“Hellboy” has become an institution since it was first published in 1994. Since then, it has garnered a ton of fans. Of course, comics being comics, it was hard to collect all the earlier comics if you were a new fan. Dark Horse has done the smart thing and published the first five “Hellboy” comics in “Hellboy Omnibus” and the first volume is a “Hellboy” fan’s dream.
The first story, “Seed of Destruction,” and one of the multi-issue stories, is where the series began. It shows off Hellboy’s origin story as well as introducing some of the series’ staples such as Bruttenholm, Liz and Abe. This story also has Hellboy going to the Cavendish House to investigate giant frogs, the same type that killed Bruttenholm. It does a fine job of creating an origin story and showing off what kind of series this is going to be. The only problem is it’s obvious that this was made in the 90s with the overuse of narration. While some of it is fine, the rest falls into the “show, don’t tell” category.
“The Wolves of Saint August” sees Hellboy and Dr. Kate Corrigan going to an Eastern European village called Griart where Father Edward Kelly was killed, as well as everyone else in town. It is here where they meet with the town’s many secrets. This is an interesting story that shows off what Mignola is made of. It’s stories like this that has created tons of “Hellboy” fans. The background of the town is creepy and the payoff is also great.
“The Chained Coffin” is basically a letter Hellboy sent to Abe telling him of what happened to him when he returned to a church in East Bromwich, England that had zero paranormal activity before. This, there is plenty of that. It’s Ok. Nothing memorable, nothing horrible. It’s OK. Middle of the pack. Serviceable.
“Wake the Devil,” the second multi-issue story, the remaining Nazis from “Ragna Rok” steal a box from a famous wax museum owner. Hellboy and co. are sent to three different castles in Romania to find this box and find out what the Nazis are going to do with it. This is another one that is OK. The plot is nice and what Hellboy goes through is also OK until the end when it’s awesome. The one thing this story does well is developing the characters of Rasputin and Ilsa Haupstein. Mignola does a great job of showing how Rasputin is in this universe and molding him into one of “Hellboy’s” most iconic villains.
The final story, “Almost Colossus,” directly after the events of “Wake the Devil,” Liz is apparently dying after using her powers against that homunculus. That homunculus is back and now Hellboy has to stop it. This one has a slow start but kicks it into high gear near the end. That fight with the homunculus is amazing.
The art for these comics all have that “Hellboy” look that still survives today. However, some utilize this art better than others. While none of the comics have horrible art, “The Wolves of Saint August” and “Wake the Devil” utilize it the best while the rest are OK.
If you’ve been meaning to start reading “Hellboy” from the beginning, this is your chance to do so. While they vary in quality, they’re still worth reading to see where it all started and this omnibus, plus all the future ones, will greatly help.