Hellboy Animated: The Black Wedding original graphic novel
“The Black Wedding”
Writer: Jim Pascoe
Artist: Rick Lacy
Colors: Dan Jackson
Cover artist: Jeff Matsuda
Editors: Scott Allie & Matt Dryer
I’m looking forward to the upcoming DVD release of Hellboy Animated: Sword and Storms movie, and I thought the live-action flick was great big-screen fun as well. I assume that the new DVD release will be full of the same lighter, more energetic kind of fare one finds in this graphic novel, but I hope the plotting and overall flow of the storytelling are more refined. The storytelling in this main story is choppy and occasionally confusing, and I realize it’s because writer Jim Pascoe is trying to provide a number of different though connected threats for the various members of Hellboy’s team. The more cartoony designs for the characters are an interesting change of pace, but the linework seems rough around the edges, and the confusing tone I mentioned before is exacerbated by poor scene transitions. The colors are unusually bright given the gothic, supernatural elements in the story, but surprisingly, they work.
Hellboy and his team from the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense walk the streets of Paris, trying to get to the bottom some suspicious supernatural activity. A minor woodland witch is preparing to cast a spell revolving around a mystic artifact known as the Goat Stone, but also required for the dark event is the Black Wedding Dress… and a sacrifice to wear it. Hellboy and friends rush to prevent a mystical catastrophe and at the time, to save one of their own.
I realize the overall style of the art is designed to achieve something of a cross between Jeff Matsuda’s angular, kinetic figures and the simpler, sleek lines of Bruce Timm’s animation style. Artist Rick Lacy succeeds only in part in that goal. There’s a rough, loose quality at play that works against the animated feel for which the artist strives. I’m actually reminded a bit of Troy Nixey’s and Scott Morse’s more exaggerated, surreal styles here. The backgrounds are sadly lacking in this story, and the title character doesn’t look nearly as formidable as he should. The colors strike a nice balance between brighter tones that convey energy and darker, more muted hues maintain the eerie, supernatural look that’s part and parcel of the property.
Writer Jim Pascoe (is he the same person as or connected to comics inker James Pascoe, I wonder) makes some unusual choices in the plot here. There are so many artifacts that come into play that it’s confusing. Players are after a book, a stone, a candle… and then there’s a black wedding dress and another gothic ladies’ garb, “the Iron Corset.” It all seems so redundant, and there are redundancies in the threats the heroes must face as well. I’m also disappointed to see the female characters treated as the liabilities, and it’s really too bad that once again, Liz Sherman ends up in the role of damsel in distress. Also odd is the choice for a bloody and grisly end for one of the heroes. Aside from that element, this book would have been OK for younger readers, but the nastiness of the worm-like monsters that prove fatal for that character take this story out of the realm of an all-ages read.
Nevertheless, the overall feel of this take on Hellboy feels right as well. Pascoe captures that atmosphere that these heroes are in well over their heads and are just making things up as they go along. That underdog quality makes it easier to root for the heroes, and the whole wedding riff is cute at times.
“Pyramid of Death” – Writer: Tad Stones / Artist: Fabio Laguna / Colors: Michelle Madsen
This backup story — penned by a director/producer of the animated Hellboy movies — is the saving grace of the book. It focuses on a young Hellboy, full of imagination and energy like any kid but with the abilities to turn his daydreams into real adventures. The story even incorporates Hellboy creator Mike Mignola’s oddball super-hero, Lobster Johnson, into the animated Hellboy continuity. The art is much cleaner than what we see in the main story, with important and clear parallels between the main action and the TV show that inspires the young hero. The artwork reminds me of the styles of such artists as Mike (Gravity) Norton and Tim (Batman: Gotham Adventures) Levins.
The goal of the story is to show no matter how unusual the young Hellboy is and how unconventional the environment in which he was raised, he was a kid at heart. The emphasis is on his childhood energy and charm, and it emphasizes the demonic protagonist’s humanity rather than his supernatural origins. The story is a tremendous amount of fun, and I would love to see more stories about Hellboy when he was, well, a boy. 6/10