Hellboy: Emerald Hell

It is not often that you can read the same character portrayed in more than one way.  If you read all the Dirk Pitt books by Clive Cussler, they all pretty much read the same.  Not to say they aren’t good reads, but a Dirk Pitt book is a Dirk Pitt book.  In the realms of Science Fiction and Fantasy, however, sometimes you can find a character who is written by several authors, and those authors can be very distinct in their styles.  Conan, for example, has been written by dozens of authors, and if you read enough of them, while Conan himself remains relatively the same throughout, his surroundings and the tales in which he is enmeshed change.

Hellboy falls in here also.  Many of the Hellboy books I’ve read and reviewed here are akin to superhero novels.  Hellboy and his band of misfits saving the world from one monstrosity or another.  Emerald Hell on the other hand is a much more sedate book by comparison.  More brooding.  More searching.

Within the pages we find Hellboy on his own, and after hearing some tales about the six silent daughters of Bliss Nail and the little Georgia swamp town of Enigma, he decides to check them out and see if something sinister is afoot.  Of course there is, but its not the potential world ending calamities of the other books.  Instead its about a pregnant girl who needs protecting from a misguided undead minister who murdered the girl’s mother.  More so than the other books, this one is all about mood and sorrow.

I don’t think I’d put this book at the top of my Hellboy pile, but I enjoyed it just the same.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

9 out of 13 nots.
for being good, but not being the Hellboy that I wanted to see

I am sure that there will be many reviews for Hellboy II that are positively glowing.  They will remark that Guillermo del Toro has crafted a work of art.  Others will mention how funny it is.  And none of them are wrong.  Hellboy II is funny, and it is a work of art.  However, it is also a very weak story masked in humor and style.

I like del Toro’s style.  I thought Pan’s Labyrinth was great.  I even liked Blade II.  And I loved the first Hellboy movie.  If I were to base my review of this film entirely on the visual style, I’d be giving it an 11 or a 12.  Its beautiful, even stunning in places.  And the movie is funny.  There are some parts of the movie that are absolutely hilarious, and if this review were based entirely on the funny bits and it was a comedy, I’d probably be giving it at least a 10.  However, the comedy of the film becomes a distraction if you happen to notice how weak the underlying tale being told is, and style is never something I have preferred over substance.

If you enjoyed Hellboy for the occult bits, you might want to skip Hellboy II because the occult is almost absent here.  If you enjoyed Hellboy for the dark and ominous tone, you might want to skip Hellboy II because this movie is bright and sunny by comparison.

In the end, though, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is still a good movie.  Better than a lot of films that make it to the screen, and continues the trend of good comic book movies making it to the screen this year that looks like is going to continue right through Christmas and beyond.  Its a good movie that just wasn’t as good as I had hoped, and not as good as its predecessor.

Hellboy: The Dragon Pool

It should come as no surprise by now that if there is another Hellboy book out, I’m buying it. This time around, Christopher Golden returns to helm The Dragon Pool. Of all the authors to come to Hellboy, Christopher is my favorite, with Tim Lebbon coming a close second.

The Dragon Pool is about the legend of King Dragon, who has been depicted as a tyrant and all around bad guy. Eventually his reign was ended and his temple and city faded into history. But archaeologists have come to a mountain plateau and lake to excavate what they think was the King’s long lost city. The leader of the expedition (Anastasia Bransfield), however, believes that the legends obfuscate the truth, and that King Dragon wasn’t just a clever name, but he was, in fact, a dragon. When she turns out to be right, its bad news for everyone because their digging has reawakened the once defeated sleeping dragon and his followers, and she makes the call to bring in the BPRD.

Christopher actually has two tales here. The first is the dig, the dragon and all the mystery that surrounds it all. The second story is that of Hellboy and Anastasia’s history together. Once the closest of friends and lovers, they parted ways because their close association was affecting Anastasia’s credibility in professional circles. Now working together again, they can’t help but be conflicted by their feelings. One of the reasons why Mr. Golden stands out to me in the Hellboy series of books, is that he manages these two stories without them stepping on each other, they flow together well, compliment each other, and each is resolved.

