The last time I wrote a comic book review, I pretty much trashed Dark Horse’s King Tiger #1. I’ve said it all the time and I’ll say it again, Dark Horse is better than that. I purposely picked Hellboy in Hell #7 because it’s a great way to show you what I am looking for in a good story and how to tell a story in similar fashion as what was attempted in King Tiger but without what I feel are common mistakes in modern comic book story telling.
If you remember from my last post (Link here), Tiger suffered a lot in the dynamics department. We all know after 20+ years of Hellboy, Mike Mignola knows how to tell a Hellboy story. But truth is, if they (team on King Tiger) would have followed the same formula as Mike, Tiger would have fared so much better.
I guess the best way to break this up is in bullet points.
#1: Never let your book be without its star (if you can avoid it).
There are a few exceptions to the rule, but in most cases the book starring someone needs to be in there.
In Hellboy, we open the book on our hero and never deviate from him (within reason).
Hellboy, himself, opens up in a really bad state and why this is isn’t explained in this issue. You would have to have read issues 1-6, but even so, jumping into the book at number 7 we get it. Hellboy is doing bad and he needs some help. The book is called Hellboy in Hell not “hey-look-at all-these-second-and-third-
As on the other hand, King Tiger opens up on a kidnapping and spends too many pages on characters that honestly don’t mean anything or don’t mean anything yet, Tiger isn’t shown for quite a bit and the evil bad guys of the first few pages could have been condensed into 2 or 3 well plotted pages and then get to our hero.
In comics, you need to bring in your heavy guns as soon as possible or at least within reasonable amount of pages. Do not expect your audience to have read previously released issues. You aren’t selling the past, you are making people purchase the present. Stan Lee always said “your current issue is someone’s first.”
This is where Hellboy excels, even without knowing why Hellboy is where he is and why he is in the shape he is, you fall into the story fast and stay there.
#2: If your art isn’t dynamic or if it voids passion, no one will care.
Even though Mike Mignola’s art at times can become abstract, it still lives in its own world and all perspective is in its place, even when it’s meant to be overtly avant-garde at times. You always know where you are. Hellboy, without spoiling anything in the comic, isn’t on earth anymore so all rules are out the door, yet, the book is grounded in its own metaphoric reality. Hellboy is in the care of these two “doctors” yet he falls into another realm, almost dream-like, where he is learning about events to come.
Mike in his first 4 pages has established all you need to know and you follow through with the story.
However, King Tiger’s world is on Earth and he is completely grounded in the realm of reality but the art is void of dynamic structure. The pages don’t flow and the artwork is far too stiff to be anything other than boring.
#3 Script: It’s the key to keeping the reader in and staying with your comic.
Maybe it’s wrong to judge a first new issue with an established comic series, but remember these titles are coming out around the same time and will try to appeal to the same audience. This is why this question comes to light: if you are a new comic on the shelves then why should I buy you?
Hellboy puts other new titles at a disadvantage due to more people knowing the series lead character and instantly identifying with him.
This is why King Tiger needed to come out with both barrels blazing.
The story needs to be quick and strong and if you are introducing quirky and quick-witted characters, they need to be A: likable and B: funny. This is important as a writer, if the art fails but the story is strong and the dialogue coming from the characters are great, then you’ve got something.
Hellboy in Hell #7 keeps everything in the story in complete written perspective, the dialogue coming from everyone’s mouth not only works but it also resonates in your mind. Invoking accents and other traits that your imagination has planted from the script.
The quick jokes and dry humor allow the characters to become their own. The compelling story and great use of cliffhanger ending makes you want to get the next issue.
Honestly, I feel that Hellboy in Hell is not only a great comic, but it can be used to teach young and old how to tell a convincing story with almost little to no overt use of action. Sometimes, less is more and in this case it’s perfect.
I give this issue 4 out of 5 stars pick it up today and enjoy one of the last modern masters at his best and almost free-ish.
HELLBOY IN HELL #7
Writer: and Artist: Mike Mignola
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse
Pub Date: August 26, 2015
UPC: 7 61568 18635 2 00711
Diamond ID: JUN150079