Rural Rout

Hellboy Volume 10: The Crooked Man and Others, written by Mike Mignola and Joshua Dysart, illustrated by Mike Mignola, Richard Corben, Jason Shawn Alexander, and Duncan Fegredo (2007-2008; collected 2009): Giving Hellboy several decades worth of adventures to draw upon allows Mike Mignola to offer new readers a “jumping-on” point with miniseries that stand (mostly) apart from the ongoing “contemporary”, epic Hellboy narrative. We get four such adventures here, most notably the title three-parter.

Mignola pays homage to American supernatural-fiction great Manly Wade Wellman with an adventure in the American Appalachians of the 1950’s, Wellman’s setting for the first few stories of supernatural battler John the Balladeer (Who Fears the Devil?, The Hanging Stones). It’s a lovely, respectful homage to the singular Wellman’s tales of rural good and evil.

Hellboy and a young man whose personality and background (but not his name) suggest those of John before his adventures began fight witches and devils in backwoods country, to pleasing and disturbing effect. Richard Corben’s art has never been better, at least from a horror standpoint — the Crooked Man himself is a truly creepy creation, as are many of the monsters and ghosts and bizarre insect things which assault Hellboy and company. As Wellman did, Mignola skillfully blurs the line between invented terrors and terrors derived from actual Appalachian folklore and myth.

The rest of the volume sees Hellboy and Abe Sapien take on Blackbeard’s ghost (well, skull) in a story penned by Joshua Dysart, and a confrontation with the ancient, child-eating god Moloch in Spain, the latter in a story with conscious echoes of Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model” and J. Sheridan LeFanu’s “Green Tea.” Oh, and Hellboy plays cards with some ghosts and worries over a suspicious-looking mole on his hand. Highly recommended.

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