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Hellboy Volume 11: The Bride of Hell and Others Paperback – Oct 4 2011
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This volume collects collaborations between Mike Mignola and three artists. For a long time I was deeply opposed to any non-Mignola drawn Hellboy and refused to buy it. I have seen too many writer/artists transition to writer-only because drawing a book takes a lot more work. I didn't want to support that. But books like "The Bride of Hell and Others" show me to be completely in the wrong. Mignola has a keen eye for his work, and has carefully curated a collection of artists who each "get" Hellboy entirely and stay in Mignola's world while still contributing something unique.
Comics legend Richard Corben does three stories, "Hellboy in Mexico", "Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil", and "Hellboy: The Bride of Hell". I have been a fan of Corben since his "Heavy Metal" days, and he is my favorite of all the non-Mignola artists. Corben has done beautiful adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft, so his Mignola works fits right into the genre. Corben's artwork is so unique, yet somehow his vision is just perfect for Hellboy."Double Feature of Evil" is the winner of this collection, with the bizarre framing device and two classic weird tales. I loved it.
Scott Hampton brings his fully-painted look to "Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead". This story is Mignola's take on the "classic" vampire, complete with medallion and cape. Hampton's dreamlike world and romantic sensibilities are a perfect match for this gothic tale. One of the nice things about having an artist as delicate as Hampton is that it allows Mignola to write scenes that he couldn't personally draw.
Mike Mignola draws a contribution too, with "Hellboy: The Whittier Legacy". This was originally published in "USA Today" as an 8-page comic, and is the only story in this collection that didn't get an individual comic release. Because this was a showcase to bring in new readers, we get pretty much everything that is Hellboy encapsulated in a brief eight pages. A very cool piece.
The last story, "Buster Oakley Gets his Wish" is a collaboration with Kevin Nowlan and is definitely the oddest of the bunch. A mix of black magic and cattle mutilations, this is the first (and only) time I have seen Mignola deal with aliens in the SF sense instead of the Lovecraft sense. It seems like a non-sequitor and outside of the usual Hellboy universe, but it is so much fun that doesn't really matter. The scene with the probe is brilliant.
Every story in "Hellboy: The Bride of Hell and Others" is a gem. There is not a single page here, not a single panel, where you are not getting bang for your buck.
If you aren't familiar with Hellboy, don't worry. It isn't really hard to figure out. Each story is capable of standing on its own or contributing to a collection like this. All you really need to know is that, despite his appearance, Hellboy is a good guy. And, again, it's made obvious early on.
The stories are nicely varied in this collection, giving a decent overview of the Hellboy universe. The Mexico story was both funny and tragic. The Double Feature had a terribly freaky framing sequence with a couple of nice little stories. The Bride story was the usual misdirection and a character that was actually fairly sympathetic, although evil. The Sleeping story added a LOT to the Hellboy world, and if you know much about that world, you'll understand what I mean. The Whittier story was probably the weakest of the lot, with a bunch of frenzied activity in a handful of pages that wasn't as easy to follow as the other tales. Buster Oakley was just plain hilarious. My favorite story was probably the first, as the mix of sadness and fun just worked for me.
I was introduced to Hellboy many years ago by my hairdresser, and I started to love the character almost immediately. Readers unfamiliar with him may find him hard to like, but I promise you won't have trouble understanding the stories. If you already enjoy Hellboy, this is a must get. If you haven't met him yet, it's not a terrible place to start. Definitely recommended.
(I may be overly negative here, in part because I like Mignola's more ambitious stories better, in part because I like his art, and in part because he keeps working with Richard Corben, whose people have always looked like rubbery walking corpses to me.)
THE BRIDE OF HELL is yet another miscellaneous Hellboy collection, with stories illustrated by Corben, Scott Hampton, Kevin Nowlan, and -- wonder of wonders! -- even an eight-page story by Mignola himself. It advances Hellboy's story not one inch, but does tell entertaining slices of his history, particularly -- I'm chagrined to point out -- a '50s-set piece with Corben in which Hellboy teams up with Mexican wrestlers to fight local monsters. None of this is necessary, and it all feels like wheel-spinning, or as if Mignola has stepped too far back from his creation (co-writing all of the "B.P.R.D." stories, only writing most of these), turning himself into the producer of Hellboy's world rather than the creator of his stories. If you like Hellboy, this is more of him, but this kind of thing isn't why you like Hellboy.
My favorite story was Hellboy in Mexico, Corbens art with a dark, yet at times funny, story are the perfect mix for a HB story.
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