Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Review: Hellboy vol.5: The Conqueror Worm

Hellboy volume 5: The Conqueror Worm, by Mike Mignola, 2004, Dark Horse, 168 pages, $17.95

This Mignola guy might be on to something, here. Hellboy: The Conqueror Worm was a four-issue mini-series originally published in 2001, and it is another solid entry in the Hellboy series.

The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense sends Hellboy and another operative, Roger the Homunculus, into the mountains of Austria to investigate a castle linked to a 1939 Nazi space program. Modern-day Nazis, a Frankenstein's monster-like ape, a floating head, and other assorted ghosts and ghouls await them.

By now, Mignola has his formula worked out (1. Hellboy investigates creepy location filled with humans stupidly trying to control/summon evil entities; 2. Hellboy punches evil entities), but it's a formula that works. He invests enough imagination into the proceedings to make the bad guys seem really bad (and dangerous) and action lively. And Hellboy himself is a great character, using humor, intelligence, and his fists to overcome difficult situations.

(He's actually being totally serious here, having just witnessed some awful stuff.)

Mignola's unique art style is on display here too, with Dave Stewart doing a wonderful job with the colors. Great storytelling, too. Here's a two-page sequence I really liked (click to enlarge):

That first page is an excellent example of how Mignola builds suspense and dread. What's up there? We don't know yet, but there's a freaking talking skull warning us not to look. Even after Hellboy sticks his head up, the reader's view is still trapped staring at Hellboy, so we don't know until we turn the page. And then on the second page, some powerful hits are delivered by the ape; you can feel them. I really like the panel in the top right corner, where the ape's hands have swung right through the lamp and down onto Hellboy; it's a neat choice by Mignola.

I really liked this one. I expect most comic book readers have already read Hellboy or decided it's not for them, but for those of you on the fence, go check it out.

DID YOU KNOW? Hellboy: The Conqueror Worm won the 2002 Eisner Award for Best Finite Series/Limited Series.

READ MORE: Here's a six-page preview. And here's a list of online Hellboy comics (some are pretty neat little animated things -- check 'em out).

BUY IT: From Dark Horse or from Amazon here: Hellboy volume 5: Conqueror Worm

RELATED: My review of Mike Mignola's Hellboy volume 4: The Right Hand of Doom


  1. *notices Hellboy Vol. 1 over on the bookshelf*


    *falls asleep*

    (/is very tired and sleepy but I think Hellboy may be the next thing I read after I finish Spider-Man: Blue...)

  2. I used to read a lot of Hellboy, and always found Mignola's art to be atmospheric, kinetic and utterly engaging. And while I enjoyed the big monsters and the corruption of ancient folklore by a big red galoot, the formula began to wear very thin.

    Hellboy investigates. Hellboy meets monster. Monster explains devious plan or something about Hellboy's destiny as it tosses him around the room (Cue "BOOM"s). Hellboy kills monster. Hellboy quips.

    Occasionally Mignola would try and explore Hellboy's identity and destiny a bit more, but with all such "DESTINY" plotlines, it can't ever go anywhere satisfying, because to reveal anything significant or effect real change would upset the (very popular) formula. So I stopped buying.

  3. Fair enough. I haven't let the slow, steady march toward Hellboy confronting his "destiny" bother me that much, maybe because I just like seeing Mignola put him through his paces.