The Great Hellboy Re-Reading Project Part X: The Black Goddess & The King of Fear
My epic project to re-read Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning rolls on!
Click here for part one, in which I discussed the very first Hellboy tale: the four-part mini-series Seed of Destruction. Click here for part two, in which I discussed The Wolves of Saint August, The Corpse and the Iron Shoes, and Wake the Devil. Click here for part three, in which I discussed a variety of Hellboy short stories including The Right Hand of Doom and Box Full of Evil. Click here for part four, in which I discussed Hellboy’s last mission for the B.P.R.D.: Conquerer Worm. Click here for part five, in which I discussed the beginning of a series of B.P.R.D. spin-offs and a whole new expansion of the Hellboy universe: Plague of Frogs. Click here for part six, in which I discussed the major shift in the Hellboy story that took-place in The Third Wish and The Island. Click here for part seven, in which I discussed the incredible B.P.R.D. mini-series that became the new central focus of the continuing Hellboy saga. Click here for part eight, in which Hellboy finally returns to the spotlight with Darkness Calls. Click here for part nine, in which the Hellboy universe expands with spin-off series focusing on Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien, and the founding of the B.P.R.D.!
I was completely unaware when reading B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs that an epic story was beginning, one that would position the B.P.R.D. book as the center of the Hellboy universe and that would wind up rocking that universe to the core. Things come to a head in the “Scorched Earth” trio of mini-series that I will discuss today (along with a few other stories): The Warning, The Black Goddess, and The King of Fear. Onward!
B.P.R.D.: The Ectoplasmic Man (2008) — This one-shot gives us a glimpse into the origin of Johann Kraus, and what happened to him immediately following the death of his physical form in 2002. I wish we’d learned more about the Chengdou disaster in China that wiped out so many psychics, thus setting Johann’s story in motion.
B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #1 (2008) — This was the first of a series of one-shots that told short stories set a few years prior to the current B.P.R.D. books, in the early days of their War on the Frogs. In this one we see Roger hunting down the two surviving Cavendish brothers, who were transformed into frog-men back in Seed of Destruction. It’s nice to see that dangling plot thread wrapped up, but there’s not much to this story. Feels like this would have been an awesome eight-page short story, as a full issue it feels a little thin.
Hellboy: The Crooked Man (2008) — In this three-issue mini-series, gorgeously illustrated by Richard Corben, Hellboy runs afoul of witches and the evil “Crooked Man” in the Appalachian Mountains. I adore Richard Corben’s spectacularly weird artwork, and it’s cool to see some American folklore explored in Hellboy. I’ve been praising so many of these recent mini-series for all of their layered connections and continuity, but it’s also fun every now and then to read a stand-alone weird tale like this!
B.P.R.D.: The Warning (2008) — Mike Mignola and John Arcudi’s masterpiece begins here, the first of a trilogy of B.P.R.D. mini-series that brings the entire story to this point to a huge climax. Absolutely spectacular stuff and some of my very favorite Hellboy universe material. (And complemented by gorgeous covers drawn by Mr. Mignola and inked by the great Kevin Nowlan.)
The series begins with a seance that results in an explosion of Lobster cards that spell out the name Martin Gilfryd, the Lobster-ghost’s way of sharing with the B.P.R.D. some information on his nemesis, Memnan Saa. In a great twist, it turns out that Panya (the long-lived Egyptian mummy) knew him, and she tells us Saa’s beginnings as a weird “nuisance.” We see him in England in the 1800’s, where the Heliopic Brotherhood (them again!) have him imprisoned to stymie his interest in Panya (from whom he apparently wanted to learn the secret of long-life). (I wonder who the “vile occultist” is, with whom Panya mentions Gilfryd had dealings?)
