Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Book Review: Hellboy Volume 4 - The Right Hand of Doom

book cover for The Right Hand of DoomHalloween is fast approaching, but I didn't have anything spooky on the nightstand or the kindle, so I went to the library and picked up the next two volumes of Hellboy.

The Right Hand of Doom is a collection of eight stories: one backstory, five missions, and two which deal with Hellboy and his destiny.

Hellboy typically gives people the benefit of the doubt. He might harbor suspicions, but he won't act on them until he gets more information. As such, people mistake this behavior for weakness or cluelessness. But in the end, Hellboy rallies or fate intervenes, and these people ultimately come out on the losing end of things. This theme runs through "The Nature of the Beast," "King Vold," and "Heads."

And Hellboy has a sense of humor, too, although it can be a bit dark sometimes. "Pancakes," "Heads," and "Goodbye, Mister Tod" have their humorous incidents, whether they be intended or not.

"Pancakes" kicks things off, and it's about Hellboy's introduction to, as can be surmised, pancakes. It's a short—merely two pages—and cute. I won't say anything else to avoid spoiling it.

"The Nature of the Beast" sees Hellboy off to meet some cabal of Englishmen in 1954 to investigate the folktale of one Saint Leonard the Hermit. Apparently there's a dragon involved.

Professor Bruttenholm asks Hellboy to go to Norway in 1956 to help out a friend, and fellow paranormal researcher, in "King Vold." Said friend is investigating King Vold, aka the Flying Huntsman.

Hellboy goes to Japan in "Heads." The year is 1967, and Hellboy is wandering in the forests outside of Kyoto, looking for a haunted house, where he is put up for the night at the local equivalent of a bed and breakfast.

In 1979, the Bureau sends him to Portland, Oregon to investigate a complaint about a physical medium in "Goodbye, Mister Tod." "Just say no" never carried as serious a repercussion as what's portrayed here.

"The Vârcolac" sees Hellboy investigating the rise of Countess Ilona Kakosy, a powerful vampire, in Romania in 1992. Even Hellboy feels fear.

"The Right Hand of Doom" and "Box Full of Evil" are bookends of a sort. The collection's title track gathers all that we have learned about Hellboy's past and details that came up in volumes one and two and reflects upon them. The latter story finds someone attempting to force Hellboy's destiny upon him, not to bring about the Apocalypse as Rasputin hoped, but to enslave him. Combined, these stories reflect on destiny and fate. Are we bound to it, and thus, do we let it control us? Is free will an illusion? Do we make our own fate, or is it predetermined? These are questions that Hellboy has to answer for himself, with a little bit of help of course.

The artwork remains quintessential Mignola. The man knows how to make the most of shadows and light. Dave Stewart colored this volume, using a palette of muted pastels to evoke the surroundings of our intrepid red friend.

4 stars.


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