Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Into the Silent Sea is a 56-page hardcover with a self-contained story co-written by Gary Gianni and Mike Mignola, and drawn by Gianni. It follows the events of Strange Places that have Hellboy submerged beneath the ocean for years, captive to a fearsome elemental creature, the Bog Roosh, until he escapes only to encounter another ageless and terrible oceanic entity in The Island. Mignola notes in his commentaries to those two stories that horror writer William Hope Hodgson was a primary influence, with his graveyards of ships and remote tiny islands overrun with unfathomable beings from the deep. The Island, especially, is where Mignola builds on those Hodgson themes to push the Beast of The Apocalypse subplot to the forefront, identifying the eldritch, uncanny engine beneath all the stories to this point, explaining some core truths about the workings of this universe via a truly menacing foe, shifting everything into a higher gear.
Unfortunately, none of that urgency or originality is present in this tale of Hellboy encountering a 19th century ghost ship, being shackled to its mast by its phantom crew and a white-bearded captain who takes his orders from a pallid, spectral woman in black. Gary Gianni has the same kind of engraver’s cross-hatched density to his art as Bernie Wrightson, very well suited to period gothic horror. He makes excellent use of those skills to depict strange and monstrous sea creatures, a Moby Dick-style captain and crew and many other typical features of seafaring mysteries. However, the number of deadly foes, supernatural threats and plot devices crammed into this story reduce it to a checklist of generic horror clichés, and what should be weird or confounding becomes routine. Visually this book is expertly constructed, but set against the intensely powerful stories both before and after it has nothing memorable to offer beyond some attractive imagery.
Into the Silent Sea is also available in an oversized, limited ’studio edition’ featuring Gianni’s thumbnails and pencil roughs with commentary on the final art pages. It is reprinted in Complete Short Stories Volume 2.