Things move forward really quickly in this series. The B.P.R.D. tracks Gilfryd to his jungle lair, but he’s way ahead of them, absconding with Liz and blowing up all of their planes. In issue #3, one stolen plane is recovered in Munich (which reminds Abe of another plane crash in Crab Point, Michigan — from Plague of Frogs, the story that kicked off this whole War on Frogs story-line). In Munich, they discover graffiti of the Black Flame and find an underground lair of the proto-humans from all the way back in B.P.R.D.: The Hollow Earth (that seemingly one-off adventure again proving to be SO IMPORTANT!) and their huge machines — machines which quickly get loose and destroy Munich. Issue #4 is huge and crazy, with staggering artwork by Guy Davis as the huge robot-crab things wreak havoc in Munich, unleashing chaos on an entirely new scale for the B.P.R.D. heroes. It is awesome. But not as awesome as the amazingly memorable underground fight, in which Johann possesses the corpse of one of the proto-humans’ huge lizard creatures and uses it to fight and kill the other huge lizard-creatures and the army of proto-humans. It’s a little silly to type but hugely awesome to witness!
In the final issue, we get an amazing double-page spread by Mr. Davis of fighter-jets demolishing the robo-crab-things, too late to save Munich. That huge scene is bested by a tiny, quiet one, in which Abe, alone, toasts Hellboy: “Where is he when you need him?” It’s a good question. The series ends with Abe being visited by Memnan Saa, who shows Abe a vision similar to the type he’d been giving Liz. Abe sees the robotic-crab-things and the frogs destroying the cities of Earth, only to then be destroyed by Liz and her flame.
This series also introduces a sweet love-interest for Kate in the form of German inspector Bruno Karhan, and raises some more mysteries about Panya. It’s implied that she’s used her telepathic powers to release some of the animal hybrids — just what is she up to?
Hellboy: In the Chapel of Moloch (2008) — For the first time in many years, Mike Mignola returns to illustrate a full Hellboy story! In this wonderful one-shot, Hellboy investigates a Spanish artist who has been possessed by a devil-creature. I love getting to see Hellboy in classic form. I miss this Hellboy, the unflappable monster-hunter. “Hole in one!” he gleefully exclaims, after he tosses a blessed coin into the eye-socket of an evil creature. Then there’s his even better, hilariously resigned comment: “Well, you knew THAT was going to happen” when the artist’s huge statue of Moloch comes alive. So great.
War on Frogs #2 (2008) — This second War on Frogs one-shot was even less interesting to me than the first. It’s the tale of an unfortunate squad of B.P.R.D. grunts who get wiped out by a single frog. I’m not sure I get the point of this story.
B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess (2009) — Issue #1 is amazing, as Abe, Johann & Devon uncover the remains of Lobster Johnson’s underground headquarters (which we saw in its prime in The Iron Prometheus). They find his files on Memnan Saa, and we pick up the story from where Panya’s recollections in The Warning left off. It’s very cool to finally be getting some answers!
Once the gang finds Saa himself in issue #3, we get the rest of his story. We read of Gilfryd’s falling out with a man who knew “the way” (presumably the “vile occultist” Panya had mentioned in The Warning — my curiosity is definitely piqued about that dude!), how Gilfryd was imprisoned and then, upon his release, how he traveled to Agartha (where Liz found sanctuary back in The Hollow Earth!). From there, Gilfryd/Saa found “the spiritual children of Hyperborea” and “tamed fire” (Vril, which Saa now controls through Liz) and rebuilt a Hyperborean city. In issue #4, Saa references the Watcher Anum (familiar from the pre-history told in The Island #2 and The Iron Prometheus #3) and how Thoth feared the “secret fire” (Vril) and kept it secret. But a woman Heca-Enem-Ra killed three watchers and wrote the secrets of Vril in their blood for all to see. This apparently is what led to the fall of Hyperborea as they abused that power. One priest survived and taught the secret to some men (we again see the human priest with the red palm-print on his face, who we saw previously in The Island #2 and The Iron Prometheus #3!). Saa learned that, in the twentieth century, man would learn to control Vril (we see an image of Sledghammer, the Vril suit from The Iron Prometheus!) and that he could use that power to defeat the Ogdru Hem. And so here, at last, I feel that I understand Memnan Saa. He wants to defeat the Ogdru Hem (which is good), but he’s willing to sacrifice much of the world to do so (bad), and he then wants to rule the world himself (also bad). I love this complex villain and his twisty back-story. He has a reasonable motivation and yet is still, in the end, a villain, one who well-deserves what happens to him (getting fried by Liz when she wakes up in issue #5). Is this the end of Memnan Saa? It seems that way…
Meanwhile, in issue #1, the only surviving member of the Lobster’s crew, Harold McTell, tells Kate the sad story of what happened to their gang after the events of The Iron Prometheus. They continued to investigate Memnan Saa, but one after another they all met unfortunate deaths. It’s terribly tragic, and this unhappy ending will cast a pall over every future Lobster Johnson story we’ll get in the future (most of which were set in the thirties, prior to the events of The Iron Prometheus).
