3P Reviews, Graphic Novels and Comics, Hellboy/B.P.R.D.

Out of the Shadows – Hellboy: Complete Short Stories, Book Two

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I’ll be honest, this is not my favorite Hellboy book. It’s not bad, but it’s similar to the previous short story collection, and of the two, I think this one has fewer stories that I love.

Fewer. Not none.


3P Reviews Series: Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories, Volume Two


Spoilers: Yes

Audience Assumptions: Familiarity with my other Hellboy reviews helps.

Content Warnings: Mention of violence, death, racism, violence against women, colonialism.

Star Rating: ***


Part One: Make of it What You Will

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I don’t really do reviews of short story collections all that often, and with fair reason – they’re hard to talk about comprehensively. Short stories often have inherent value, and they can have value in how they fit together, like chapters in a book, but most short story collections are assemblages of disparate tales of varying structure, theme, and progression, some of which will appeal and others which won’t for any given reader, but all of which have some reason to be there.

I find short stories are a lot easier to talk about as brief interludes in longer narratives, because if they’re good, they can make for a suitable anecdote, but if they’re underwhelming, you can just ignore them and talk about the main thing you’re here for.

When short stories are all you’ve got as fodder for the review, it’s sometimes tricky to find a way to structure the discussion so that it’s interesting. I could pick out the stories I like and don’t like in this set, but I already kind of did that in the last one, so I’d like to try something a little different here.

First, I’d like to give brief summaries of each tale. There are seventeen of them, so strap in.

The Hydra and the Lion – Hellboy goes to the grave of a strong man who appears to be the actual Hercules. He’s been called to attend to monstrous noises coming from an area near the grave. Upon investigating, he finds the noises are coming from the mythical hydra. A girl claiming to have a collection of parts from Greek monsters is trying to take one of the hydra’s fangs. She tells Hellboy that she can handle herself since she’s part lion, but he pushes her out of the way to fight the monster. A lion appears and helps him in the fight, then vanishes mysteriously, along with the girl.

The Troll Witch – Hellboy has been called to stop a hoard of trolls in Norway. He travels to the house of a troll-witch at the behest of the townsfolk, and she tells him a story. Once, a woman who was unable to have children went to a witch who gave her two flowers, one beautiful and the other shriveled. She was told to only eat the pretty flower to quicken her womb, but after her first child was born perfect, she ate the second and gave birth to a malformed, troll-like child. The two children loved each other as sisters, but when they were grown and the trolls in the mountains fought, the troll daughter ran out to join them. Fearful for her sister’s life, the pretty sister opened the window to see, and a troll took her head and turned her into a cow. The troll sister fought the trolls in a rage, riding a goat and wielding a spoon as she descended into the depths and retrieved her sister’s head. The troll sister of course became the troll-witch Hellboy was sent to, and now keeps her sister’s mummified head, covered in those flowers that she tends for women who want children. She gives her spoon to Hellboy and tells him to place it at the entrance to the trolls’ cave, so that they will be too fearful to cross over the threshold and will be caught out in the daylight where they will turn to stone. He does so, and never has to battle the trolls himself.

The Baba Yaga – Hellboy is in Russia trying to figure out what monster has been killing people in a small village, and discovers it is the famous Baba Yaga. A villager warns him to leave the Baba Yaga be, as she has her own reasons for doing things, but Hellboy is unwilling to leave things to go on like this. He waits in the graveyard for the Baba Yaga, who is collecting skull lanterns for her house. When she appears, he attacks her and shoots out one of her eyes before she disappears and leaves the village with a curse.

The Sleeping and the Dead – Vampires are about, the women of a mansion transformed by a vampire elder years ago. Hellboy kills one of the younger vampires, to the chagrin of the human caretaker of the estate, who tells him what happened. He tells Hellboy where to find the vampire responsible for all of this, but it turns out to be a trick – the caretaker has trapped Hellboy with the youngest daughter of the manor, who was turned into a creature even more monstrous than a vampire. Hellboy battles her as the elder vampire awakes and is furious to find one of his brides killed. In the midst of Hellboy’s battle, though, he and the monster break one of the walls holding her in. Eager for the opportunity to escape, the girl turned monster seeks out the head vampire and kills him for what he did to her and her sisters.

Heads – While travelling through Japan, a man invites Hellboy to stay at his house. Suspecting ulterior motives, Hellboy stays awake and sneaks out in the middle of the night and discovers the man and his companions are demons who detach their heads to eat people at night. They have left their bodies sitting in the house, so Hellboy ties them up and throws them to the bottom of a nearby pond. When the heads come looking for Hellboy to eat him, they discover he has hidden their bodies and they pressure him to find where he’s put them. He fights the heads, and when the sun comes out, the heads crumble into lifeless skulls.

