Rejoice, Hellboy fans: On March 17, Mike Mignola will finally provide the truth behind his titular character's heritage with Hellboy: The Wild Hunt. It's a storyline that's been cryptically brewing for years, and it must be terrifying and liberating for Mr. Mignola to finally reveal his grand scheme. I started Dark Horse's latest collection without any knowledge of the answers
laid bare within its fiery-tinged pages, but then pieces began to fall into place--bits of Hellboy esoterica that I hadn't thought about in years started to become increasingly relevant to the story.
Readers would do well to bone up on Darkness Calls and, shockingly--at least to me--Strange Places. I thought the latter to be more of a cast-off story in the Hellboy mythos; one to read and enjoy without having to dwell too long on the possibility of its effect on greater continuity. But it's testament to Mignola's planning and patience that such stories would eventually flourish as part of the whole. Strange Places is one of my favorite collections (and the third "Library Edition" hardcover more than does it justice), and when its plot points were referenced in The Wild Hunt, I knew something was up Hellboy's duster sleeves.
Artist Duncan Fegredo, who partnered with Mignola on Darkness Calls, returns here with the unenviable task of drawing Hellboy. I'm pleased to note that there is no disappointment in The Wild Hunt. Fegredo stays close to what made the series such a success: the chiseled, jagged details are here, as are the stark panels with shadowed images nearly indecipherable upon first glance. But, as noted in Mark Chadbourn's introduction, there are moments where the body language of a much-maligned villain gives the reader reason to linger. As apparent in the bonus features section, Mignola is still very hands-on when it comes to visuals, but it's in these quiet panels where Fegredo's work lends emotional weight. And where Mignola's female characters tend to haunt and lurk, Fegredo adds a tenderness to Hellboy's partner in the later half--but not to worry, fans need look no further than the principle villainess, The Queen of Blood, for their fix of femme fatales.
When a writer builds his fiction on a foundation of mystery, it's rare for the answers to be as interesting as the questions (see how Lost's sixth season has floundered thus far--sorry, fans, I'm right there with you, but it's been a snooze-y first few episodes), yet The Wild Hunt delivers. This is a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in the series. I wish I could say more, but I do not want to be the guy to let slip one of the most surprising, satisfying, and well-played revelations in popular fiction. At the book's close, my own imagination bested, I realized that no matter how obscure or how deeply Mike Mignola selects the folklore with which to tell his stories, there are universal legends at work that never rest.
The Wild Hunt releases in March, and readers left reeling can steady themselves with the promise of more Hellboy-inspired titles in 2010: May sees the publication of B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs and Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels, and then B.P.R.D.: 1947 is rumored to release later this summer.