Hellboy (vol. 4): The Right Hand of Doom: Continues to build the Hellboy mythos

Hellboy (vol. 4): The Right Hand of Doom by Mike Mignola (writer and artist) and Dave Stewart (colorist)

Hellboy (vol. 4): The Right Hand of Doomis an excellent collection of stories grouped into three sections. While not all the tales here tie into the larger plotline of Hellboy’s grand storyline, they are all worth reading.

Part one of the book starts with a short two-page story, followed by two other stories from the early years. In “Pancakes,” Hellboy is a young boy and in the two following stories, he is just old enough to go on missions. “Pancakes” opens on a young Hellboy refusing to eat “pamcakes” because they are “yucky,” only to discover to his delight that he actually likes them. Meanwhile, in Hell, there is quite a reaction to young Hellboy’s culinary discovery.

In “The Nature of the Beast,” Hellboy is handed a spear and sent out to slay a dragon. The mission has an air of mystery about it given those who send him on this quest and given their reaction to Hellboy’s success. We are led to question how much power Hellboy actually has.

“King Vold” is another story of Hellboy in his early years with the bureau. His mentor sends him to Norway to meet a folklorist who regales him with tales from Norwegian legend as they wait for King Vold, the Flying Huntsman. Unfortunately, the professor’s plans for Hellboy are less academic than he pretends.

Part Two: “Heads” and the next two tales take place in Hellboy’s middle years with the bureau. In this one, Mignola sends Hellboy to Kyoto so he can weave in some Japanese folklore. Hellboy becomes suspicious when a seemingly kind man wakes him from his slumber and tells him he’ll be safer in his home than in the forest.

“Goodbye Mr. Tod” takes place in Portand, Oregon and is about a séance gone wrong. Mr. Tod, who is able to manifest ectoplasmatic beings, is overwhelmed when he taps too deeply into the spirit world and begins to manifest a Lovecraftian creature out of his body’s fluid.

“The Varcolac” is the king of the Vampires, and against his will, Hellboy is taken to him . . . or is he?

Part Three includes two stories. Both stories address Hellboy’s mysterious large, right hand without fully answering the questions they raise. In “The Right Hand of Doom,” Hellboy goes to see a priest, the son of a man who wanted him killed as a child because he believed the young Hellboy was a threat to humanity. He gives Hellboy a cryptic piece of paper about his right hand and in exchange asks Hellboy to tell his story. This short comic is a great overview of the events of the main plot to the series thus far. Hellboy clearly knows that he was brought to earth for some dark purpose.

The collection ends with “Box Full of Evil,” in which a cunning man knowledgeable in demonic lore tries to take control of Hellboy for his own gain. As in the previous story, Hellboy’s part in a larger cosmic battle of good and evil is alluded to. Meanwhile, Abe Sapien is locked in a cellar with a very angry monkey. Mignola is always good at mixing the dramatic with the ridiculous. But like the entire Hellboy mythology, the story offers commentary on freewill: If Hellboy can deny his destiny, perhaps there is hope for us all. To me, that is the key to Hellboy, and it is central to this story.

Overall, this collection should not be skipped. It moves from the hilarious opening in “Pancakes” to the serious grand finale in “Box Full of Evil.” While not all the stories are equally good, there is not a bad one in the bunch, and certainly as a whole, it is a five-star collection. Through all these years, Hellboy has consistently lived up to the hype, particularly when Mignola is the artist and Dave Steward is the colorist.


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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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