Goodbye, Mr. Tod – Hellboy is called to help a medium who has spent too long in the spirit world. The man, Mr. Tod, has conjured up a mysterious creature from the depths of some unknown dimension, and it has sucked him dry trying to manifest in the physical world. The creature consumes Hellboy, but with help from the medium’s assistant, he dispels the beast.

The Vârcolac – Hellboy has tracked down a vampire, but just as he’s about to kill her, she evades him and points out a monster on the horizon. An enormous vampire big enough to blot out the moon, the Vârcolac, has arrived. The Vârcolac calls to Hellboy, waking him from his daze. He realizes this was all an illusion that the vampire used in her last gasps to try to save herself. Hellboy pierces her heart with a stake.

The Vampire of Prague – Done up in a surreal art style, this one follows Hellboy as he wanders a ghost-infested Praugue in search of an infamous vampire gambler. The shapeshifting vampire is tricky and dodges Hellboy’s every move until Hellboy notices the vampire leaves cards in his wake and picks up a full house, beating the vampire’s straight, killing him.

The Bride of Hell – Hellboy has been hired to rescue a teenage girl who went missing in France. He finds her in the middle of a Satanist circle, apparently about to be sacrificed to a terrible monster. The monster starts to fly away with her, but Hellboy fires several shots, injuring it and causing the creature to drop the girl. Hellboy takes her to a sanctuary in the middle of the woods where a priest tells him what is going on. He is the last of an order of knights who, after the Crusades, formed an inquisition and hunted monsters. They built a temple of worship in these woods, but a flying demon descended upon it and hunted in the groups around the temple. It was unable to enter, but whenever the knights left the temple, the demon was waiting and, one by one, it killed them. The creature is old now, and weakened by daylight. Hellboy goes after it, leaving the girl in the priest’s care. When he finds the creature, though, it tells him a different story. The creature, Asmodeus, tells of how he was imprisoned by and later tricked King Solomon, and through those encounters lost his taste for dealing with humans. He wandered into the desert to live in isolation, but eventually others came to him. These people treated him well, and eventually he built a small isolated palace where he kept several human wives. Then one day, an order of knights came to his palace, banished him, and murdered his wives. Asmodeus vowed to take vengeance on all of them, and killed them one by one when they left their sanctuary. He explains to Hellboy that the girl Hellboy thought he was rescuing was a willing participant in the ritual, and that she was his latest bride. Hellboy fights the battered Asmodeus, and runs to find the girl, who is in danger if what the demon says is true. However, he arrives too late; the priest has slain her for being a witch, and decrees that she should lay with her husband in Hell.

The Whittier Legacy – An old man discovers he is the son of a famous occultist, and opts to follow in his father’s footsteps. Hellboy arrives at the old Whittier house to find the man in the midst of a summoning ritual. Dead bodies of his ancestors come to life and warn Hellboy that while they did peruse the fields of ethereal plains, they did so with special coins to ward off the horrifying creatures they found, which this newest initiate to their order failed to procure. Unprotected, he is possessed by the spirit of an enormous insect-like monster. When Hellboy throws one of the coins at him, the ritual is stopped, and the man’s body disintegrates.

Buster Oakley Gets His Wish – A kid messing around with incantations in Nebraska is abducted by aliens and turned into a cow-monster. When Hellboy is called to investigate the disappearance of some farm animals, he too is abducted and finds the cow-boy. The two battle the aliens, until they spit them back out of the ship into a field. Hellboy invites the boy to come to the Bureau, but the boy runs off. A while later, other kids believe his incantation worked and are inspired to also mess around with occult rituals.

They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships – A psychic finds a half skull in a curio shop and steals it, possessed by the skull’s former owner. It is the skull of Blackbeard, who commands the man take his skull to the bay where he died so it can be reunited with his body. Hellboy and Abe travel to the same bay to cut him off once they learn of the stolen skull and piece together who it belonged to. The psychic finds he has been duped by the centuries-old pirate, and Hellboy faces off against the reanimated Blackbeard once his head has been returned to his body. Abe waits on the sidelines for support, talking to a cloaked man who turns out to be another corpse. Blackbeard isn’t the only dead man who has come back to life; his victims swarm his body in anticipation of his return, and drag him down to the depths of the ocean.

A Christmas Underground – An old woman is dying on Christmas and Hellboy is at her estate investigating the mysterious illness that brought down her entire family and is now claiming her own life. He suspects foul play, but the woman’s thoughts are only for her daughter, long-missing and a former frequenter of the graveyard on the grounds. Hellboy goes to investigate, taking a gift the old woman has given him on the off-chance he finds her daughter. The daughter appears, ethereal and siren-like. She leads Hellboy underground to a magnificent feast and promises him that a prince – her husband — will be arriving soon. Hellboy gives her the gift, which turns out to be a crucifix. The whimsey of the place disappears, replaced with the grim reality – this is the den of some sort of monster, the table covered in rotting meat and the girl’s ring a fire-breathing salamander. The demon “prince” comes out and fights Hellboy, tearing a hole in the ground. But the girl leaves to say goodbye to her mother, taking the fiery ring. When Hellboy has sufficiently vanquished the monster, he returns to see the house is burning, the old woman dead in the fire and her daughter also dead but seemingly free of the monster’s influence.

