Hellboy sets sail from massive wreckage off the coast of a deserted island. Not long after, he is taken captive by the ghostly crew of a ship that plans to sell him to the circus. Their leader has become somewhat obsessed with following a powerful sea serpent. However, what they find isn’t exactly what they had hoped for… And a sole survivor sets sail from that wreckage into the open sea.
The first thing I noticed about this book is its references. The first is from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of the greatest poets I’ve had the pleasure of studying in my life. This alone drew me in and created a point of connection with the poem and the book, as Coleridge mentions a “silent sea.” Thomas Haynes Bayly is also referenced towards the beginning of the book, and Coleridge is quoted again on the last page. Not only does this add a poetic aspect to the script, it gets us excited about the story—even more so for those of us who recognize the poems that are being quoted.
Mignola and Gianni write this story to be really fluid and poetic in and of itself. Mignola’s writing often comes across like this, but I’ve never seen it done so perfectly. Even the dialogue gives off an atmospheric tone in which we pay attention to not just the words these characters are saying, but what they’re doing as they say them, their motivation for saying them, etc. Mignola has a strange ability to make me get more philosophical than I do on a daily basis anyway, which is actually quite a bit.
Hellboy is presented as an abomination, a beast, the devil himself, and more. However, he keeps his cool the entire story, talking in a hush tone and to everyone as an equal. He does what he can to save the ship from its impending destruction, but still he is judged. This kind of character, the “outsider,” is one that most of us can relate to. That alone makes Hellboy’s character a sympathetic one. Moreover, with Hellboy’s past, we know he’s a good guy. It figures that the only character that doesn’t judge him is a child. They are pure, they don’t judge, they acknowledge a life as just that—life, existence, neither good nor bad, but something to simply let be. These two are probably my favorite characters in the book.
Gianni’s illustrations resemble Mignola’s, with an angular art style that resembles German Expressionism to a certain degree. There isn’t an insane amount of detail, but just enough that we can appreciate the extra time it took to create. From the paneling on the ship to the indifference on “her” face, each and every style choice was implemented for a reason… And those decisions do wonders for the story.
This book has a sort of vintage look to it, like these people are all from the 19th century. They certainly talk as such. With Gianni’s extraneous lines cast for shadows and light sources, Dave Stewart is able to color carefully and effectively. The dull colors contrast Hellboy’s bright red appearance quite a bit (like in most Hellboy books), and make for a dark, mysterious backdrop.
Gianni also does an awesome job of creating and designing some seriously vile looking sea creatures. We get claws, fins, tentacles, webbed toes, tails, raised eyes, sharp teeth, menacing expressions, etc. This requires the utmost amount of creativity and talent, both of which the creative team sports off—as they should.
This is a book for every Hellboy fan out there. For an epic adventure with a horror twist and some crime thrown in, look no further. Mignola and his team couldn’t have done a better job with this book, and I am beyond stoked that it comes in a hardcover format. So, what the heck are you still doing here? Get to your local comic shop and pick up a copy for your own library today!
Written by: Mike Mignola & Gary Gianni
Illustrated by: Gary Gianni