Posted - January 23, 2011 | Updated : August 27, 2015
Hellboy : Seed of Destruction
I sat down to read this graphic novel minutes before I had to go out of the house and do something else. I had time to read Robert Bloch's introduction and four or five pages.
That was enough to hook me. I spent the rest of the day in mild anticipation of coming home again for the pleasure of reading the rest of the book.
That alone should show the quality of this first installment of the Hellboy mythos.
Anybody who reads the commentaries on this site knows that I am a sucker for well-rendered, mood-inspired architecture and landscapes. This gorgeous piece was in the very first page.
As villains go, you can never go wrong with the Nazis.
Hellboy's appearance is handled masterfully by Mignola with script by Byrne. It is a mystical event well outside our ideas of normality. Also other than normal is the story that made this picture possible.
Being full of stereotypes about soldiers and never really knowing any real ones, I'd place my money bet that, on the appearance of a small demon-like imp among them, they would simply open fire on the creature. Not so here. Maybe its the presence of Broom and the other psychics acting as the brains of this operation, or maybe its the masked hero known as the Torch of Liberty. The fact is, upon his arrival, Hellboy was accepted. This simple 'twist' has made all the difference. There's a lesson there.
The following image shows Broom, years later, in his study. Being the weirdo that I am, I really lingered over this panel. Taking note of all the knick-knacks and other clutter - it's really wonderfully composed with great attention to detail.
And here, once again, we have a location shot.
It's very striking that the house is nearly totally surrounded by lake. Notice the detail of the nearby boat? It's worth quoting directly from Mignola: "The house is called Cavendish Hall. It was built about a hundred and fifty years ago by the first of the Cavendish family to come to America. Back then it stood on a high promontory commanding a wide view of the lake and all the land around as far as the horizon. These days it's well on its way to having a swimming pool for a basement. It's been sinking since the day it was finished." This is the kind of writing that I read comic books for. Truly wonderful.
Next we have a meeting between the mistress of Cavendish Hall and Hellboy and his group of adventurers.
So Mrs. Cavendish is sitting in her parlor facing what seems to be a huge, red-skinned demon with cutoff horns. I'm waiting for the inevitable panic attack. Absent that, I'm just waiting for her to stare at him dumbfounded. None of that. No reaction. Hellboy might as well be a normal guy. I think that's a very subtle and brilliant way to inform the reader that we are in front of someone used to the extraordinary.
I love the capsule history about Elihu Cavendish, founder of the American Cavendishes. Half a dozen times travel around the world - half a dozen times in the age of ships. Then back to the New World with fortune enough to build Cavendish Hall.
Abe Sapien is also introduced here. The panels below illustrate the circumstances of his discovery. Look at the date: 1865! Very cool. And 'Icthyo Sapien'. These details are brilliant.
This page shows Abe swimming in the waters underneath Cavendish Hall. It's mucky water which he describes as 'darker' than any he's been in before. This is an eerie/exciting series of panels.
The villain of the story is trying to summon some nightmarish creatures he refers to as 'gods'. These gods are encased in rocks floating in the depths of space.
What's tantalizing is that there are beings, in space, that are monitoring these 'prison stones'
Aside from this one page outtake nothing more in the way of explanation is offered by Mignola - which I think is perfect.
So far, the pacing and the build up has been beautiful. I'm happy to report that Mignola and Byrne nail the ending just right. You'll never guess who gets to deliver the major blow against our nasty villain - it's not Hellboy nor Abe Sapien. Good ending to a wonderful introductory tale.
There are two other stories in this graphic novel, the more interesting of which pits Hellboy against the Egyptian god Anubis.