Page 45 Review by Stephen
"My day's come at last...
"And woe unto man."
She's not kidding.
With its cloven hooves firmly planted in present-day Britain where both its Arthurian and witchcraft past is leaking through, this third, self-contained 500-page HELLBOY omnibus edition is the basis for the upcoming feature film 'Hellboy: The Rise of the Blood Queen'. It should be nothing short of spectacular because, bursting with mythological beasts of all shapes and sizes - giant, serpentine, horned, winged, boar-headed or battling in furnace-fuelled armour - this sure is. There's even an old witch snogging a drooling goat, with tongue.
It is a demon lover's paradise, plagued by possessions, resurrections, strange transformations and haunting refrains as Hellboy strives once more to evade his destiny, even as everyone seeks to crown him King.
"You are your father's son, but you also had a mother...
"Either way you are bound to wear a crown."
Unfortunately it could be the crown of Hellboy's real name, Anung Un-Rama.
It's the flaming Crown of the Apocalypse. And the Apocalypse is coming to England.
Normally Hellboy would far rather be left alone to roam on his own - or hide from the world and drink with familiar ghosts - but there's some very clever visual foreshadowing of Hellboy's growing rage as he actively picks a fight with the first giants to roam Britain since 1402, when his oversized, gauntlet-like Right Hand of Doom comes firmly to the fore of the panels, even when it's resting on a table as he markedly avoids talking about it.
Oh yes, then there are all the prophecies. Always, the prophecies.
"However this war ends, he will be lost.
"It will be for you to find him, and you will.
"And true to his nature, he will be both your salvation and your destruction."
So what's all this destruction malarkey about? And wait - did someone mention Hellboy's mum?
It's all about power, obviously, but also about power vacuums, especially the one left when Hellboy refuses to lead the witches early on by taking the place of their lost Queen. Someone else is only going to come along and seize the mantle. Hint: they do. Then he's given the opportunity to wear another crown and become King of Britain to fix the mess which his prior refusal created. It's offered to him by none other than Morgan Le Fey.
Do you remember Morgan Le Fey? Legend has it that this half-sister of King Arthur seduced her own brother in order to sire a son and so steal his kingdom. But King Arthur and his son Mordred slew each other in battle. Mordred left three bastard sons born to a witch, but they were all murdered by knights loyal to King Arthur, so ending the Pendragon name.
But not its bloodline.
Mordred, you see, had a daughter, and that daughter begat daughters and so on, their wedded surnames disguising the lineage until...
"You've carried a gun....
"But you've always felt more natural holding a sword."
Oh look, there's a sword set in stone, bobbing along in water. Will it be drawn, do you think?
What would you do? You've already catalysed the mother of all chaos threatening to engulf Britain by refusing to accept one crown; your destiny is dovetailing right in front of you with all that's been forecast before, and this seems the only way to combat the unholy legion assembled to lay waste to this country. But as Jonathan once pointed out, all of this is divulged by Morgan Le Fey, and she has hardly been renowned either for honesty or altruism.
Duncan Fegredo astounds.
The Rodin of comics has clearly pored over Mignola's own art to capture all the nuances and sensibilities of what makes Hellboy so special (there's a sketchbook exchange in the back), then added even more weight to his already hefty hands and forearms. There's always been something slightly simian about the scarlet giant's gait: it's not just the tail but, here, how far his extended upper limbs drop towards the ground, all adding up to an aspect of being ancient.
To have chosen such a British artist for this British tale was a masterstroke, and Fegredo delivers on all fronts from a vicar's tweed jacket to a policeman's short-sleeved summer uniform.
His masonry is monumental, whether it's a high-vaulted country church with sturdy stone columns and space-spanning arches, its pews lined in perfect perspective, or an old county pile complete with corner quoining, some old, leaded windows surrounded by climbing ivy and a Tudor-style, back entrance porch from which so many slightly cracked steps lead down that it suggests another journey altogether. The detail is staggering.
Once actually underground (lit by a hand-held candelabra, as all good horror should be), the textures are even richer, be they on brickwork, monstrous head carvings, even craggier, more ancient stone steps, statuary that could at any moment creak into life, thrillingly ornate gothic window frames and iron-hinged doors which even the least inquisitive subterranean rambler could not resist opening.
There's also a pub which possibly shouldn't be there in woodland without roads, whose thatched exterior and wooden-beamed interior are rendered with relish and decked out with details ever so familiar to those of us on this side of The Pond.
You'll enjoy ancient ruins aplenty and stray cats, too.
Meanwhile, as cataclysmic as it gets in the countryside, London's burning too, and there'll be nothing but rubble in the end.
"I thought... I hoped that Hellboy would be able to stop her before this. But the storm's come.
"Now it's laying waste to all Britain, and soon it will spread over the whole world.
"Monsters long buried will all rise again and for a while it will be their world... till it all burns."
That's Brexit for you.