"Hellboy Library Edition: Volume 5" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally published as Free Comic Book Day 2008: Hellboy, Hellboy: Darkness Calls #1 - #6, and Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #1 - #8
Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Duncan Fegredo
2007, 434 Pages
Graphic Novel released on July 11th, 2012
So you know Hellboy died, right? That happened fairly recently in the rather epic storyline The Storm and the Fury. What I didn't know when I read that trade paperback was that it was the final act of a trilogy. The first two parts, Darkness Falls and The Wild Hunt, were handily collected in the latest Library Edition from Dark Horse Comics. Reading all three of them is recommended as you get the full story of Hellboy's final days on Earth. The poor guy goes through a lot in this journey, confronted several enemies from his past and coming head-to-head with his destiny, however dark that may be. He's been bouncing around the UK for a bit, staying with ghosts in abandoned houses and being depressed.
Since Hellboy made his way to our world, he's been plagued by his past and the possibilities for his future. The son of a witch and a demon prince, he's been fighting against the forces of evil who want to raise him up as a leader. That's why he shaves down his horns. He's a kinder, gentler beast. In this collection, Hellboy learns a bit more about his mother Sarah Hughes and why he feels so comfortable in the English countryside. Slight spoilers here, but if you read The Storm and the Fury first like I did, it was already pointed out to you. Hellboy is a descendent of King Arthur and as a result, he's the true king of England. So instead of ruling in Hell, he could rule from Buckingham Palace.
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All of this is going on as Hellboy is pushed further and further towards his destiny and what could be the end of civilization. A dark force is rising up against him, led by creatures that he's put down before. In many ways, Darkness Falls and The Wild Hunt are the culmination of years of Hellboy comics.
While Darkness Falls features some epic battles between Big Red and Koshchei, an ancient warrior who cannot die so long as Baba Yaga owns his soul, The Wild Hunt felt like more of a satisfying story. It's here that Hellboy fights himself more than anything else. As he learns about his ancestry, he encounters a group of giants and basically falls into a berserker rage that would rival that of Wolverine. The horns start growing as the blood splatters left and right. Hellboy stands above a pile of huge corpses and then suddenly realizes what he's done. He's lost control and that darkness that lives deep inside him found its way out. It's this struggle that makes Hellboy such a great character. His entire life has been spent trying to prove everyone wrong. Yes, he looks like the devil, but he's half human.
Artist Duncan Fegredo gets to take a crack at drawing Hellboy. This is a pretty exclusive club with Mignola handling the bulk of the comics featuring the character. While Fegredo's style mimics that of Mignola, he puts his own stamp on the character. Hellboy's world is dark and gloomy. He gets very few moments of joy in these issues, but those really shine. These are things like Alice, the girl that Hellboy saved from a demon years ago. She has a way of busting out a smile that feels almost unnatural in this comic, but it stands out and gives Hellboy a reminder of what he's fighting for.
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Mignola has a way of telling a story that doesn't require much in the way of dialogue. He lets the artwork do it for him, allowing for subtleties in details and in this case Fegredo gets to showcase his abilities. Every chapter of this collection goes by very quickly, but each panel gives you so much in the form of plot. Mignola lets the art breathe and it works very well.
This collection of Hellboy comics provides the first two parts of a pretty huge trilogy when it comes to the character. Don't make the mistake I did and read the last part first. Granted, I was still able to enjoy The Storm and the Fury, but I have such a greater appreciation for it after reading Darkness Falls and The Wild Hunt. It puts the whole story in perspective and cements Hellboy's place among the top characters of comics.