writer: Mike Mignola
artist: Mike Mignola
published by Dark Horse Comics

“Hellboy … where are you going?”

With that line, Hellboy: The Island begins. Honestly, I don’t know why I pick up Hellboy. That’s nothing against the book, I’ve just simply never been able to explain why I’m drawn to this comic. There’s nothing that I can quite put my finger on. I’m not a fan of the gothic art style of the book, but it certainly adds to the atmosphere. Sure, there’s the great characterization and a compelling, yet tragic, central figure. It’s filled with mood and a macabre humor, mixed with a light touch of Poe and Lovecraft. Mike Mignola has created a detailed, rich, and moody world.

“Once on the island, Hellboy has a couple drinks and learns a whole lot of stuff he never wanted to know …about himself,” commented writer/artist Mike Mignola. “In this miniseries I decided to tell a lot of stuff I never thought I was going to tell.”

Award winning Hellboy creator Mignola finally returns to the title that spawned a franchise. It’s not like he’s capitalizing on the heat generated by the Hellboy movie. The Island picks up, two years later, after the events from the last Hellboy mini-series, Third Wish. That would be four years ago in our time, and over a year after the release of the movie.

Hellboy spent the last two years at the bottom of the ocean then finds himself on a mysterious island. I guess after spending a couple of years alone with fish, it wouldn’t take much to adapt to the situation and start drinking with a bunch of dead sailors. Hellboy is in no mood to chat with his ancient enemy (Baba Yaga), even if she does bring vague hints about things to come.

Even with the economy of words, the near stream-of-consciousness writing style that he’s chosen, Mike Mignola paints a creepy portrait of a man/demon lost and alone. Again, his work is well-researched and his meticulous attention to detail (he did the production design for Atlantis: The Lost Empire) shows (down to having the sailors sing “The Mermaid,” an old sailor’s song). For those who crave action over atmosphere, he still manages to include the obligatory “Hellboy smash”-styled big monster fight sequence. However, it is characterization that makes this book great, and he has a great character in Hellboy. Part of the dark wit of the book lies with Hellboy being in full everyman mode, a regular blue-collar demon. This time around, there is a pervading sense of loneliness in the book. It may not always be clear what’s going on, but that only adds to the vague sense of unease about the book.

Steeped in religious symbols and tradition, the true horror of the book lies in the (often supernatural) battle between good and evil, the reality of Christ and the devil. But another spiritual connection lies in the continual theme of Hellboy challenging his destiny. He’s lost and at a crossroads in his life. He knows who he is and what he was created to be, the inverse of the situation we find ourselves in. Knowing his true self, his true identity, he rejects it and decides that being human sounds like a better purpose in life. Trying to save the world as a mission sounded a lot better than leading the Apocalypse.

Rooted in folk tales and myths, this series promises to reveal a secret or two about Hellboy. The important thing though is that Hellboy: The Island is an engaging story, full of mystery—with a generous helping of horror—that challenges and entertains the reader. It is one of the finest horror works out there.

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