Hellboy (Vol. 5): Conqueror Worm: Hellboy shows its pulp roots

Hellboy (vol. 5): Conqueror Worm by Mike Mignola (writer/artist) & Dave Stewart (colorist)

Hellboy (Vol. 5): Conqueror Worm by Mike Mignola and Dave StewartThe comic opens in 1939 with Lobster Johnson, Mignola’s pulp fiction-like hero, invading a Nazi stronghold in a castle just as they launch a manned ship into space. Johnson and the United States soldiers are too late to stop it as it launches just as they invade the castle. The castle explodes at the moment of launch, making that day rumored to be Lobster Johnson’s final mission (Mignola also has a series of books about Lobster Johnson’s adventures). Sixty-one years later, the ship is scheduled to come to Earth. Hellboy and the homunculus Liz brought to life, now known as Roger, are sent there to meet it. Of course, getting up in the mountains on foot to that destroyed castle is no easy feat. And, unfortunately for Hellboy and Roger, it gets much harder from there.

Thus begins another excellent volume in the Hellboy series. There are Nazis a-plenty, a large “Nazi-Frankenstein monkey,” an army of zombie-like creatures (“The final great race of men”), the pulp hero Lobster Johnson, Rasputin, and a granddaughter who begins to doubt her Nazi grandfather’s mad plans involving the thing that has returned in the space vessel. It is certainly no man. Hellboy is warned by a stranger that what has returned to earth is somehow tied to the Lovecraftian creature he encountered in a previous story, and thus we know that there is some cosmic evil involved. It is this cosmic evil that adds to the Hellboy mythos and one of the reasons I enjoy Mignola’s body of work.

One of my favorite parts is actually a seemingly small section of the story: Hellboy meets an alien, the full story of which Mignola told years later in the mini-series The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed. I highly recommend reading that collection after finishing Conqueror Worm. Another key part of the story is that we find out that the Bureau Hellboy and Roger work for is not as kindly an organization as we, and they, thought. And of course, there are a lot of great fight scenes mixed in with the mythology. This volume certainly advances the main storyline of Hellboy in another fantastic tale told and illustrated by Mignola and colored by the always great Dave Stewart.


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BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Read Brad's series on HOW TO READ COMICS.

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