"Hellboy: Volume 11 - The Bride of Hell and Others" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James "Spez" Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Mike Mignola, Richard Corben, Kevin Nowlan and Scott Hampton
2009, 200 pages
Trade paperback released on October 4th, 2011
Many comics released today take themselves far too seriously. Everything is about giant battles with guys in skintight spandex trying to save the world / universe / multiverse from some diabolical evil. Then there's Hellboy. I'm still not sure exactly what he is, but he kills bad things. He works for B.P.R.D. (The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) and goes around the world taking on vampires, demons, ghosts, and any other evil creatures that might pop their heads out. It's a simple idea and one that is accomplished in a very fun way because it's not so serious. Yes, Hellboy is in danger and so is the world, but that's why Hellboy has a really big gun and a really big fist. Problem solved.
Hellboy: Volume 11 - The Bride of Hell and Others is a collection of one-shots and mini-series from a variety of times in Hellboy's life. What's great about a character like this is that his history isn't entirely sketched out yet. We don't know what he's done every moment of his life. Actually, based on the opening story in this volume, Hellboy in Mexico, neither does the main character. As a result, creator Mike Mignola can pull from all different times to tell whatever kind of story he wants.
The aforementioned Hellboy in Mexico story is my favorite of this volume. It came from a picture that Mignola drew in 2004 featuring Hellboy with his arm around a Mexican wrestler as they stood over some dead monsters. He captioned it with "Palenque Mexico, June 2, 1956". Years later he developed a comic around it that went into detail about a five month "lost weekend" in Hellboy's life where he palled around with three Lucha Libres hunting vampires and demons in Mexico. Let me say that again. Hellboy traveled the Mexican countryside with three masked Mexican wrestlers killing demons. If that isn't reason enough to want to check this book out, let me tell you that the story ends with him wrestling a half-vampire in front of a massive crowd filled with all types of crazy creatures.
The rest of the stories collected in The Bride of Hell and Others are in a similar vein, but not as goofy. Hellboy takes on a possessed house, a crazed museum worker looking to summon ancient Egyptian gods, a hoard of vampires, and more. The vampire story, The Sleeping and the Dead, is interesting as apparently Hellboy rarely takes on bloodsuckers. Mignola explains why that is in a really creative way and sets things up for much larger possibilities down the line.
There are four different artists contributing work to this volume — including Mignola himself — as these issues were released over the course of a couple years. Fortunately, they all fit the tone of their stories quite well. Richard Corben's art reminds me a lot of the old Robert Crumb strips. Not that Corben's art is raunchy or anything like that. It's just that some of his characters are reminiscent of Crumb's style but with a darker edge to them. Obviously Crumb didn't draw giant demon kings much. Scott Hampton's style looks thinner, but with a slightly painted look to it. He lets loose with the vampires in a big way. Kevin Nowlan's art sticks out somewhat, but this isn't a bad thing. He has more of an attention to detail that's not shown in most of the Hellboy art I've seen. He has the most variation to what he gets to draw in Buster Oakley Gets His Wish with aliens, ghost cows, flying pigs, and more. Finally, Mignola draws a short story that was originally published on USA Today's website. As he created the character, he knows exactly how to draw Hellboy to fit the tone.
Despite having seen all of the Hellboy movies, including the animated ones, this was my first Hellboy comic. I was somewhat concerned that I was diving into Volume 11 instead of the beginning, but fortunately Mignola writes these stories for new and old readers alike. If you've seen the movies, you can jump right into The Bride of Hell and Others without any problems. There's not a lot of continuity to drag things down. The stories themselves are rather self-contained, but if you've read them all there are slight nods to each other throughout.