The second Hellboy animated movie.

I enjoyed the first movie but this one I liked a lot more. Essentially, it has two story lines: one of them follows the team of Hellboy, Liz Sherman, Abe Sabien, Professor Bruttenholm, and Sydney Leach when they investigate a house for a possible haunting. The house has been recently bought by Oliver Trumbolt, a millionaire who wants to make it tourist attraction. The BPRD team thinks that their presence is just a PR stunt. Except for the Professor who insisted on joining the team.

The second storyline starts in 1939, the young Professor and a local Transylvanian team are hunting Erzebet Ondrushko who is not just a vampire but also Goddess Hecate’s high priestess. The professor and the local priest are the only ones of the team who survive. The story moves back in time through out the movie. This team resembled somewhat of the team in Dracula except that it contained a priest. Otherwise, there’s a young bride who is the victim of the vampire and her groom, and the knowledgeable outsider. The constable might be mapped to Lord Godalming.

Ondrusko’s loyal minions, two very short old women with sharp teeth, are calling her back to unlife at the manor, of course. The Professor is haunted by his past but is reluctant to reveal more until he’s sure.

The story is quite intense and action packed. The BPRD are an experienced team who rely on each other and clearly know each other well. Leach is the new character who is on his first field assignment but he isn’t a screw up, either, and the other characters don’t pick on him as the newbie. The Professor even gets some character development and it was great to see how the other team members tried to protect him.

The team fights ghosts and there’s an even epic fight with Hecate herself. At the end, there are pretty clear clues to Hellboy’s real identity and the “Right Hand of Doom” is mentioned. I think they planned to have more Hellboy animated movies. A pity that didn’t happen.

In the extras, there’s a short film called Iron Shoes. In another clip the second story has been put together in a chronological order.

The first animated Hellboy movie.

The movie starts almost in a James Bond-like manner: with a short teaser that doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the movie. In it Hellboy, Liz, and Abe are underground in a Mayan temple looking for agent Hamilton, and Hellboy is fighting a giant bat. The bat brings to life various undead around the trio and they are almost defeated until Liz sets the undead on fire. It’s a nice introduction to the characters and their various powers, and I also have an inordinate fondness for this teaser style.

The actual movie starts when Professor Sakai opens a long lost scroll and reads the story in it. The story tells about demon brothers Thunder and Lighting who tried to make a bargain with a damiyo but instead end up being trapped into a sword. They possess the Professor who knows that the enchanted katana is nearby. He attacks the man holding the sword as part of his collection but fails to get the sword, and flees.

The Bureau of Paranormal Investigations is called in. Hellboy and Professor Kate Corrigan travel to Japan to investigate. Hellboy picks up the enchanted katana and is transported to a mythological land. There he encounters various monsters while he tries to get back home. At the same time, the rest of the team are trying to get Hellboy back and trace Professor Sakai while storms and earthquakes are plaguing the Earth.

The core regular cast from the live action movies and the comic return: Hellboy, Liz Sherman, and Abe Sapien. To me, they were in character but I’ve only read two Hellboy comics so far. Liz is the most insecure one; she’s afraid of her powers and that she’ll lose control of them. This is emphasized right at the start, when she’s reluctant to destroy the undead and only Hellboy can calm her down afterwards. However, there’s no trace of the romance between Liz and Hellboy which was seen in the movies. Instead, Abe is forced to give air to a drowning Liz mouth to mouth and this leads to an awkward moment between them. The water breathing Abe seems to be the solid back bone of the team while Helloboy is the muscle. They are all experienced adventurers, instead of wide-eyed novices, and take pretty much everything in stride.

I enjoyed the Japanese mythology in the movie. I’m not well versed in it, but I recognized various elements, such as a traveler getting shelter in a strange house and the other guests changing into monsters, and the spider woman demon. And the fox with a woman’s voice who acts as Hellboy’s guide. I think that’s called a kitsune.

Despite dealing with demons and the possible end of the world, the mood is more like an adventure story than an apocalypse movie. It’s action packed and fast-paced with a few comic moments, too.

The DVD has lots of extras.

By Michael Mignola

The second Hellboy trade is dedicated to Dracula which is appropriate considering that one of the main baddies in this trade is a vampire. Here Mignola continues his mythic tale of Hellboy and adds Norse and Russian myths to the mix. Most of the story is set in Romania in a quite Draculan setting.

Roderico Zinco, a very rich entrepreneur, offers sanctuary to the three Nazis whom we saw emerging from their life preservation bods at the end of the previous story. Their mysterious master had appeared to Zinco and recruited him.

