I’ve been a big fan of comic book artist/writer Mike Mignola for a very, very long time now. I first became aware of his work in various Marvel books. At that point, he didn’t quite have his distinctive style. It was 1988’s Cosmic Odyssey, illustrated by Mr. Mignola and scripted by comic book veteran Jim Starlin, that first featured a heavy dose of Mr. Mignola’s great artwork and made me a huge fan. Apparently, I was far from the only one.
Mr. Mignola parlayed his success by eventually devoting his full energies to Hellboy, a character he created. While Hellboy shared elements present in the other works, most notably those of Jack Kirby (Hellboy might well be a close cousin of Kirby’s Demon and the various monster books Mr. Kirby did for Marvel), the series had its own unique -and delightful- storytelling universe.
I absolutely loved it.
The first full Hellboy serial, The Seed of Destruction, was released in 1994. It was conceived and illustrated by Mr. Mignola and featured a script by another comic book veteran, John Byrne. From there, Mr. Mignola would produce many more Hellboy serials, this time taking on the full writing and illustration chores. The character proved a big success, and in time there were animated films, feature films, and comic book off-shoots (many written by Mr. Mignola but illustrated by others) that followed.
I picked them up almost religiously and pretty much loved everything to do with the character. However, as his success increased and more and more material was released, Mr. Mignola moved from being the writer/illustrator of many of the works to being simply the writer. Sadly, at that point my interest in the various books declined. The fact is I was just as big a fan of Mr. Mignola’s artwork as his writing, and while many (if not most!) of the artists who he hired to draw his stories were damn good, they simply weren’t Mr. Mignola.
Thus, it totally escaped my attention when Hellboy: The Storm and the Fury was released between 2010 and 2011. When I learned this storyline was Intended to be a “finale” to the Hellboy saga, I had to have it. When I looked the book up on Amazon.com I was surprised to find the reviews for the book were, for the most part, negative (You can read those comments here).
Nonetheless, I ordered the book and, yesterday, it finally arrived. Eagerly, I read it.
To begin, the story is written by Mr. Mignola and features artwork by Duncan Fegredo. Let me state right off the bat that Mr. Fegredo is a damn good artist and one I was familiar with from previous Hellboy books. His artwork style produces decidedly mixed feelings in me. While other artists who were hired by Mr. Mignola to do Hellboy books had their own style, Mr. Fegredo’s style is obviously attempting to emulate Mr. Mignola’s. And while he is indeed damn good at it, seeing someone “doing” Mike Mignola-like artwork makes me yearn to see “genuine” Mike Mignola artwork.
However, given Mr. Fegredo’s talents, the success or failure of this particular book ultimately fell to the story being told.
And in that case, sadly, I have to side with those who offered negative comments on Amazon. The Storm and the Fury is, unfortunately, a pretty average Hellboy story.
Yes, the story presented in The Storm and the Fury is a very average Hellboy story with one major difference: By story’s end, Hellboy is (BIG TIME SPOILER!!!!) dead.
Considering this is meant to be the finale to the Hellboy saga, at least on Earth (more on that later), its surprising how ordinary the whole thing felt. Mr. Mignola had hinted from the very beginning that Hellboy’s end would be something equivalent to Ragnarok, with Hellboy in the role of Odin/Thor. This element does indeed appear within the story, and various plot threads that were presented earlier on in other books do find their way here…
…but, again, the story itself is simply not anywhere near as “big” an event as one would have thought it should be. Yes, Hellboy fights against monsters, but he’s always fought against monsters. Again, the only big difference is that this time he dies. However, the single most bewildering element of the book is the fact that the great cast Mr. Mignola created around Hellboy (a couple of whom appeared in the movies) don’t show up in this story except for a single “flashback” or “memory” panel. That’s right, I said panel. There is no tearful goodbye between Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. characters. There is no emotional reunion before the end.
Bewildering, to say the least.
I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. The Storm and the Fury feels like the work of a writer who was running out of gas and wanted the whole thing over and done with, rather than creating the grand finale many fans were expecting.
Perhaps Mr. Mignola was eager to move on to Hellboy’s next adventure. Yes, that’s right: Next adventure.
It turns out The Storm and the Fury is not really Hellboy’s grand last adventure. It’s merely his last Earthly adventure. If you read some of the bonus material after the main story, you discover that Mr. Mignola is writing and illustrating the next Hellboy story, wherein our hero goes to Hell. So while his “Earthly” adventures are over with this volume, it appears Hellboy’s next stories will take place in the afterlife.
I hope those adventures prove better than the anti-climactic The Storm and the Fury.