Review: Hellboy The Storm and The Fury Miniseries

I am not a big Hellboy fan. In the past, I’ve enjoyed the series because it is a deviation from the norm. It’s one of the biggest name comics in North America that doesn’t have a superhero on its cover. And, in its core, it is more about atmosphere and intrigue than it is about dudes punching each other out. The most daunting thing about Hellboy has always been the ten volumes I’d have to read to catch up, along with whatever was going on in the BPRD spin-off. So, when I heard that Hellboy The Storm and The Fury were entirely approachable having only read the first volume, I jumped on, and what I found is probably one of the best ‘event’ comics to come out in the last two years.

At the start of The Storm, (last year’s event) Mike Mignola summarizes Hellboy’s previous adventures succinctly enough that it gives the reader a broad understanding of where Hellboy is now, and from where he’s come. It doesn’t spoil everything that’s happened, instead giving you incentive to start looking back once you’re done. As for the actual plot of this arc, Hellboy has been declared rightful king of all Britain and must fight Nimue, the vengeful witch queen. However, things are hardly this simple, as events have been set in motion to return the entire world to the dust from which it was formed. The Storm half of the story is the more personal tale, while The Fury radically amps up the stakes, building to an unexpected ending.

Mignola’s Hellboy is in fine form. The character is likeable, understandable, and even in the six issues this miniseries covers an intriguing character arc. I haven’t read enough of this series to know if this is a constant feature, but I loved the idea of Hellboy as a self-sacrificial figure. The irony of a demon from hell representing some of mankind’s strongest traits is applaudable. The battles were written well enough to be entertaining viscerally and for character. No battle comes without some kind of narration which describe an event happening elsewhere, giving backstory or further detailing the scene. It reminded me of  the game Bastion, but in comic book form.

My favourite part of the series however is the atmosphere. Even within these short six issues, Mignola condenses a lot of atmosphere onto the page. Everything has the edge of a fairy tale, as pages are spent on building an emotion or a scene. This has a lot to do with Duncun Fegredo’s artwork, which emulates Mignola’s own style. Fedrego is great at building the forests and quiet villages with hushed tones. This gives a lot of the scenes, even during battles, a muted feel as Fedrego many of the panels feel like snapshots. There is plenty of movement to be sure, but the most dramatic moments are the panels that feel like we’re pausing time.

Dave Stewert should also be commended for the atmosphere in this series, as his stylized uses of colour accentuate a lot of the drama. The forest are a lush shade of green, the castles are a lonely blue, and violence is shown with strong reds and yellows. I was pleased to see that the strength of colour actually starts to decrease in the final act as the characters realize the tragedy in the denouement.

My main criticism is that it felt rushed in spots, and I felt like I was missing out on interesting events surrounding the final battle. I would have liked to have seen more of the undead army that shows up later, and I felt that Hellboy’s love interest, Alice was really just sitting around. She was involved to be sure, but given the few details on her backstory, I assumed she would take a more active role in the plot rather than the element to whom expository characters could explain the plot minutia.

These criticisms are really nitpicky. Overall, Hellboy The Storm and The Fury is a fine read, and an excellent execution from what seems like years of build up. This miniseries definitely approachable for those who want to try Hellboy out for the first time, though I recommend going back to the start of this arc, in Hellboy: Darkness Calls. Mignola and Fegredo put up a strong precedent for what blockbuster summer events could be, over the jumble of irate noise that Marvel and DC’s events have produced over the last few months.

Score: 5/5

Posted on August 17, 2011, in Comics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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