All in all, The Dragon Pool is a fine addition to the Hellboy series, and like all the others I recommend it.

Hellboy: The God Machine

Finally finished reading Hellboy: The God Machine. The length of time it took to read had nothing to do with the content of the book, but more to do with the time available to read. The Holiday season is always rough.

But I did finish, and it didn’t disappoint. Like the other Hellboy books I’ve read, this one, written by Thomas E. Sniegoski, had a style all its own while still retaining the nature of the Hellboy universe. I think that’s what I enjoy most about these books. Each author has a slightly different take on the narrative, but it doesn’t mess up the fact that its a Hellboy book. Its like having a bunch of different painters paint the same bowl of fruit.

This book is about a group of people led by a man who speaks to God. Well, I should say god, little ‘g’, although its close. God wants the man to build a machine to bring him to the world so that he can help them make it a better place. Or at least that’s what the voice says. In reality, the god isn’t God but Qemu’el, one of three archons created by God (big ‘G’) to destroy the world if the world needs destroying. Only God decided he liked us humans and put the archons to sleep for eternity since he didn’t want the world destroyed. Two of the archons went quietly, while one, Qemu’el, managed to rip a tiny hole in the fabric of reality so he could stay awake and monitor the world, just in case God was wrong. And of course, he thinks God was wrong. Humans are messing up the planet and don’t deserve God’s gifts, so Qemu’el wants to do God a favor and wipe out the world so that it can be started again.

Meanwhile, Hellboy and his team are on the trail of missing artifacts of worship, and it just so happens that these items are being stolen by the group mentioned above to power their God Machine.

I enjoyed the book. Sniegoski has a good writing style, and while its not as good as the Tim Lebbon book I last read in the series, its good enough and certainly worth the read. I give this book a thumbs up.

Hellboy: Unnatural Selection

Man… I really am digging these Hellboy books. They sort of take a stab toward horror without getting into any of the cheesy melodrama that some horror has. Writer Tim Lebbon takes his shot at Hellboy with Unnatural Selection.

The story here is that someone is bringing back all the monsters of legend, pulling them right out of the Memory. He’s setting them loose on Earth, and its up to the BPRD to find out why and stop it, because the dragons and sea monsters are starting to eat lots of people.

Like other Hellboy books, its one part horror and one part action, with a dash of comedy. The blend is so perfect that the pages pratically turn themselves. The writing was good enough that I’m going to seek out more Tim Lebbon books. Thumbs up for the lastest Hellboy.

On Earth As It Is In Hell

I picked up the new Hellboy book On Earth As It Is In Hell warily. I really enjoyed the last two by Christopher Golden and seeing a new author on the books, well, I wondered if they’d have a similar touch to the tale that I found so interesting in the previous books. My apprehension was unwarranted in the end as the book proved to be quite good. Excellent in fact. Brian Hodge did a great job putting you not only into Hellboy’s head, but the heads of all the members of the BPRD. In fact, this book reads more like it should be titled a Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence book instead of a Hellboy novel.

The short version… Seraphim show up at the Vatican and try to burn a priest and the document he is studying. Turns out the document may or may not have been written by an elderly Jesus Christ, who survived the crucifixion and ended up in a place called Masada (real place, about which a number of odd stories surround). So the Vatican, or rather a small group of priests who want to protect the document and actually reveal it to the world, calls in the BPRD to protect the pages until they can figure out who wants them burned. Only, as usual, Hellboy and his team get in a bit deeper than intended, and don’t sit on the sidelines where the Vatican wants them to stay.

A good solid read, and kept me turning pages all the way through. Another book I highly recommend.


Normally my Reviews articles are for movies or TV, but I decided today to hit a different frontier… Books.