Dr. Carp’s Experiment – Hellboy explores an ancient house haunted by some mysterious horror in its past. Psychics and mediums have visited the house before but turned up nothing clear about what had happened here; now, however, a secret door has been uncovered in the basement, so Hellboy has been assigned to be the first one through. When he enters the doorway, he is transported to the past, where the owner of the house takes his blood and injects it into a chimp. The chimp transforms into a demonic creature, killing the others in the room and attacking Hellboy. Suddenly, Hellboy returns to the present as though this were all a vivid hallucination. The creation of the demon chimpanzee was the horrible event the psychics had been picking up on, and Hellboy’s companions (who saw nothing) are keen to assume the experimenters had summoned a demon. Hellboy doesn’t correct them, but finds the syringe and knows that it wasn’t just a vision – it was his blood that made the chimp-demon.

The Ghoul, or Reflections on Death – Hellboy comes to a graveyard to stop an eloquent ghoul who has been snacking on dead bodies. Rather than fight back, the ghoul falls into a grave and allows itself to be eaten by maggots.

In the Chapel of Moloch – A famous painter’s art dealer calls Hellboy to help when the painter retreats into an abandoned church in Portugal and takes up sculpting an enormous demon from clay. Hellboy soon discovers that the artist has been possessed by the lingering evils of the place; this church used to be a temple to this demon, where children were sacrificed. The statue comes alive and Hellboy battles it, destroying it root and stem despite the artist’s pleas.

Makoma, or A Tale Told by a Mummy in the New York City Explorers’ Club on August 16, 1993 – A mummy tells Hellboy the story of a man named Makoma. According to the mummy, Makoma was born able to speak and named himself that, which roughly translates to “He Who is Without Fear.” When he was still young, he ventured into a pool full of crocodiles despite his mother’s pleas, and after a while, all of the crocodiles were dead and he emerged fully grown with a hammer in his hand. Makoma became a legend in his town, but then left to battle monsters and save the world at the behest of an old woman. Makoma came across various giants, and upon defeating them, they shrank and he put them in a sack he carried with him. He defeated a giant that built mountains, a giant that dug riverbeds, a giant that planted trees, a river demon, and a fire demon, and carried them all with him. The giants became his friends and lent him their strength. Upon coming to a city of the dead, he released the foul-tempered fire demon and let it wreak havoc. Eventually he traveled to the ends of the earth, a great disaster leading to the deaths of all creatures. Makoma had to face his final foe, an enormous seven-headed dragon that was responsible for the dying earth. However, he had no strength. He met the old woman again, who welcomed him into her home and comforted him. While he slept, she prepared a meal of fresh meat which he ate entirely. However, the meat was from his friends, the giants. The woman explained that Makoma’s friends had given the rest of themselves up to him so he could face the dragon, and then she showed him that in the bag full of their bones, there was a boy he had once rescued. Makoma went out to face the dragon, and the two defeated each other. However, in his death, Makoma restored the world’s mountains and rivers and forests, and the boy he had saved walked out of the apocalypse into a new world. When he grew old and eventually died, he became the mummy Hellboy is talking to, who assures Hellboy that the world has ended before and will end again, but will spring up anew afterward.


Part Two: Serenity and Solitude

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I wanted to start the review with all of that to give what I think is a clearer idea of what reading this book is like. With the stories arranged all in one place, you can see some patterns emerge, but also perhaps see what doesn’t quite work about these short stories on their own. I’m a bit torn. I think that what I like about this volume has more to do with the series overall, and since this is the last Hellboy proper book I have yet to talk about, I suppose reflecting on these stories can go hand-in-hand with a synthesis of the series as a whole.

The Hellboy series has very strong theming. It’s part of why these comics were so successful. But it’s not just that there are common themes linking all of the stories in some way or another. In my last review, I dragged The Sandman a bit, and I may do that again. Briefly. I’m sorry. I do actually like the Sandman comics in part, it’s just that they’re very easy to compare to Hellboy, and Hellboy just does it better.

Issues in The Sandman are structured as stories within a coherent world, one with nebulous boundaries and fantastical possibilities that are only reigned in by whatever keeps the author’s interest. As a result, Sandman short stories are a bit of a collage of all sorts of narratives, many grim and gothic, a few with monsters, some about raw emotion and the vices of man. Sandman stories may be glimpses at historical events, legends, poems, plays, myths – all tied together by a few aesthetic components and recurring characters. The common theme in The Sandman is Dreams, and any variation therein. Desires, wishes, thoughts, hallucinations, nightmares, stories – all dreams of some sort or another.