In issue #2, crazy continues to pile on crazy as the B.P.R.D. track Memnan Saa to his lair in the snowy mountains on the Russian-Chinese border. The frogs and their proto-human allies — and their huge robotic-crab machine-things — attack, and chaos ensues. The monks with Mennan Saa transform into huge were-yetis to fight the frogs. (Remember, we saw a were-yeti in service to Saa back in the opening pages of The Iron Prometheus issue #1!) In issue #4, huge golden dragons (controlled, in seems, by Liz, who is herself under the thrall of Memnan Saa) enter the fight!! This is huge stuff for this series and huge fun to read.
The ending, in which Liz awakens and fries Memnan Saa, is deliciously ambiguous. Is this victory? Saa was willing to sacrifice millions of human lives, but how many millions will shortly perish in the “Hell on Earth” storyline when the Ogdru Hem begin to awaken? Might humanity have been better off had Saa still been around…?
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt (2008-9) — The story begun in Darkness Calls continues. Hellboy has returned to Earth but is still lost, choosing to hide out and drink with some dead women. This is a very different Hellboy we’re reading now. This Hellboy is not eager to face reality and to go out and fight bad-guys. He’s trying to hide from the world, and his destiny. He’s also far more at peace with mystical creatures than he’s ever been. He was happy to have fun and drink with skeletons in The Island, and here he has no problem hanging out with the dead sisters, whereas younger Hellboy would probably have shunned (and perhaps fought & killed) those creatures. (Compare this Hellboy with the character in The Chapel of Moloch, set in 1992, and the difference is clear.)
Hellboy is contacted by the Osiris Club. This meant nothing to me when I originally read this, but upon this re-read I was delighted to recognize this gang as the same group from The Nature of the Beast, that long-ago short-story in which we saw Lillies grow from Hellboy’s blood. They ask him to participate in “the wild hunt,” a secret tradition in England whenever giants appear who need to be stopped and killed. But it’s all a ruse to kill him off because of the huge secret in Hellboy’s past that he and we will learn in issue #6, a huge bombshell. More on that in a moment.
In issue #2, we learn the sad origin of the Gruagach, and suddenly I had a lot of sympathy for this hideous, villainous creature when we learn how love destroyed him. Great story-telling here, making us sympathize with this creature! (Same goes for Koschei, who also gets wonderfully fleshed out in that issue’s back-up story!) We also finally get some clarity on how what happened after Box Full of Evil: how exactly Gruagach’s spirit ended up taking over the war-pig’s body, and also why he’s much smaller now. I’d been wondering about that for quite a while…
In issue #3, Alice Monaghan re-enters Hellboy’s life. We last saw Alice as the little baby who Hellboy rescued in the short story The Corpse. She’s all grown up (actually, she’s around 50, though she’s drawn to look like she’s in her twenties, apparently a gift from the faeries with whom she’s become friendly. Guess she didn’t hold a grudge over what happened to her as a baby!). I love her reintroduction to these stories, what a surprise. It’s great seeing another female character and nice to see Hellboy regain some sort of attachment to our “real” world.