I read alot of books, not as many as I would like, but alot none the less. And as you may notice from this site (and my subdomains), I also like to write. When I started playing City of Heroes, I got a jonesing for some spandex fiction. Sadly though, there only appears to be two kinds you can pick up at the local books store: Wild Cards by George R. R. Martin and books based on existing comic book characters.

Now, don’t get me wrong… the Martin edited shared world of Wild Cards is probably one of my favorite series of books, but I had read them before… twice… and was looking for something new. I wanted to avoid the books based on existing comic characters because a few of the ones I thumbed through relied too much on prior character knowledge, basically you needed to be a fan of the comic in order to enjoy the book. I asked around for books in a superhero setting that were neither Wild Cards nor existing comics… but all the recommendations I got we more Sci-Fi or Fantasy… lacking that element of the superhero, the comic book, that makes it unique. So finally, after coming to the conclusion that either none had been written or that none had been published, I caved in and bought some books from existing comic book heroes.

And I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

There is a series of books, four of them so far, for the Justice League of America. One book is about the JLA as a whole fighting the good fight, and the other three (of which I’ve only read one so far) take a single member off on his own, with the occasional backup of the JLA. The first book I read was the JLA book, The Exterminators. And when I got into it, I was very happy to see the author not rely on prior knowledge. He explained as he went the relative parts of each character’s background as it was touched on. His book read like a comic without pictures… well, in my head there were plenty of pictures. The book was very well done, all-in-all a two thumbs up review. The second I read was for the Flash, called Stop Motion. Like the other, this author too didn’t trust you to just know the character, but he also didn’t bog you down with 50 years of history in the lives of speedsters of the DC Universe. He told what he needed, that’s it. The story was tight, and exciting… but it did leave me wanting in the end. The finale was just a bit sub par… it was a mystery, and as sometimes happens, the resolution of the mystery, figuring out who done it and why, was much more satisfying than the final conflict between hero and villain. It was like pushing a boulder up hill, excited the whole way up to the top, not knowing what was on the other side, getting to the top, seeing the other side, heart pounding, pushing the rock over the edge… only to see it roll about ten feet and stop because the hill on that side levelled off. It was like a rollercoaster that took you up a huge climb only to have a pitiful drop off the other side. I enjoyed the book, but just was a little less than fulfilled with the resolution once the mystery was unfolded.

There are two more books in the series so far, Batman and Wonder Woman, with a fifth, the Green Lantern, coming soon. I look forward to them.

When I picked up the JLA books, I also decided to grab the two Hellboy books by Christopher Golden, the Lost Army and the Bones of Giants. The Lost Army was a good solid read, and felt like Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy) had done much of the writing himself. The sense of humor, the oddity of the situations, Christopher captured the essense of the Hellboy comics perfectly in his prose. And like the JLA books, he didn’t rely on the reader knowing Hellboy, not that Hellboy readers really know everything anyway. He would just hint at the past, and give you tastes of the world Hellboy belonged in that existed outside the scope of the story. Right now I’m about halfway through The Bones of Giants… and wow. It’s better than the first book. Christopher’s writing style and familiarity with the mythos now shines with a much deeper and provacative tale. I can’t wait to see how it end.

Anyway, that’s it for now… I’m glad I was wrong about at least some of these comic book novels. I hope more are on the way.


If you read the League of Extraodinary Gentlemen comic and then saw the movie, you can clearly see all the things that can go wrong with translating a comic to film. Not saying I hate League, but it was almost like… no, it was exactly like they were two different stories, because, well, they were.

Hellboy on the other hand, translates from comic to film beautifully. It was great. The story was taken directly from the comic (or at least directly enough to where it didn’t jump out at me with glaring differences), and the only real complaint I’ve heard was a few people stating that a few items in the film weren’t "clear" because a little exposition got snipped… but will probably be restored in the DVD.

In any event, I highly recommend this movie. It was fun, funny, and cool.