Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Wake the Devil, the second volume of collected Hellboy stories, picks up the action shortly after the end of Seed of Destruction. Hellboy accompanies his B.P.R.D. (Bureau of Paranormal Investigation) colleagues including Liz and Abe to Romania to hunt down the Romanian aristocratic vampire Giurescu, a creature so powerful that the Nazis tried to use him to build an army of vampires to win World War II, and now someone is trying to revive him once again. Separated into three teams to try and locate castle Giurescu, Liz encounters a creature who could destroy her, Hellboy falls quite literally into a nest of reanimated Nazis and the seemingly unkillable Rasputin swears vengeance upon Abe.
Mignola’s writing is so accomplished you’d never guess it was his first solo outing, and he picked up an Eisner Award for this as Best Writer/Artist. It’s fast and funny with many quotable lines from his villains (“Speak quickly! I am aching to destroy you!”), some clever plotting and pacing, and almost every page is a dynamic composition filled with jagged angles, Kirby-esque power cosmic and the requisite ruined castles, collapsing floors, exploding Zinco machinery and sundry monstrous foes. Some of these are based on actual myths such as Elizabeth Bathory’s iron maiden. We finally find out what those things are on Hellboy’s forehead as Rasputin once more invokes the Odgru Jahad and then we meet another mythical Russian terror, the Baba Yaga in her chicken-foot house, who will have a large role in the stories to follow.
This book is tighter, better written and more exciting than the first volume, the drawing continuing to evolve so that Hellboy no longer looks like a big red human with something on his head, but more of an otherworldly, strangely proportioned creature. The colouring by Pat Brosseau is outstanding. His incredibly well chosen colour palettes add a huge amount to the impact of the art. Mignola mixes all the things that interest him, folklore, old monster movies, myths, science fiction, Lovecraftian horror, pulp novels and superhero tropes in a freshly interesting way to create something uniquely special. You can feel his excitement burning through these pages as he writes and draws what he has evidently been waiting a very long time to put into comics form. In the afterword that follows, Mignola explains a couple of things about the revisions and changes he’s made as things progressed. There is also a guest artist gallery including Bruce Timm and Frank Miller.
The material in this book is also reprinted at a much larger size, along with the first Hellboy collection Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, in the archival hardcover Hellboy Library Edition: Volume One. The following volume is Hellboy: Conqueror Worm.