Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pulp-Powered Comics: Hellboy Seed of Destruction

Having read the entire series a few years ago, I recently took the chance to look over the first volume of the ongoing series of miniseries Hellboy: Seed of Destruction again. The character, at least in his early incarnation, was decidedly adventure pulp in origin only coated in a fine layer of Lovecraftian horrors. But until recently I never noticed the striking resemblance between his first adventure and those of Doc Savage.

Basically, Hellboy is Doc Savage.

Artist Mike Mignola and scripter John Byrne have crafted a story about an intrepid agent with uncanny abilities that makes him far and away better than an average man and his allies. His father’s death sets off his first adventure. One his quest, his company of heroes follow him. A clear similarity begins to show itself.

Now clearly, it is by no means a straight pastiche. Hellboy is a demon with filed off horns. Instead of the Fearless Five, his aides are the fish-man Abe Sapien and pyrokinetic Liz Sherman. (His other allies would come later.) His father is killed by evil toads, not a South American assassin.

But I think the similarities are worthy of attention. Over the last sixteen years of stories, Hellboy, his supporting cast, and their ongoing narrative have easily become the most widely known neo-pulp characters in fiction.

I digress. I am here to talk about Hellboy: Seed of Destruction. The series gives us a brief origin of the character that opens up as many questions as it might solve before we leap head-long in to the story. The team quickly find themselves in to an ever growing web of evil crafted by the half-alive mad monk known as Rasputin. Things get complicated and Hellboy finds himself battling to save the world.

Mignola’s skills as a storyteller were still rough around the edges at this point. John Byrne providing the script to Mignola’s plot helps some, though at times the characters seem slightly off in their decisions. Viewed as a standalone though, it is nothing short of epic.

Each book in the series seems to stray farther and father from that initial pulp premise. But Seed of Destruction is definitely a good piece of pulp. Recommended.

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