Synopsis: This handsome collection of the first two Hellboy arcs is comparable in splendor to DC’s slipcased Absolute gatherings of Sandman and The Dark Knight. Arc one, Seed of Destruction (1994), is Hellboy’s origin story (but see Hellboy Junior, 2004, for his prehistory), revealing how Nazis were behind it all, though they were being used by that old Russki bogeyman, Rasputin. The somewhat longer Wake the Devil (1997) shows Hellboy putting the kibosh on the worse-than-Nazis scheme Rasputin got rolling in Seed. Scott Allie introductorily opines that Hellboy isn’t the red demon we know and love ’til Wake, but Mignola’s Ben Shahn–meets–the Austrian Secession–meets–Mervyn Peake style is uniformly magnificent. - BooklistI was first introduced to Hellboy in the Guillermo Del Toro movie Hellboy and then with its sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army, as I suspect many people were. The movies were quite a romp, fun and funny and full of great Hollywood special effects. It didn't quite prepare me for the dark world filled with mythological creatures that Hellboy creator Mike Mignola imagined for the comic series (however, the two animated films Hellboy - Blood and Iron and Hellboy: Sword of Storms did). In Seed of Destruction, the basis for the first Hellboy flick, Hellboy learns about his origins and his connection to Grigori Rasputin and the Nazis. In Wake The Devil, Hellboy meets the goddess Hecate. And it made me realize just how R(eaders) I(mbibing) P(eril) IV-friendly these comics are. For also included in the gorgeous (although a bit unwieldy) Hellboy Library Edition, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction and Wake the Devil are Baba Yaga, a vampire, frog-men, harpies, rituals and resurrection (oh my!). And did I mention the homunculus? This is the stuff that nightmares are made of.
One thing that always does it for me when reading graphic novels, are the extras at the back of the book. In this case, pages from Mignola's sketchbook. These are a very welcome insight into the artist/writer's development of Hellboy aka Anung un Rama aka the World's Greatest Paranormal Investigator, and the other characters that feature in the series.