In the back-up to issue #4, focusing on the Baba Yaga, we learn that the skeletal figure we have been seeing for so long is indeed “Death” (though what exactly that means in the Hellboy universe is unclear). Issue #5 also gives us a key revelation, as the talking birds we’ve occasionally seen over the year are revealed to be the servants of Morgan Le Fay.
Yep, Morgan Le Fay from the Arthurian mythology enters the story, which brings us to the huge turning point of issue #6. The previous almost-two-decades of Hellboy stories have focused on Hellboy’s destiny because of his father: a prince of Hell. But here we learn a secret I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams, a crazy notion that Mr. Mignola has apparently been sitting on all this time: that Hellboy is descended through his mother from King Arthur, thus making Hellboy, wait for it, the rightful king of England. Alice’s reaction upon learning this news is amazing, and sign that she’s a great match for Hellboy: “Holy crap.”
We also finally get the story behind the new menace that we’ve been getting teased about since the beginning of Darkness Calls. The creature who the Gruagach has unleashed is Nimue, the witch who charmed Merlin and stole his secrets before betraying and murdering him. Even worse, she’s been twisted further by the Ogdru Jahad. I love this combination of Arthurian legend with the Hellboy mythology that Mr. Mignola has been developing ever since the Ogdru Jahad’s introduction all the way back in Seed of Destruction.
In issue #7, a mysterious bearded man/creature appears to Hellboy and offers an intriguing prediction. He tells him that Satan sleeps under his city, Pandemonium, and that it is Hellboy’s destiny to go down into the pit and kill him. (This part we will seen happen — apparently — a few years down the road in Hellboy in Hell.) He also tells Hellboy that H.B. will soon claim the crown, take up his father’s sword, and lead an army of demons to destroy Earth. (We’ve been hearing this prediction since the beginning of the series. If the first part of his prophecy comes true, does that mean the second part will, too?) On my first reading I didn’t know who his dude was, and The Wild Hunt definitely doesn’t clarify it for us. But now I’m pretty sure it’s the same creature we saw at the end of Box Full of Evil, and although it wasn’t stated specifically, I believe it was Astaroth, whom Bromhead had attempted to summon.
The finale, issue #8, gives us an incredibly poignant sequence in which Hellboy is reminded of every bad guy from the last twenty years who has predicted he would destroy the world — but the spririt of Varvara (the little girl H.B. met in Darkness Calls) reminds him that Alice didn’t believe that about him, and maybe he should trust her. In the climactic sequence, we see everyone who’s been watching Hellboy all these years: Queen Mab and the huge owl and the pipe-smoking Goblin; the bearded man (Astaroth?); the masked Edward Grey and Mohlomi (from The Third Wish); and also the Baba Yaga and Koku and Death. I’m not sure how Alice survived but I love the emotion of her reunion with Hellboy. And as the icing on the cake, the origin and goals of the Osiris Club is finally revealed. (Seems they’ve been waiting for the arrival of a “king” who would refuse his crown and be killed in final battle, upon which they would cut off his right hand and become all-powerful.) (Interesting that there were originally seven members — same number as the Ogdru Jahad — not a good sign!!)
Holy cow this was an amazing mini-series, gorgeously illustrated and bringing together so many story-threads from the past two-decades of stories. Magnificent, and very rich upon re-reading. I feel like I have discovered lots of layers to the story that I never noticed originally.
Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels ( 2009) — Hot on the heels of The Wild Hunt comes this incredible mini-series, which I compare to Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus. Both are set in the past, long before Hellboy’s exploits; both flesh out what at first appears to be a fairly minor Hellboy side-character; and both are incredibly rich, chock-full to overflowing with important connections and revelations critical to the continuing Hellboy saga. This mini-series is spectacularly illustrated by Ben Stenbeck, whose skill at bringing 1879 London to creepy life is astounding.
