Aside from the movies, Hellboy‘s stories are predominantly located in old European churches, German castles, rolling Irish hills and ancient catacombs all usually based somewhere in Europe. It’s become part of who the character is; an international monster hunter extraordinaire who seems to rarely venture forth to modern America and there’s a good reason for this. America is young by comparison and Mike Mignola is heavily steeped in folk lore as the armaments to his storytelling. You’re simply going to get more out of Europe. (Of course it doesn’t help that your main character just seems out of place in a modern city given that he’s horned and has cloven hooves for feet and a tail!)
Amazingly, it works! The title story from this collection actually does take place in America and includes an American folk hero that none of us is likely to hear about in passing conversation. In fact, the story reads more like Hellboy guesting in someone else’s book, rather than an actual Hellboy story. This has a charming effect that makes you feel as though this other guy actually does have his own monthly series and you just picked up these couple issues because Hellboy’s in them. It takes place in Deliverance-type back woods spots and is married to Richard Corben‘s fantastic pencils in a way that to separate them would destroy the story.
The other stories are also worth mentioning briefly. With a fully Mignola written and drawn story (a rarity these days) and a Jason Shawn Alexander drawn book, you get a damn good collection of comics that exceed expectations for what has been currently coming out. That’s not to slag the newer Fegredo Hellboy stuff, but this was fresh and fun.
Each story is prefaced by Mignola to give it context and there is also a sketchbook with commentary from the various artists at the end.