Hellboy: The Bride of Hell and Others is my favorite kind of Hellboy. As much as I enjoy Hellboy’s continuity adventures like Darkness Falls and The Fury, I really like Hellboy best just running around various countries, having encounters with the weird and the strange, the ghosts and the ghouls. I think it is because so much Lovecraftian weird fiction were originally barely linked short stories, and that is the format that suits the genre best.
This volume collects collaborations between Mike Mignola and three artists. For a long time I was deeply opposed to any non-Mignola drawn Hellboy and refused to buy it. I have seen too many writer/artists transition to writer-only because drawing a book takes a lot more work. I didn’t want to support that. But books like The Bride of Hell and Others show me to be completely in the wrong. Mignola has a keen eye for his work, and has carefully curated a collection of artists who each “get” Hellboy entirely and stay in Mignola’s world while still contributing something unique.
Comics legend Richard Corben does three stories, Hellboy in Mexico, Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil and Hellboy: The Bride of Hell. I have been a fan of Corben since his Heavy Metal days, and he is my favorite of all the non-Mignola artists. Corben has done beautiful adaptations of Poe and Lovecraft, so his Mignola works fits right into the genre. Corben’s artwork is so unique, yet somehow his vision is just perfect for Hellboy. Double Feature of Evil is the winner of this collection, with the bizarre framing device and two classic weird tales. I loved it.
Scott Hampton brings his fully-painted look to Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead. This story is Mignola’s take on the “classic” vampire, complete with medallion and cape. Hampton’s dreamlike world and romantic sensibilities are a perfect match for this gothic tale. One of the nice things about having an artist as delicate as Hampton is that it allows Mignola to write scenes that he couldn’t personally draw.
Mike Mignola draws a contribution too, with “The Whittier Legacy.” This was originally published in USA Today as an eight-page comic, and is the only story in this collection that didn’t get an individual comic release. Because this was a showcase to bring in new readers, we get pretty much everything that is Hellboy encapsulated in a brief eight pages. A very cool piece.
The last story, “Buster Oakley Gets his Wish” is a collaboration with Kevin Nowlan and is definitely the oddest of the bunch. A mix of black magic and cattle mutilations, this is the first (and only) time I have seen Mignola deal with aliens in the SF sense instead of the Lovecraft sense. It seems like a non-sequitor and outside of the usual Hellboy universe, but it is so much fun that doesn’t really matter. The scene with the probe is brilliant.
Every story in Hellboy: The Bride of Hell and Others is a gem. There is not a single page here, not a single panel, where you are not getting bang for your buck.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the ’90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.