Hellboy (vol 3): The Chained Coffin and Others: Building the Hellboy mythos

Hellboy (vol 3): The Chained Coffin and Others by Mike Mignola (writer and artist),

Hellboy (Vol. 3): The Chained Coffin and Others by Mike MignolaHellboy (vol 3): The Chained Coffin and Others does not continue the main storyline of Hellboy started in volumes one and two; instead, Mignola collects a handful of Hellboy tales in this trade edition:

In “The Coffin,” Hellboy makes his appearance in Ireland in 1959 as a mother cries over her baby, who she is convinced is a changeling. “Get to the crossroads by the strike of middle-night under the corpse tree,” screams the changeling-baby when Hellboy tortures it with iron. And Hellboy is off to the crossroads to make a deal with three creatures. Next thing you know, he is on a quest with a dead man hanging off his back. Only if he is successful will he be able to return the baby to her mother. “The Coffin” is one of Mignola’s best short stories.

Hellboy makes an appearance in Ireland again, this time in 1961. The story opens with two specialists telling us that there are, in fact, some creatures who do not have a negative reaction to iron. And Hellboy meets one of them in “The Iron Shoes.”

“The Baba Yaga” is based on the creature from the Russian folktales. She put in an appearance in Hellboy (Vol 2): Wake the Devil, where it was mentioned in passing that Hellboy took out one of her eyes. Mignola tells that story here.

Mignola’s first Christmas story, “The Christmas Underground,” is also based on folklore. It takes place on Christmas Eve in England, 1989. In the course of this story, mistaken for Father Christmas, Quixote, and Lancelot, Hellboy visits a dying woman whose last wish he grants: Seek out her daughter who lives down beneath the stones that pre-date Christianity and deliver a gift from mother to daughter.

“The Chained Coffin” is the origin story of Hellboy. Now grown up, he visits the church in England where he first appeared (as shown in volume 1). The story is told by way of a letter from Hellboy to Abe Sapien, who is back at headquarters. Hellboy dreams of a priest and a nun guarding the chained coffin to protect the woman inside, their mother, from a demon who will come and claim her. Hellboy is in for a surprise when the Demon shows up in his dream. This is my favorite story in the collection.

“The Wolves of Saint August” is about an entire town’s population being murdered after a priest, a friend of Hellboy, shows up to say mass. Hellboy comes to town in order to solve this mass murder mystery (pun intended). This, the most developed story in the collection, is my second favorite. The pacing of the fight scene is brilliant.

“Almost Colossus” picks up a detail left undeveloped in Hellboy (vol 2): Wake the Devil: It tells the story of what happened after the fire-starter Liz Sherman put her finger, and thus her fire, into an open hole on the front of a homunculus. A great origin story, “Almost Colossus” tells of this character’s initial creation and how he was brought back to life by Liz. He will eventually become a central character in the main Hellboy storyline.

Though it does not follow up the main plot from volumes one and two, this collection of stories is necessary to build up the Hellboy mythos. It is expertly done with stellar art. Do not pass this one up. The two origin stories, in particular, are necessary to the overall plot of Hellboy.


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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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