Hellboy: Masks and Monsters Paperback – Oct 12 2010
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The second story is a much better team-up of Hellboy & Ghost from 1996, where Hellboy, investigating murders in Arcadia, stumbles upon the phantom vigilante with twin 45s. A century of murders in Arcadia have led to a lot of blood accumulating in the city sewers, and something bad is just waiting to happen. I feel that this is one of Mignola's more inspired and unique Hellboy stories, and Scott Benefiel's art surprisingly melds elements of Mignola's chiaroscuro style with the softer work seen in the Ghost comics.
Mignola contributes a new cover, and the book contains some alternate cover images and sketches. As a collected edition, it's very nice, but the first story pulls the rating down.
The first story is cool if only to see Hellboy and Batman fighting side by side but Batman feels ultimately under-used and is all too quickly taken away and replaced with the lesser-known character, Starman. For Mignola, it's a familiar story with Nazis up to no good, resurrecting some unholy terror to carry out some mad plan of Hitler's so we see Hellboy smash his way through the usual line up of baddies until dispatching the inevitable ghoulie at the end.
The second story has Ghost inadvertently sending herself and Hellboy to an alternative dimension. Mignola this time scripts it and hands over drawing duties to another artist. It's not a bad story but if you're unfamiliar with Ghost then her motives in this story will seem confusing and might be difficult to follow.
Masks and Monsters is an interesting reprint of some obscure comics Mignola did once upon time and a lot of new fans might find it enjoyable. Not the best book to start with if you're interested in discovering what Mike Mignola is all about but it has its moments.
The first story follows Batman as he investigates the kidnapping of Ted Knight, the original Starman (who's a hero with a cosmic rod that let's him fly and manipulate energy). Neo-Nazis use electrical bolts to fight off Batman during the kidnapping. Queue Hellboy's entrance, since (a) the neo-Nazis are regular Nazis from South America called the Knights of October and (b) they use a blend of magic and technology to make the bolts. An uneasy alliance is formed since Hellboy has the magical and Nazi-fighting background to help Batman. Knight's son is the new Starman and he signs on to help find his dad. Pretty soon it's off to South America to stop Nazis and elder gods from rising up to take over the world. The story is a pretty standard Hellboy yarn and a good read.
The second story follows Hellboy to Arcadia where he and a BPRD agent want to recruit Ghost, a revengeful female spirit who goes around shooting living bad guys with guns (not sure how the phantom guns kill living people, but just go with it). They discover an old mystery that leads to an alternate dimension, where Ghost is offered peace if she betrays Hellboy. This story is not as interesting as the first though the art is very good. This is more like a standard supernatural horror comic. Hellboy is charming as always and the final battle is fun.
For parents, the book does contain some mild occult content (Hellboy uses an occult prayer full of nonsense words in fighting the elder god, for example). The violence is in the first story is fairly normal comic book fare; in the second story it's much more graphic (lots of blood). Also, Ghost's outfit is very revealing up top.