One year later, the trio is in New York and Ilsa kills the curator of a wax museum. Later, the BPRD investigates and finds out that the seemingly simple murder gives a clue to a far larger conspiracy; the owner used to hold the body of Vladimir Giurescu. According to the Romanian folk tales, Giurescu could never die; that the moonlight would revive him when he was in a specific room in his castle. The Nazis made an effort to recruit him but after meeting Giurescu, Hilter ordered him and his family (six women) to be killed and burned. However, it’s possible that one of the Nazis preserved Giurescu’s body and brought it to the US. In fact, the murdered curator turns out to be German.

The BPRD sends three teams to Romania to investigate. Hellboy has the honor to check out Giurescu’s castle all by himself. Meanwhile, Ilsa has brought the crate where Giurescu’s corpse is supposed to be, back to the castle. When Hellboy shows up she makes a cyborg Nazi fight him.

Later, the Nazi trio’s Master from the previous trade appears as a ghost-like being and Ilsa follows him without question. The Master (I’m trying very hard not to spoiler here) is again the main villain of the story. We learn his history and connections to a famous Russian fairy tale character. Also, Hellboy finds out why he’s on Earth and to fight against his inner demonic being.

The art is again very distinctive. It borrows from the ancient mythologies and the more modern vampire mythology. I also liked the close-ups where we could see just how many of the equipment that the BPRD uses are made by the Zinco Corporation. The enemy was nearer than the BPRD agents ever knew.

The story continues from Seed of Destruction and I recommend starting with that trade. The main villain is the same and story of Hellboy’s origin continues here.

Some of the characters get more flesh in their bones. Ironically, they are mostly the villains, the Master and Ilsa, whom we’ll hopefully see in the future. I also enjoyed the return of the old Greek goddess and the way that the people in the village near Giurescu’s castle reacted to his return. Dracula came strongly to mind with the latter.

I found it quite remarkable how well Mignola was able to mix the different myths. Hecate, Baba Yaga, Lovecraftian monsters, the seven-in-one, and vampires can co-exist in the same world without it feeling forced. Not to mention all of the other characters from their respective myths. Impressive.

However, the ending was somewhat disappointing especially if the three people stay dead. Giurescu didn’t really get a chance to do anything; the Master and the Nazis got to do pretty much everything.

By Michael Mignola and John Byrne

This is the collection of the first Hellboy miniseries. It’s also part of the first Finnish Hellboy trade.

The first chapter is set in the final years of WWII when the Nazis are trying to get magical help. A mysterious magician performs a mighty spell which seems to go somewhat wrong.

He was supposed to summon a miracle for the Nazis but nothing happens. Meanwhile, a group of British and USAians are in East Bromwich where something magical is supposed to happen. The group consists of soldiers and three paranormal people. In the end, a scary looking little boy appears. The boy is taken in by the paranormals who are members of BPRD, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.

The next chapter opens 50 years later. The little boy has grown up to be Hellboy, one of BPRD’s best agents. He still doesn’t know where he came from or why.

Hellboy’s old adoptive father, professor Trevor Bruttenholm, has taken part in an expedition which was seeking something mystical from the Northern Polar Regions. It was believed that the expedition perished just like all the previous ones. However, Bruttenholm survived. He tells Hellboy about a weird statue and how he has lost some of his memories. Soon, a group of frogs appears and Bruttenholm is killed. Hellboy battles a human-sized frog creature whose tongue can make his arm go numb. Even though Hellboy kills the creature, he’s only clues are the other members of the expedition. They were three young men from a famous explorer family of Cavendish. Hellboy’s small team goes to the Cavendish Hall which is rumored to have been built on cursed land.

The story is told mostly from the point-of-view of Hellboy who has to face not only the death of the only parent he has ever known but also the possibility of knowing more about his purpose on Earth – which is likely not a benevolent one. However, he has had a long time to live with the uncertainty. He’s not a brooding teenager but a professional who has a job to do.

His team mates are interesting and I hope we get to know more about them in the later stories. This time we barely got a glimpse of them. Abe Sapien, the amphibian paranormal, was found in an underground tube where he could have been a long time. He seems to be a consummate professional as well. Liz Sherman is a pyrokinetic whose power was first so uncontrolled that she burned her family to death when she was ten. That must have left a lot of traumas and yet she has a job where she probably has to use her powers. She spends most of the comic off-screen so we don’t learn much about her.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the comic is the atmosphere. There are quite a few Lovecraftian monsters around and magic is real. I could even compare Hellboy to sword and sorcery –type fantasy stories where the magicians are almost always evil. There are some references to real myths, especially in the artwork, and Hellboy himself seems to have come out of one, as well.

The artwork is different than the current manga-style or the sleek superhero -style which I’m mostly used to, but that’s good. It emphasizes the setting, the feeling of mythology, and creates a unique feel to the comic.

The first Finnish trade contains Seed of Destruction, Wake the Devil, and one of the later short stories. It’s in black and white which gives the stories perhaps a more intense atmosphere than the standard four color comics.