Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hellboy: The Storm and the Fury

One should not read certain graphic novels out of sequence.  One of those series is Hellboy, which I managed to read almost entirely in sequence until now; with this final segment, I leapfrogged some of what seem to me key sequences which I should have left well enough alone.  So while the finality of The Storm and the Fury was impressive and its story interesting, I think I would have been much more awed and emotionally satisfied if I had taken more careful note of what came before.  To enjoy Hellboy, it seems you must enjoy the occult and must take on board the rules of the game that Mignola sets before you.  The rules of the game are that weird things are going to happen and that Hellboy, despite how maimed, pained, and emotionally scarred by battle, is going to triumph and usually with an irreverent joke.  I don’t want to reveal too much here, but, while Hellboy’s final fate seems fairly sealed (and far from happy) here, it failed to really resonate with me because I had become so convinced of the abstraction of the conflict.  Some of Hellboy’s earlier one-to-one battles held much more importance for me given the stakes seemed higher in a smaller arena.  But that could just be me, and I doubt that I fall within the realm of proper fan.

I did enjoy the opening, which seemed a reworking of Edith Nesbitt’s “Man-Sized Marble” short story (with, however, less sinister implications).  While I believe we are meant to feel that Hellboy swearing off drink is a virtue, I fail to see in what way it particularly helps him—unless it makes him more like a Grail knight in eschewing the worldly.  After Hellboy kills an Orc-like hedgehog warrior, his companion, Alice, says, “Look how cute he was.”  “He wasn’t that cute a minute ago,” Hellboy grunts.  

There’s a brief interlude in New Mexico, 1947, Hellboy’s childhood, in which he confesses to feeling special.  “But not special like Superman.  And not like . . . Frankenstein.”  The majority of the volume, however, takes place in England, complete with Arthurian legend coursing through the flower of British youth in the First World War, reviving a long-dead champion with Alice’s help.  It also takes place in a mystical realm where witches, dragons, and ghouls of all assortments from Biblical and other traditions ooze in a Duncan Fegredo-drawn apocalyptic landscape.  

The Storm and the Fury was enjoyable but by no means my favorite volume in the series.

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