Review: “Hellboy, Vol. 01: Seed of Destruction”

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Intrigue, action, horror, and the supernatural blend together seamlessly in a book that introduces a hero whose name sounds nefarious, yet humorous at the same time. However, Hellboy is one character who, despite his name, has a gruff exterior paired with a heart of gold. In “Hellboy, Volume 1: Seed of Destruction”, creator/writer/artist Mike Mignola, writer John Byrne, and colorist Mark Chiarello place the reader in a haunting world that involves wizards, Nazis, and strange creatures with sketchy origins.

“Seed of Destruction” is an introduction to the hero Hellboy and a cast of supporting players that will continue to have further adventures after this volume leaves the reader on a cliffhanger. This miniseries is an introduction of a place and characters that leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Mignola, Byrne, and Chiarello bring these individuals to life and inspire the reader to continue on their adventures with them. Mignola is setting up a world and various concepts that are just waiting to be explored. The book opens in 1944 with a Nazi supernatural plan called Project Ragna Rok and the birth of Hellboy. Time flashes forward fifty years, with Hellboy now working for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (or B.P.R.D. for short) and defending the world against strange and otherworldly evil with his cohorts Abe Sapien and Elizabeth Sherman.

The story proceeds at a quick and smooth pace despite the many moments of conversation and first person narration. It’s a testament to Mignola’s love of his creation that Mignola and Byrne’s exciting story and use of language is such a success. An example of this occurs when Mrs. Cavendish welcomes her strange B.P.R.D. guests into her spooky abode, then converses alone with a strange horrific visage in the shadows, which then leads to Hellboy giving the reader part of Liz’s origin. The different voices of the characters in these successive scenes are distinct and the story flows from one scene to the next without jarring the reader. This may seem like a simple story, but the ease in which it is written hides the fact that it must be paid close attention to in order to better understand and enjoy what will happen later on in the book. This deceptive simplicity pairs perfectly with Mignola’s art.

Mignola’s art is bold and unique, with its simplicity adding to the story’s barren and eerie atmosphere. Paired with colorist Mark Chiarello, the art in “Seed of Destruction” intertwines the real and the supernatural in powerful ways. The confluence of real and fantastical occurs superbly in one particular scene. When the wizard recounts his story, the flashback scenes turn to black, gray, and white. The color red appears on a flag bearing a swastika in this reminiscence when Germany is mentioned by the wizard. The following panel features Adolph Hitler devoid of color except for the stark red background and a swastika within a white circle. The reader then sees the “puny minds the Reich had assembled for itself.” These “puny minds” happen to include a large gorilla, a masked man, and a floating head in a jar. Despite the outrageous appearance of this ragtag bunch, the depiction of them and the lack of bright color transform characters and scene within an atmosphere both realistic and supernatural.

Splash pages are rare in this miniseries, but, when utilized, are impactful. Mignola and Chiarello usually place splash pages within fight scenes, yet one particular splash page in the second chapter is eerily silent and has an impact that exudes mystery and impending horror. Hellboy describes Cavendish Hall as a cursed home that is slowly sinking to the bottom of a lake. The house sits upon a lake of purple with a purple horizon peeking over blue land and an enormously blue sky. A green solitary rowboat sits nearby. Again, the simplicity of the art and the starkness of the colors conjures a feeling of impending doom.

A story with a being as powerful as Hellboy wouldn’t be complete without fight scenes. Mignola employs shadow to great effect in these scenes, making them thick with danger peril. When Hellboy battles an amphibious creature at Cavendish Hall, the chase is more powerful than the actual fight. The creature lunges at Hellboy while he attempts to swim away. Hellboy is pushed down to the depths of the river by the creature and then flung out like a rag doll. Violence, like the rest of the book’s goings-on, is soaked in shadow and dark, muted colors. Because of writing and artistic technique, “Seed of Destruction” is a book that exudes haunting mystery.

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“Seed of Destruction” is a book created with an abundance of imagination and attention to detail in the art and story. It is an introduction of a distinct character and unique world that is overflowing with endless possibility. Mignola, Byrne, and Chiarello have created a perfect introduction to Mignola’s Hellboy, his mysterious surroundings, and the unanswered questions that surround his origin. The world of Hellboy is a world of fun and is one that any reader would be remiss not to plunge into feet first.

Grade: A

Hellboy, Volume 1: Seed of Destruction
Story by: Mike Mignola
Script by: John Byrne
Miniseries colors by: Mark Chiarello 
Cover colors by: Dave Stewart
Short-story colors: Matthew Hollingsworth
Publisher: Dark Horse

You can find this book at one of the following recommended retailers:
digital.darkhorse.com
amazon.com

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