Mike Mignola (writer) and Duncan Fegredo (illustrator),
Hellboy Volume 8 -- Darkness Calls (Dark Horse, 2008)
As I mention in my review of the latest B.P.R. D. trade edition --
B.P.R.D. Volume 7 -- Garden of Souls rocks. Really. Truly. As I write this review in early days of February, I have spent about two months reading, for all practical purposes, nothing but graphic novels. Most of that reading had been in Jim Lee's Wildstorm universe where the Authority/Planetary/Stormwatch storylines are set and it's a cool if somewhat overly brutal universe, and I wanted a respite from that universe. Fortunately, the good folks at Dark Horse sent me both B.P.R.D. Volume 7 -- Garden of Souls and the latest Hellboy trade edition, .Hellboy Volume 7 -- The Troll Witch and Other Stories. For reasons I'll go into when I review The Troll Witch and Other Stories separately, I was disappointed in that collection, so I turned to the B.P.R.D. story. Oh, was I impressed! Really impressed!
Hellboy Volume 8 -- Darkness Calls is one of the best, if not simply the best, graphic novels I've read this year. When we review Celtic music here at Green Man, we oft times say that it's FHL, our short hand for Faster Harder Louder. Trust me when I say that Darkness Calls is FHL! The story would be worthy of turning into an animated Hellboy film without changing a word, without scraping a single scene. It's that good! Certainly it will make my short list of truly great graphic novels of 2008 alongside The Umbrella Academy, Lobster Johnson (Volume One), and Absolute Sandman, Volume Three.
Hellboy Volume 7 -- The Troll Witch and Other Stories disappointed me because I felt that volume of this ongoing tale lacked both intensity and a sense of cohesiveness. None of the various stories were bad per se, but a certain feeling of the genius that is Mignola at his very best was not present. All writers have a spot or two of not great work, so it wasn't that unexpected. What was unexpected to me is how the material collected together in Darkness Calls is beyond merely good. This might well be the single finest story line to date in either B.P.R.D. or Hellboy. Really. Truly.
Hellboy has finally returned from his apparently aimless sojourns at sea, but no sooner has he settled on land than a horrific gathering of some of the ugliest witches this side of Alison Gross you'll not want to ever encounter anywhere tosses him straight into the heart of Russian folklore, where he becomes hunted by his immortal enemy, the witch Baba Yaga as she wants revenge for the eye she had lost to Hellboy. This rather nasty old witch has enlisted the aid of a deathless warrior who will stop at nothing to destroy Hellboy. And that's just the beginning of an adventure that you'll find worth reading more than once.
Oh, did I mention how good Duncan Fegredo's artwork is? Though obviously not that of Mignola, his style perfectly suits the Hellboy 'verse. I could, but will not for the sake of those involved, contrast it with some long-running series where a new artist took over from the artist who set the look of the series -- one often feels like saying 'What the Fuck was everyone thinking when they had this less than bright idea of using this artist?'. Not here -- Fegredo's artwork as can be seen here is a lovely riff off Mignola's. If you like his work here, check out Kid Eternity (written by Grant Morrison) a Vertigo 3-issue mini-series from the early '90s now out in trade paper, or his work on Judge Dredd, uncollected to date in trade format.
Even someone who seen just the Hellboy films, live and/or animated, will love this tale without having read the earlier stories, as it's quite readable as a one-shot. Bravo all!