the schemes of headless pickle jar Nazis with Frankenstein gorillas at their service? Look no further!
There are also several spectacular development sketches in which Mike Mingola breaks down his development of the character. At the end of TPB there is also a gallery with several beautiful Hellboy pieces from other well-known (80s-90s) comic book artists.
The Art and Writing of Seed of Destruction
Mike Mingola is an amazing artists, his style was and is unique in the graphic novel field. It pays homage to the simple and clear lines of Jack Kirby, the granddaddy of American superhero comics, but is more gritty and darker.
This is in part due to the fact that Mingola is a master of light and shadows, but he doesn’t just use shading to create his stylistic visuals –negative (dark) and positive (light) become part of and form the figures and backgrounds. Sometimes it is as if the darkness comes alive and has a life of its own… creepy!
Mike Mingola is also a master of powerful understated backgrounds, whose sole purposes is to tell a story of their own. He is a minimalist who can do the hardest thing in visual story telling. To tell a lot with very little. His illustrations of old ruins, statues, masks and natural features are breathtaking.
I love the way the story flows from a visual point of view. Mingola really knows how to setup a scene. Often it feels like you are watching a big budget blockbuster movie, not reading a graphic novel. The action scenes are very well done. Mike shows us just enough for the imagination to fill in the rest and make the story come to life.
I read this book at night and caught myself looking across my shoulder several times just to make sure nothing was behind me. The rhythm of the visuals and the dialogue are really in synch.
The use of color in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is very singular. Somehow the colorist, Mark Chiarello, manages to use a very pale color pallet to give a very distinctive look to Mingola’s art.
It’s amazing how these pale colors combined with the brilliant use of black and white can create a dramatic narrative of their own –enhancing the story through creating anything from a tense and threatening atmosphere to bright otherworldly explosions! I’m glad that this style has been maintained in later volumes of the series.
The writing and dialogue of Seed of Destruction is well done. John Byrnes long experience with writing plots and scripting dialogues really compliments Mike Mingola’s drawing style.
To be fair, the story of Hellboy: Seed to Destruction is Mikes idea. His love for dark Victorian area literature (e.g. Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Braham Stoker) really shines through. Mike Mingola is a great fan of international folklore and monster stories and it shows. No mythology is off limits. But he manages to weave them together seamlessly. The implausible becomes plausible…
One of the re-occurring themes of the series is Hellboys humanity (although he is born a monster) and the concept of free will versus destiny. Mingola and Byrne, really build a unique character and personality for Hellboy in Seed of Destruction. He’s kind of a smartass who tends to punch first and ask questions later. But he is also somebody who loves the people close to him and possessed of a very strong sense of what is right and what is not.
While Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien don’t get such detailed character development in this miniseries, we do get to see their personalities. Liz is smart and cautious but scared and overwhelmed (sometimes) by a wild power she can’t control. Abe is calm and deliberate but also very willing to take bold action when necessary.
All in all the story is excellent. While the tone of the Hellboy series changes slightly in later volumes, due to Mingola assuming full creative control over his story, this change is minor. Byrne’s script moved expertly from first-person introspection to more direct dialogue in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction. Later volumes are more direct, which works just fine.
This reviewer gives Hellboy: Seed of Destruction Five out of Five stars! It’s a must read for horror fans. If you, like me, are generally not a fan of the horror genre give it a chance! It really is that good. Memorable characters, beautiful art and a riveting story –this one is a classic for sure!
PS: If you like horror, pulp, gorgeously dark artwork and wise-cracking heroes, you will like Hellboy: Seed of Destruction get your copy today.