(W) Mike Mignola (A) Ben Stenbeck (C) Dave Stewart (L) Clem Robins
Here’s a quick history of me and the Hellboy Universe.
Throughout the years friends, and people I’ve met while working at the local comic stores would recommend Hellboy to me, always telling me how great of a series it is and how vast of a universe it has. I would always reply with, “I’m to busy.”, or, “Whenever It’s finished.” But with the recent release of the Hellboy complete omnibuses I figured it was time to delve into this highly recommended series, and by golly I’m glad I did.
Beware of spoilers ahead.
A dead Hellboy and Koshchei walk into a bar in Hell, yeah, It sounds like the start of a bad joke I know, but Koshchei The Deathless TPB is anything but a joke. Debuting in Hellboy: Darkness Calls we learn what led-up to Koshchei and Hellboys fateful fight, and what followed. Hearing about it’s release I wondered why there was a need for a history of a character that was only featured in one story arc, but finishing the trade caused me to crave back stories for other characters.
Mike Mignola, the man who started it all returns to write the time-spanning history of Koshchei. Opening the mini-series with the last few pages of the previous fight we find Koshchei apologizing to a dead Hellboy in The Drunken Limpet (pub in hell) and recounting their previous encounter. The story continues to jump back and forth between the past with Koshchei retelling his life story and hardships, then back to the present in the pub with Hellboy listening. Per usual the banter with Hellboy is top-notch, at times I wished there was more with him, but this story isn’t about him. We learn of his rebirth from a dragon that he previously served under, his first meeting with Baba Yaga, and the ways she tricked him. Without getting into too much spoiler territory (why spoil a great story) we learn how he was tricked into killing the last of the dragons, how he lost his humanity, becoming Koshchei The Devil, how Baba Yaga tricked him into revealing his souls locations, and how he eventually died. When he first popped into the Hellboy pages as an antagonist I enjoyed him, but not enough to care for a mini-series detailing his back story, then Mike Mignola’s amazing world building in this gave me an itch for even more back stories on characters. With fun engaging dialogue and story this trade shouldn’t be missed by any Hellboy fan.
Beginning his Hellboy career in 2008 Ben Stenbeck is always a top choice for me in the Hellboy art department, reminding me of Mike Mignola’s art but with less heavy ink (P.S. I love Mignola’s art style). His art is terrific, showing magnificent detail in the backgrounds, characters, and the outfits each character wears. Action scenes flowed perfectly, showcasing fluid movement making it easy on the eyes but still a sight to behold, even in the calm moments when characters would talk – or be silent – the art really carried the story showing just how lush calm moments in this chaotic universe could be.
Dave Stewart has been the colorist for countless issues of the Hellboy Universe since the near beginning of the series, meaning anytime you see his name in the credits you know the colors will pop and be a perfect fit. There was a few panels that stuck out dramatically due to the background being a solid color, this really complimented the art showcasing just what was happening and what to pay attention too. There isn’t much to say about the colors other than, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”. With him being the colorist for so many issues, it would feel wrong not having Dave Stewart do it.
Trade Paper Back Thoughts: The quality of the paper is nice, feeling sturdy enough not to tear, but flexible enough to read comfortably. The nice thing with collecting any of the Hellboy Universe trades is always the extra sketchbooks in the back. Collecting eighteen pages of sketches and notes from the “Artists” it was a blast to look behind the scenes of this mini, I would have loved some pages of Mike Mignola’s script to be collected though. Placed up on my self with it’s sister books it is a beautiful sight.
Final Thought: Like I previously said, I went in thinking I wouldn’t care much about this story, I feel not every character in media needs a back story, but with all the creative juices that went into this I crave more stories down the road. This isn’t necessarily a must pick up to understand everything going on, and as of right now it doesn’t seem to hint at anything down the future, it’s more of just a quick standalone. If you are craving more history for some characters this is the perfect story, plus it has some good Hellboy scenes, It’s always fun to read more Hellboy!
Memorable Quotes: “Well, that was pretty horrible.” -Hellboy.
“I told you I was in a dark place. The Koshchei I was, the man, he was dead…. fitting then, I thought to marry a corpse.” -Koshchei.
“She was a giant talking fish.” -Hellboy
Moral: Trust Dragons, not Witches.