Hellboy: Wake the Devil
– By Mike Mignola (Story & Art), James Sinclair (Colours), Pat Brosseau (Letters), & Dave Stewart (Cover Colours); 2004
Summary from Dark Horse
A murder in a New York wax museum and a missing corpse lead Hellboy and the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense into ancient Romanian castles on the trail of a sleeping legend: the nobleman vampire, Vladimir Guirescu. Nazi scientists, revived in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, prepare for the return of Rasputin and the end of the world, and Hellboy confronts his purpose on Earth.
If you want to read my write-up of Seed of Destruction check out Mighty Thursday #9.
Wake the Devil was the second Hellboy miniseries, published in 1996 by Dark Horse Comics, picking up where Seed of Destruction left off. This volume specifically is part of Dark Horse’s new editions of the Hellboy line printed with new covers, which started being published in 2004. The volume I reviewed of Seed of Destruction was the first of these editions.
Interestingly, this story is presented out of chronological order with the story “The Chained Coffin,” which follows in volume three The Chained Coffin and Others, yet takes place before the events of Wake the Devil. Hellboy himself refers to the events of “The Chained Coffin” as “that trip to East Bromwich” during this story. I imagine this decision was made because while “The Chained Coffin” was published first, it’s a one-issue story. It makes more sense to have Wake the Devil immediately follow Seed of Destruction in volume two for a smoother continuity in the new editions.
Hellboy’s pursuit of the vampire Guirescu leads him to darker places, with greater supernatural forces at play than anticipated. Fighting against these forces pushes him closer to the brink, challenging him further with his supposed destiny and what he could become following that path. Other BPRD operatives are sent to nearby Romanian castles, spread out to look for Guirescu, and each meets with their own fatal misfortune, planting seeds for future stories.
As a follow-up to Seed of Destruction the story here isn’t as straightforward as one might expect. It deals with the machinations of the Nazi scientists revived at the end of the previous volume, but most of them are inconsequential to how the plot plays out. I really liked the new figures introduced, which made up the bulk of the story, but a lot of the loose ends from previously were left at the wayside.
Confusion seems to have been the intent, at least partially, as the characters themselves are left a little baffled by the end as to what happened and why so much went awry. As the reader it is simple enough to deduce what was going on, but the big picture is still a little nebulous to me and I’m not sure how to feel about it.
I found it confusing how these events were supposed to be connected, or if they were manipulated to be at all in the first place. I enjoyed the epilogue showing a villain humbled by events getting away from him, having lost influence to forces greater than himself. However, the resolution of the Nazi scientists was bafflingly abrupt, with our heroes having had a questionable influence on the results, if any at all.
Mike Mignola’s art continues to be spectacularly sombre and reserved. There are some grander scale moments with larger, open areas and more various creatures that Hellboy encounters. We spend a lot of time in Gothic looking castles and ruins, but the story keeps the setting fresh by moving us between distinct buildings and places around the countryside. I especially like how colour was used to distinguish between locations. The castle Liz Sherman, the pyrokinetic, and her group explore was not related to Guirescu but housed another deadly secret. The visual design of the place and the use warmer colours set it apart from the rest of the story in a way I found particularly memorable.
The back of this volume includes another “Hellboy Gallery,” featuring art of the character by Bruce Timm, P. Craig Russell, Derek Thompson, Dave Cooper, Jay Stephens, and Olivier Vatine.
While I didn’t enjoy its plot as much as the first volume, Wake the Devil is still great continuation of Hellboy’s overarching narrative. While I wasn’t satisfied with how they resolved the revived Nazi scientists, the conclusion of the story comes at great cost to Hellboy and the BRPD. This I liked, as it presents new challenges for the characters moving forward. This book particularly opened up what Hellboy stories will become, expanding from its core premise of Nazi occultism by introducing other major mythological figures and creatures. Its ground I’ve tread before, as the next three volumes will be, but I’m excited to revisit them before venturing into uncharted territory again.