Review: Hellboy Makoma #2

I’ve reactivated the comments feature on the blog. It requires you to create a free account with TypeKey (because I hate clearing out spam comments), but the process takes just a few minutes and the account can be used on any website that uses Blogger, Typepad or a few other formats. Also, now that I know some people get my blog through an RSS feed, I’m going to start using real titles rather than one-word appellations.

I picked up the second and final issue of Hellboy: Makoma, or, A Tale Told by a Mummy in the New York City Explorers’ Club on August 16, 1993, written by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and drawn by comics legend Rich (Heavy Metal) Corben. Hellboy stories tend to fall into one of three categories: adventure stories, where Hellboy and his pals get involved in some villain’s scheme or go traipsing across the world to stop some threat (Seed of Destruction, Wake the Devil, Conqueror Worm); folklore adaptations, where Hellboy stands in for the protagonist in an old folktale (“The Corpse,” “Heads”); and then there are the stories that investigate Hellboy’s origins and his destiny.

Lately, almost all of the Hellboy stories have been of the latter variety–to mixed reception by fans. Personally I’m more enamored of the first sort of story, but that has become the province of Hellboy’s spin-off comic, BPRD. However, we still occasionally get a one-off story of the second variety, folktale adaptations, and this is the story of Makoma. Mignola himself draws some bumper pages to place the folktale in context of Hellboy’s history, but Corben takes over when we get into the meat of the tale–a story of an African folk hero who wanders about Africa fighting giants and seeking his doom.

I didn’t find the story as engaging as last year’s The Island, which, as some may remember, I wasn’t that taken with either. Recently I’m enjoying the Hellboy tie-in novels, which are set before Hellboy quit the BPRD, more than the Hellboy and BPRD comics of late. I like Hellboy and the BPRD when they’re investigating odd phenomena, from Nazi mad scientist installations to fairy tale monsters in caves, in their business-like, vaguely bureaucratic manner. I like the incongruity of Hellboy in his big trenchcoat, standing in a room with a bunch of suit-clad agents; I like the contrasting of this clearly Judeo-Christian demon fighting tentacled beasts clearly inspired by the materialistic (though still fantastic) vision of Lovecraft. Yeah, it’s inconsistent, yes, it’s a potpourri of science fiction, superhero comics, folktales, UFO conspiracy theories, and everying else you can imagine–and that’s what I enjoyed. I liked that you could get a Hellboy story where he fights Nazi mad scientists, followed by a folktale adaptation such as “The Corpse,” and then a story with alien creatures such as Conqueror Worm. Recently Mignola has been trying to tie all of this together in The Island and BPRD, but I’m not sure if this is the right thing to do.

In any event, I tend to enjoy the X-Files-ish investigations more than the folklore-oriented stories and so I haven’t read a Hellboy story that really got me jazzed since Conqueror Worm (including the one-shots in the Dark Horse Book of the… series). It’s just my personal taste, and I can understand the argument of many fans that Hellboy is a better and more artistic comic now than it was ten years ago. It probably is, but, as I have often found with such things, it’s not quite as fun.

In the letters section of Makoma #2, editor Scott Allie mentions that the next BPRD miniseries will focus on (spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the most recent miniseries, The Black Flame–highlight to read) the efforts of the team to find a way to resurrect Roger the homunculus, who died in the last miniseries. Allie ends the “pitch” with “Don’t get your hopes up.” Well! I’m certainly looking forward to reading a six-issue miniseries that focuses on the efforts of the BPRD to attempt something so momentous, only to fail. I’m reminded of Leonard Nimoy’s words when asked whether Spock would return in Star Trek III: “Well, look, we’re calling the picture Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. If we had Captain Kirk turn to the camera at the end of the picture and say, ‘Sorry, we didn’t find him,’ people would throw rocks at the screen.”

I suspect–or at least hope–that the series will offer something more satisfying than that, but it was a rather cheap shot by Allie.

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