When this mini-series was first published, I didn’t realize that Sir Edward Grey had already been so important to the Hellboy story, though upon this re-read that has been obvious. In this, his first full-length adventure, we follow him as he investigates the deaths of a group of uncovered a buried Hyperborean city.
The first thing that struck me about this story was the distinct sword that Sir Edward finds (he’s holding it clear to see on the cover of issue #1). We’ve seen that style of sword before, and also the type of creature whose spirit is haunting the ill-fated expedition-members. It’s the sword used by the proto-humans from back in B.P.R.D.: The Hollow Earth, the same group that so dramatically re-entered the story in B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess!! The particular sword that Grey finds has a distinct “stone-age” handle — we’ll find out more about that particular sword a few years down the road when B.P.R.D. agent Howards finds it in the present-day!
In issue #2, the mystic Alice predicts a tragic fate for Edward, saying that she sees a hooded figure behind his back, with one word, Acheron, in flaming letters on its brow. In issue #4, we’ll get a better look at this figure, and see a glimpse of its face. It looks to me like it might be a mask — are we seeing Grey’s own future as the masked, hooded figure we’ve been seeing watching Hellboy for so many years?? (It will take us a long time to learn the meaning of the word Acheron, but we will eventually in Hellboy in Hell.)
In issue #3, Grey runs afoul of the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra. Fun to see this mysterious group once again involved in the story. In a mysterious-at-the-time cutaway, we see that the “Captain,” an ally of Grey’s, has drawers with files marked “Eugene Remy” and “Larzod.” It’s totally unexplained here, but now on this re-read, to my delight, I understood these awesome connections! The Wild Hunt #8 explained everything! Larzod was the Egyptian god that appeared before the seven original members of the Osiris Society, while Eugene Remy was the founder of the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra! (And furthermore, Witchfinder #4 clarifies that Larzod also inspired Remy to found the Heliopic Brotherhood!!) By the way, a careful look at those panels shows us that the Captain also has files on the Oannes Society (from B.P.R.D.: Garden of Souls) and Langdon Everett Caul (the man who will become Abe Sapien).
Grey encounters a dying priest, who then makes all sorts of amazing connections for us. He speaks of the fall of Hyperborea and the Black Goddess. We see his visions of the ancient war-machines hidden under the Earth — the very crab-machines currently wreaking havoc over in the B.P.R.D. series!
In issue #4, Grey tells the story of another man who was called “Witchfinder” — Henry Hood, who started out noble but turned evil. We just learned of his back-story, and then saw his re-animated corpse, in The Wild Hunt!! (By the way, is Grey’s destiny to turn evil as Hood did? Is that Hellboy’s destiny?? Interesting to see so many of our heroes struggle with this same question as to their ultimate fates…)
In this issue we also get the name of the occultist who Panya told us (in The Black Goddess) was killed by Memnan Saa: Gustav Strobl. I love how Mr. Mignola is slowly layering in this character, I can’t wait to learn more about him. I had a feeling he’d be important, looks like I was right. Meanwhile, speaking of Memnan Saa, in issue #4 and 5 we get to see Saa himself, Martin Gilfryd! He just bought the farm at the end of The Black Goddess, but here in 1879 he’s in prison in an asylum. (In issue #5, Strobl’s ghost appears before Glifryd and declares himself to be Gilfryd’s master. Interesting!!)
War on Frogs #3 (2009) — This is the best issue in this sporadic series so far. It’s still largely irrelevant, but I like seeing the introduction of a new female B.P.R.D. agent: Ashley Strode. I hope we see more of her soon.
Abe Sapien: The Haunted Boy (2009) — This is a sad stand-alone tale about two dead boys. The 1982 setting makes this a follow-up to Abe’s first mini-series, The Drowning. It’s not so memorable.
