We seem to find answers to the questions burning inside us at the times when we are least interested in looking for them. The heavens never seem to open up before us and throw down all of their stars and dark knowledge when we ask them to. Frustratingly, it is in the quiet moments, those times when we are trying not to see it all, times when we are trying to keep away from the world and the headaches it incessantly brings to our mind, that we are often privy to the world’s secrets and where just exactly we fit into it all.
Mike Mignola’s Hellboy has been on hiatus for two years. Other artists have thrown their interpretations into the recipe, added modest side stories, and flung the big red monkey around in the ring for a while or two. But in all of this, the loving creator of Hellboy has been absent. Now, after a few years off, Mignola (probably on a break between Hellboy films) has graced the world with a simple two-issue adventure of the lost red demon with the great stone hand. With a simple premise of discovery of an island, a freak chance of fate, Mignola opens the door of the Hellboy mythos and allows us and the forlorn protagonist a glimpse into his ultimate destiny.
Released in June and July of this year, the two books begin with stark covers designed by Mignola himself. Issue #1 shows a statuesque pose of Hellboy standing on the rocks and broken bow of a ship, looking into the distance away from us. A few birds scatter the edges of his form, but the rest of the page is clear and white. Mignola’s rendering of Hellboy is very dark and gray, again recalling a statue. Lifeless in a way that is only broken by flourishes of red. This sanguine hue is the only color on the page. It is a beautiful and crisp image, readying the reader for the adventure that lies inside.
Hellboy has spent the last two years walking the bottom of the ocean, lost in solitude, wandering within his head. Trying desperately to understand his place in the world, he is lost in a sea of humanity. As he emerges on the shores of a mysterious island, he is greeted by the presence of many ships that seem to have run aground. Lost men – dead men – scatter the shore. They serve as perfect companions to the wandering soul in crimson who has washed up with them: the bones of the dead, grayed and rotting in the surf, and this walking statue, an icon of hell, emerging from the depths that claimed their very lives.
Hellboy treks farther into the land before him, all the while tormented by images of the past, entities that call to his unwanted nature, and a warped sense of reality. In true Mignola form, the pages flow with the iconographic images of gods and monsters and their dealing in the world of men. As the journey continues, the pages of the book bleed black and fill with heaviness, harbingers of the tale to unfold. Hellboy sees images that have nothing to do with him yet fill him with the understanding that, as much as he has tried to distance himself, he has stumbled onto a place that is everything he was escaping.
Cults, ancient acts, monsters, and gods all play a part in the story unfolding on the island. Hellboy has wandered into the heart of darkness; yet, for all the implied pain within his words and stance, Hellboy is still the same old smart-ass. He quips and barbs with the types of horrors that have caused many a character in Lovecraftian tomes to go gray of hair and dead of spirit. Maybe it is his kindredship with them, the feeling of inevitability, or the frustration of being a monster himself, but whatever the reason, Hellboy’s personality, for all its pain, is just as nonchalant, uppity, and tweaked with that goody geekness that has endeared him to many a fan.
In Issue #2 the island does make for more questions than answers despite revelations about the world that Hellboy lives in, his place in it, and his connection to the island. For this cover, in sharp contrast to its predecessor, Mignola relies on darkness and shadow to show the wonders that embody the Hellboy mythos. The image is that of a wounded Hellboy surrounded by the eternal black abyss, a darkness that reaches out past the edges of the page and spills onto the back cover. The predominate black pulls the image to the center of the page, lulling our eyes to the image of Hellboy wrapped in flame reds and oranges. But as we relax our eyes, we see that the image is not of a incendiary Hellboy; he is superimposed in front of the image of . . . a most hideous heart.
The heart is the soul of it all, the focal point of the story: Dealing with Hellboy’s obsession to overcome what he is fated to do, his undying drive to stave off the fact that he carries attached to his body the notorious right hand of doom. References to Captain Ahab from the previous issue give way to dreams and visions that culminate in the understanding of this bane that wears so heavily on Hellboy’s soul. All joking and child’s play aside, it is the baring of the bones of the beast here. A face-to-face with the horrors that inhabit the spaces between, the return of old forces that keep the drive to destruction alive. This was supposed to be a cathartic journey, a cleansing walkabout for the demon; yet, instead, he finds himself where he always ends up: locked in a titanic battle with forces set to control, understand, or destroy him. Demonic forces, evil forces, and yet, brotherly again to him, as were the dead on the beach. Sibling not in spirit, but in birth. For as much as he tries to run, as much as he tries to deny, Hellboy is a monster. He is a demon who carries with him the device that will destroy all of the world that he loves so dearly. It is very sad to think that someone with such a pure heart can be so locked into their own destiny, that the love from within is lost in the roar of prophecy.
Hellboy: The Island
By Mike Mignola
Dark Horse Comics, 2005
2 volumes, 32 pages each
4 out of 5