Comics Review: “Hellboy: The Storm and the Fury”
Mike Mignola has never shied away from teasing us with Hellboy’s apparent destiny, to rule this world as Hell on Earth. Hellboy, it was strongly believed by his enemies, was to be the devil who won in the battle of good versus evil. Thats what made this odd supernatural story about a guy who looked like a demon so compelling. Mignola wrote him as just another guy but it was the world around him that was full of monsters, magic and the extraordinary. But by the time of The Storm and The Fury, all of those horrors and wonders have caught up with Hellboy, who had just previously found out that he’s actually descended from King Arthur on his mother’s side. (It’s kind of complicated.) His father’s line may want him to rule in Hell but his mother’s family wants him to be the next glorious king of Britain. All Hellboy wants to do is reclaim his life, rejoin his friends at the B.P.R.D. and settle down with Alice, a nice, normal (even if she is quite a bit older than she looks) girl that he once saved from a supernatural threat. But before he can settle down back into his life, he has to fight a dragon for his own soul.
On the pages leading up to the battle that Mignola has been building towards since the first issue of Seeds of Destruction, he finally lets his character find himself and figure out who he wants to be. In the three books that have been drawn by Duncan Fegredo (Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt and now The Storm and The Fury,) Mignola takes everything he has hinted at and implied about Hellboy’s true nature and actually done something with most of it, even if there are still a few mysteries left about Hellboy to reveal after this book is finished. Early on in The Storm and The Fury, Hellboy makes a decision to face his enemies alone. He could have had a grand army of Britain’s dead following him into one of those so-called glorious and epic battles but Mignola knows that Hellboy would never do that. Even in the drunken depths of his running away from his supposed destiny, Hellboy knew that he couldn’t let anyone fight his battles but him. That’s why he left the his friends in the B.P.R.D. and that’s why he won’t lead an army of Britain’s brave dead.
Maybe it is because on every other book he does he works with co-writers but we hardly talk about Mignola as a comic book writer. After almost 20 years, we’ve just started to recently see Mignola as just the writer on Hellboy. Even when he has worked with other artists like P. Craig Russell, Kevin Nowlan or Richard Corben, Mignola has carried over the rhythm from his own Hellboy stories. With the different artists, those stories like the recent and excellent Corben-drawn Hellboy: The House of the Living Dead don’t feel much different from a story that he would have drawn himself. Mignola has perfected the pithy, supernatural story that’s equal part about his characters as they are about folklore, mythology or horror but The Storm and The Fury shows Mignola taking those threads that he began in shorter stories and building an epic out of them.
The Storm and The Fury is not about the spectacle of ghouls, ghosts or goblins but it is about character. Maybe for the first time in 20 years, Mignola has figured out how he wants to flesh out his character, making him more than just a host character for Mignola to create folklore around like the Crypt Keeper or Uncle Creepy. After all of the years of Hellboy moving through this world, Mignola gives his character a reason to fight the good fight and to be part of the world. He gives Hellboy a life that just isn’t fighting and avoiding any responsibility.
It’s odd to say since it’s his character but Mike Mignola wasn’t the artist for this story. Getting Duncan Fegredo to draw these recent chapters of Hellboy’s story has been brilliant because Fegredo portrays both the epic battles and personal struggles that Hellboy is going through in these pages. Looking at older books, Mignola is great at bringing his stories out of the shadows but Fegredo is pulling the story out of the characters. Playing off of Mignola’s story, Fegredo’s artwork captures both the physical and emotional battles that Hellboy is experiencing while remaining faithful to the storytelling that Mignola established back in Seeds of Destruction.
In a story where the world is in jeopardy, Fegredo is able to invisibly shift the scope of the story from a man who’s trying to find his place in the world to a hero who is fighting one of the largest and most important battles ever fought. It’s a simple shift that’s aided by Dave Stewart’s extraordinary coloring but Fegredo smoothly moves from a battle with a giant orc-like creature to Hellboy sitting in a countryside pub contemplating his future. It’s the humanity that Fegredo captures in every panel that makes The Storm and The Fury that makes this story feel special among all the stories that have preceded it.
To get the life that he finally realizes that he wants, Hellboy has to finally fight the mystical dragon that has been manipulating him since the beginning. As he moves the character forward, Mignola doesn’t abandon the mystical action that has made Hellboy so memorable. Embracing his life means embracing the craziness that goes with being a big red demon with a stone hand. In this book, Mignola catches that sweet spot between creating a character-driven story and a monster-driven one. Even with witches, pig-trolls and dragons, all staples of a Hellboy story, Mignola finds the heart and soul of Hellboy.