B.P.R.D.: 1947 (2009) — I was thrilled that the B.P.R.D.: 1946 mini-series wasn’t a one-off, and that Mr. Mignola & co. returned to Professor Bruttenholm and the early days of the Bureau with this sequel, set the following year. Baron Konig, introduced briefly in 1946, takes center-stage. He’s been murdering Nazis, and the Professor sends a team to investigate. After seeing what happened to his team in 1946, I didn’t have much hope for this new team of G.I.s, and sure enough bad things quickly happen to them.
This is a fascinatingly structured mini-series, as the story basically climaxes in issue #3, as Simon Anders finds himself in the clutches of two Witch sisters, and Konig is destroyed. The focus shifts in issue #4, as young Hellboy enters the story (and we see him reading a Lobster Johnson comic book! And the Lobster is fighting the Black Flame!!) and then #5 focuses on Bruttenholm and a new character, the aged African-American man Ota Benga, trying to free Anders from the evil spirits who were possessing him. I love when Mr. Mignola plays with structure like that, it really helps give these stories their anything-can-happen flair.
In issue #3, the witches summon Hecate, who will of course go on to cause Hellboy a lot of trouble in Wake the Devil and onward. Speaking of Wake the Devil, it’s fun to hear the vampires mention Giurescu and his meeting with Hitler here. But more importantly, we learn of a major secret in this issue: that the vampires agreed to a secret plot to disappear from the word and hide for many years, until a future date when man would no longer know how to fight them, at which point they would return and take control of the world. This is a fascinating piece of business, and I very much hope that we’ll see what comes of this plot in some future story!
Then there is the bizarre #5. It will be a while before we learn Ota Benga’s story. I am fascinated by his warning to Professor Bruttenholm, that’ it’s a slippery slope using the supernatural (like Varvara and Hellboy) to fight the supernatural.
War on Frogs #4 (2009) — The best one of these yet! This issue tells a sad story of Johann helping the souls of some just-killed frog-men find peace. This tale nicely humanizes the creatures we’ve been watching the B.P.R.D. exterminate for the past few years, and reminds us that most of these frog-men were once human beings.
Hellboy: The Bride of Hell (2009) — Hellboy sets out to rescue a girl kidnapped by a demon, but finds out the girl isn’t quite an innocent. Richard Corben’s illustration work is spectacular as always, and I love all the bits of back-story involving demon-hunting knights, King Solomon, and more.
Hellboy in Mexico (2010) — Another great Corben-illustrated yarn! There is something magical about the combination of Hellboy and Mexican wrestling/demon-hunting brothers. The somber ending is fantastic.
B.P.R.D.: King of Fear (2010) — The past several years’ worth of B.P.R.D. mini-series, going all the way back to Hollow Earth, reach their climax here in this spectacular story.
Kate and Bruno and the ghost of Lobster Johnson (who appeared in the cliffhanger ending of The Black Goddess) set off on a road trip to Hunte Castle (where the Lobster died, as seen back in Hellboy: Conquerer Worm). There’s a great, emotional scene when Kate and Bruno find the spot where Hellboy and Roger buried the Lobster. It’s nice to see Kate missing Roger and getting choked up by being at the spot where she last saw Hellboy before he disappeared. The Bureau could sure use him now! Issue #2 gives a nice ending for the Lobster’s ghost, albeit one that is a little sad: battling Nazis and monsters for eternity.
Mike Mignola’s gorgeous cover to issue #1 is one of his very best.
It’s also cool in issue #1 to see a scene we never saw in Hollow Earth, the actual attack of the proto-humans on Agartha. Speaking of which, while Kate is at Hunte Castle, Liz and Abe head to Agartha to try to stop the frogs and the proto-humans and their huge crab machines. Even dead, Memnan Saa is still in the story, as in issue #3 his ghost visits Liz and shows her yet another vision of a world destroyed by the monstrous Ogdru Hem. This is the world that Saa says she created by killing him (implying that he could have stopped them). Meanwhile, Abe and Devon meet the new King of Fear (the king of the proto-humans) and discover that the Black Flame (Landis Pope) has survived and also allied himself with the frogs and proto-humans. The Black Flame gives another prediction of doom, telling how he’s incubating the spirits of the Ogdru Hem inside the proto-humans’ machines, from where they will grow and re-shape the world. We get an awesome Guy Davis-illustrated full-page image of the huge monsters, standing atop destroyed skyscrapers — and is that Hellboy in his Beast of the Apocalypse persona, looking down on everything?
