Hellboy: Sword of Storms (2006)

Hellboy: Sword of Storms (click to see it bigger!)Starring the voices of Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Peri Gilpin

Directed by Phil Weinstein & Tad Stones

Since it began its life as a badass comic book created by a badass braniac/horror freak, Mike Mignola, it seemed inevitable that Hellboy would see its way to animation. Indeed, some would argue that it’s the only way Mignola’s vision could be captured in its purest form, though I admit I enjoyed the live-action movie quite a bit.

Since the film did well and feet were being dragged on a getting a sequel together, IDT stepped up and offered to produce not one but two feature-length animated Hellboy tales, which would help keep the name alive while Guillermo and crew prepare to see his visage on the big screen again. Sword of Storms is the first, and I’m here to tell ya: If you’re a Hellboy fan, you’re going to dig the hell out of this toon.

The story begins in feudal Japan when samurais were still the police guard of choice and great and powerful gods walked the earth. Most vicious among them were Thunder and Lightning, who threaten to decimate village after village until one leader makes a deal with them; if they spare his village and his people, he will give them his only daughter. Ah, it always comes down to women, doesn’t it?

Hellboy: Sword of Storms (click to see it bigger!)Unfortunately for the gods, a powerful samurai is deeply in love with the leader’s daughter, and he manages to fight and defeat both Thunder and Lightning, capturing their essences in a sword that would be hidden for centuries. Jump ahead a few hundred years, and Hellboy is put to the task of finding out what happened to a notable professor who up and disappeared after reading a mysterious scroll. Before he can barely begin his search, he finds himself transported to a strange land filled with all sorts of Japanese yokais, traditional Japanese monsters and demons, who cause all manner of problems for Red when they discover he holds the legendary Sword of Storms.

Meanwhile, Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien are trying to find Hellboy to bring him back but get into their own set of problems when great Dragons across the world begin to awaken and inflict serious damages upon the Earth. Essentially it’s the end of the world all over again, and the BPRD are the only ones who are capable and world-weary enough to stop it.

Sword of Storms is full of action from beginning to end so you’ve got very little time to get bored, and the film never feels as long as its hour and 17-minute runtime tells us it is. Hellboy’s in his best wise-cracking, “oh crap”-spouting form, voiced once again by the indomitable Ron Perlman, fighting monsters every step of the way and never thinking twice about how weird his situation is. His portrayal in the toon is much more in keeping with his personality in the comics than the movie version, in which he was almost a bit too sappy in his love for twisted firestarter Liz Sherman.

Hellboy: Sword of Storms (click to see it bigger!)Speaking of Sherman, Blair is back to voicing her once again and, similar to her turn in the film, serves as pretty much the only weak spot among the group. Something about her delivery seems so bored and uninterested no matter how she tries to liven the character up. You’ll never doubt for a second that it’s anyone but Blair, that’s for sure, while Jones’ turn as Sapien (whom he only did the body work for in the film, David Hyde Pierece taking over the voicing duties) is spot-on and will hopefully assuage any fears fans may have had when they heard he’d be voicing his own character in Hellboy 2.

All the elements that make a great Hellboy story are here: mythical monsters, wisecracking heroes, and a cosmic threat to the world at large. The only complaint I would have is that it all seemed a bit … empty, I guess. It was a fun way to pass 77 minutes, but all it really is is an animated Hellboy story. Nothing is done to further any of the characters too much, and since there’s no set time frame, it’s hard to tell if it’s supposed to be before or after the movie or if it is supposed to tie in with the film at all. It would’ve been nice to see just a bit more depth put into the principals, if nothing else to give the story more resonance. But damnit were there a lot of cool monster fights.

In short, Hellboy: Sword of Storms is a helluva lot of fun and sure to please fans of Mignola’s comics from beginning to end. Just don’t go in expecting anything too deep or meaningful, and you’ll be smiling the whole time.

3 1/2 out of 5

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Johnny Butane

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