Hellboy: Seed of Destruction
By Mike Mignola (Story & Art); John Byrne (Script); Mark Chiarello (Colours); 2004
Summary from Goodreads
When strangeness threatens to engulf the world, a strange man will come to save it. Sent to investigate a mystery with supernatural overtones, Hellboy discovers the secrets of his own origins, and his link to the Nazi occultists who promised Hitler a final solution in the form of a demonic avatar.
Though I’ve owned this book for a long time, and read it even before then, I thought featuring the first volume of this classic horror series would be a great way to start October.
The volume collects the four issue mini-series of the same name, originally published by Dark Horse Comics in 1994. While not the first Hellboy story every produced, these issues are numbered as the first four in the series as a whole. It was this story specifically that the 2004 Hellboy movie by Guillermo del Toro was based upon.
Though I have a lot of love for the series and the character, the story is something I’ve had a small amount of trouble getting a good handle on. Hellboy stories, especially early on, were told in one-shots and miniseries. While there is a connective through-line running through each book in varying prominence, it isn’t told in a particularly linear fashion — at least as far as I’ve gotten.
Seed of Destruction has a lot to do in a small amount of pages. It was a little jarring the first time around for me, as I might have been expecting a more straightforward approach that would take it’s time building up who the character is and visualizing his place in the world before things kick off. Having read it once again I have gained a greater appreciation for what this book accomplishes. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to prefer stories that don’t waste the audience’s time, and this book gets things going in a show of great efficiency.
I like how this book handles his origin, as it starts with Hellboy’s emergence into our world yet the plot at large takes place long afterwards when he is a seasoned paranormal investigator. We quickly come to understand who the character is and the stakes the series will deal with, without needing to spend time building Hellboy up. It’s easy enough to accept the premise that he’s a monster who investigates and fights other monsters, and we don’t need a lot of set up to accept that.
This story, however, shows taken him out of his depth while presenting the gamut of what Hellboy stories are like: monster brawls, homages to adventure fiction, mystery, Nazi occultism, Lovecraftian horror, and folklore. While doing this it also sets the stage for a myth arc regarding Hellboy’s destiny, which he with deal with throughout the series.
Mignola’s art is beautifully somber, using a minimalistic style along with bold, gloomy colours to convey a more reserved tone, despite how over-the-top some its content is. I especially like how it works for the design of Hellboy himself, who might otherwise look silly or out of place if the style was not just so. It really works for how it depicts more eldritch creatures as well, which are presented in full view yet the style allows for enough obscurity that we don’t really feel we fully understand what it is.
Along with wonderfully Gothic scenery Mignola also has a penchant for drawing mechanized apes and other “dieselpunk” technologies — especially of Nazis — that I find a lot of fun visually.
This book includes a short gallery showcasing the early designs of Hellboy, as well as an initially envisioned team for the book, with blurbs by Mignola for further context.
Following this are two mini-comics, “Mike Mignola’s Hellboy,” and “Mike Mignola’s Hellboy: World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator.” These were the first Hellboy stories ever produced. The first ran in San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2 in 1993, which was given away at San Diego Comic Con, and the second was published for promotion in the Comics Buyer’s Guide in 1994.
Lastly there is a gallery of illustrations of Hellboy by other artists in the industry such as Gary Gianni, Frank Miller, and Mike Allred.
While not particularly scary, Hellboy is a horror series that fans of the genre owe it to themselves to check out. While still possessing a good sense of humour, it’s a lot more somber and serious than the film adaptation might lead you to believe with its more wise-cracking take on the character. This first book does a great job introducing the characters and the tone of the world they inhabit.