I love the twist of the Black Flame suddenly killing the King of Fear — and then revealing that neither he nor the (now dead) King of Fear will be in charge of this new world: it’ll be Abe! In issue #4, the Black Flame compares Abe to the frog-men. He calls them both “anthro-amphibians,” saying: “You are what they will be in a few thousand years.” Pretty soon, after Abe gets shot by Fenix, we’ll start to see Abe looking a lot more like a frog-man, so this speech is very ominous. The Black Flame tells Abe: “You are the first new man.” (I’ve been paying close attention to these references to the “new race of men” since the very beginning of this re-read!!)
Speaking of dire predictions of the future — and this mini-series is chock full of ’em! — Liz in issue #4 sees a vision of a huge crashed B.P.R.D. flying vehicle, and she walks over a corpse labeled C. Giarocco. Once again Mike Mignola gives us the end of the story before the beginning, as we haven’t even met Agent Giarocco yet in the series! But we will soon, and I sure hope this isn’t really her fate. In the crashed plane, Liz finds photos that give a tantalizing glimpse of the future of the B.P.R.D.: we see a buff Devon; Kate & Panya; what looks like Hellboy, finally back with the Bureau (I cannot WAIT for that to actually happen!!), with a red-headed agent by his side (is that Liz? Giarocco?); and, finally, we see an eerie photo of a transformed Abe. This scene is a bounty of clues at the future of the series!
Then the shaman with the red hand-print (Shonchin) appears, and in a wonderful surprise, we get two Mike Mignola-drawn pages in which Liz sees a vision of Hellboy, and Hecate tells her that Hellboy isn’t strong enough to do what must be done. In the vision, we see Liz’s fire spreading all over the globe, wiping out all the monsters — and also all life on Earth? Is this where the Hellboy story is going to end??
Issue #5 begins some time later, and even after having re-read this issue several times over the years, I am still struck by the disconnect between the end of issue #4 and the start of issue #5. I wish I had more clarity on what the heck happened. What caused the volcano eruption and other devastating environmental catastrophes? Where did the huge Ogdru Hem at the Salton Sea come from? Did Liz’s actions in #4 — burning up all the frogs and proto-humans inside the Earth — cause this other havoc? This is such a huge plot point, the start of an all-new story-line for the B.P.R.D., the “Hell on Earth” saga that is still ongoing, that I wish we had more clarity here at the beginning. It’s the only off-note in what is otherwise a spectacular mini-series, a hugely compelling wrap-up to the last several years’ worth of B.P.R.D. stories. The world of the Hellboy universe has forever changed. No one on the planet can now deny the existence of these horrible monsters. An Ogdru Hem has been released, and its breath is transforming people into monstrous creatures, just as so many villains have been predicting since the very beginning of the Hellboy saga. It’s the beginning of a downward spiral of chaos and destruction across the globe, and we have yet to see whether our heroes have a prayer of stopping it.
Whew, that’s enough for today! I’ll be back soon to discuss the start of this new “Hell on Earth” saga as well as the epic conclusion to Hellboy’s life on Earth (at least for now) with The Storm and The Fury. See you then!
The issues discussed in this post are collected in: B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs vol.4, Hellboy vol. 9 The Wild Hunt, Witchfinder vol. 1 In the Service of Angels, B.P.R.D.: 1947, Hellboy vol.10 The Crooked Man and Others, and Hellboy vol 11 The Bride of Hell and Others.