Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Hellboy v1 Seed of Destruction

Like any good opening volume to a great epic, Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is very much an introductory story.  It begins with the summoning of Hellboy from, duh, Hell, by Nazi sorcerers, and his subsequent adoption by the U.S. government.  From there the story gives you a taste of what the full-grown Hellboy is all about and what he is capable of.  This is all depicted as Hellboy battles some strange frog-like beasts who've just killed his adoptive father.

The story also introduces the reader to Hellboy's job as an investigator for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, or B.P.R.D. We also meet a couple of his fellow agents, Liz Sherman, and Abe Sapien  who together with Hellboy travel to a remote manse to investigate what they believe is the source of the strange frog-beasts.  The introductory-ness doesn't really stop once the team is assembled.   As the story goes on, you get a sense of the special abilities that Liz and Abe possess, and the type of creepy and weird shit the team tends to investigate.

Seed of Destruction was a solid first volume, but for my money it took things a little bit too slow, and sorta gently eased the characters and the world into the reader's lap.  I think I would have preferred to just be dropped into the middle of the action, and learn as I go, but that wasn't even remotely the case here.

Aside from the gentle introduction, I also found the writing and dialog to be overly wordy, and a bit tedious.  From discussions I've had with other folks who have read the series, my understanding is that the wordiness is a byproduct of having John Byrne scripting this opening story arc.  Apparently, in the later volumes with Mike Mignola at the helm, the writing is much more smooth.

My biggest problem with the writing was that it actually took away from the art.  Mignola, who wonderfully handles the art, is adept at setting, tone, atmosphere and action.  His art is very moody and can carry a lot of the story, so the writing tended to be distracting in many situations.  That said, the art here is clearly still developing.  Mignola's Hellboy style is still finding it's feet here in the early going.  Though Mignola hasn't reached the top of his game yet at this point, I still really enjoyed the art, which is very unique and dark.

Despite writing that didn't totally work for me, and a plot that was a bit too linear, I still enjoyed Seed of Destruction.  The main reason is that it is weird, and I like weird.  The characters are either hellspawn, some sort of strange creature, or an outcast from normal society...and that's the good guys.  There's also plenty of crazy looking Lovecraftian beasts and monsters, plus crazy Nazi sorcerers.  The world it all takes place in has captured my interest too, and I look forward to seeing more of it.

Overall, Seed of Destruction is pretty solid but nothing overly earth shattering. It is definitely lacking in the writing and plotting, but the art, characters and world more than make up for the writing. I think the story still needs to find its feet a bit, but there was enough in the first volume to keep me interested and make me want to keep reading.

Grade: B-


Kathryn said...

Sounds like you're getting the same experience as I did.

As you probably know from my posts and stuff, I love Mignola's artwork but the stories just pass me by completely as I haven't the foggiest as to what's going on.

I would suggest you look into B.P.R.D. later on with the new omnibii editions, but don't think about starting them until you've read Hellboy vol 5 as BPRD will spoil the events of that trade.

anjali said...
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Ryan said...

Kathryn- Yeah, I agree, I think we are having similar experiences. The book has a bit of a Lovecraftian feel to it, (particularly with the monsters) and I've noticed Mignola ties in lots of myth, and folklore. Which has been and will probably continue to be hit or miss depending on whether or not I'm familiar with that particular piece of mythology.

I was flipping through my BPRD omnibus the other day, and it does seem more accessible, but I'll hold off on it for a while.

You've read the first two BPRD omnibi right?

Kathryn said...

I have indeed. They don't seem to go from 1 to end, though. I've been meaning to look into whether they actually do or not but I keep putting it off.

B.P.R.D. still carries on with the theme of monsters and folklore, but it's much more accessible and - as you'll find out - there aren't pages of chanting.

Ryan said...

Nice, I could do without the pages of chanting!