That much flexibility in the thematic interpretation of The Sandman means that any two stories in this series won’t necessarily feel like they’re part of the same whole. It works like a collage, only coming together as a whole, its individual pieces more variable in whether they contribute significantly to the vision of the series.

To some extent, any series will have greater and lesser parts, but one of the things Hellboy rarely misses – significantly so – is its identity. This series knows what it is, and it stays true to that identity throughout. Common motifs like demons, occult rituals, traditional monsters like vampires and werewolves – all of these are par for the course as far as the genre is concerned. How many other series have I come across about a moody monster slayer with a tinge of monster in their own blood? But Hellboy stands out all the same.

I think the key to this series’ success lies in its quieter moments. It’s Hellboy hearing a monster out or having a chat with some skeletons. He’s not the only character – Roger and Abe get similar moments in the series, acting in his stead. Part of what I love so much about this series is its empathy. For all of the fighting and violence, Hellboy’s inhumanity is the thing that makes him more likely than most to question that good-bad dichotomy. I think this series goes beyond what I tend to see in supernatural action series like this. It’s not uncommon for a series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or one of the many Van Helsing variants to have one or two monster characters who reform themselves in some way or stick to a code. It’s also not rare for the protagonist to have periods where they question their methods or purpose, especially if they feel they’ve stepped over the line. Both of those elements are present in Hellboy, but the former is not a rare exception; it’s an unspoken rule.

I think what I like about this series is that it isn’t just about a seemingly good guy who steps over the line in his attempt to stop the monsters. There are plenty of stories like that, that go deep on the dark themes and shadows and violence. This one isn’t just about evil monsters or evil monster hunters. For all of the violence, the part that makes this series what it is is the calm moments. It’s Hellboy talking to the monsters and hearing what they have to say. It’s him grappling with his inner demon by sitting against a wall, or listening to a story told by some village local whose name we never learn. You could practically have an entire series of just that, and it would still be Hellboy. Some of these stories prove it.

Not all of the monsters are kind, but they are all capable of it. Or at least, you get that sense from the series. Creatures in this story are not inherently evil per se, but rather vindictive, angry, hungry, or cruel. But evil is more of a complex matter. Hellboy’s compatriots are eager to see things that way, but stories like The Troll Witch, The Ghoul, The Bride of Hell, and The Whittier Legacy, among others, show that he himself is willing to hear the monsters out when they aren’t an active threat. It’s a trait that makes his character more than a fist with a good conscience attached.

In this volume, the stories that strike me most are the ones that connect to Hellboy’s character most, and by extension the unifying themes of the series – themes like complex monsters, and fuzzy boundaries between what looks monstrous and what actually is. The series doesn’t tend to pull the rug out from under the audience. There aren’t many stories where the villagefolk are the ones terrorizing the innocent monster. The creatures that hide in the night usually get their reputations for a reason, but that doesn’t mean they’re mindless murderers all of the time. Hence, the dilemma of how to deal with them.

Many of the shorter stories in this volume don’t quite fit. The one about aliens, the one about heads – those could be from almost anything. They’re not really Hellboy, not the way I’ve come to see the series. But that’s okay. Stories like Dr. Carp’s Experiment and The Troll Witch pull it back and remind us why this series has been running as long as it has. They’re enough on their own to make the volume worth a read, but there are others, some for simple reasons like the expressive art style of They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships or the dreamlike quality of The Vârcolac and The Vampire of Praugue. I struggle to dislike any Hellboy book in full, even the ones I feel miss the mark more than others, or simply pass the bar without entertaining the possibility of what this series can do.

But we’ve seen what this series can do already. It doesn’t need to prove itself, to me or anyone else.

So with these final tangled thoughts, I’d like to leave you with a brief analysis of the volume’s longest and likely most famous story, its final tale, Makoma.


Part Three: “Africa”

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Makoma is challenging to cover in full because there are several angles to approach it from, and I’m sure no matter how I start, I will in part fail.

First, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the elephant in the room: the Hellboy series draws from real-world myths and legends, adapting them to fit its own purposes. No one has cause to bat an eye when the subject is European vampires or 1920s occult shenanigans, but folklore from non-Western regions is different. The context matters, and the context for this story is that it is ambiguously “African” and places our beloved big-fisted protagonist into the role of a folk hero from a place that neither the artist nor the author are from.

That’s cultural appropriation, no matter how good the story is.

Cultural appropriation can be a complex subject, but when we bring it up in a series like this, it’s usually not a good thing. It’s a form of theft, taking parts of a culture’s practices and history, and using it for a different purpose. In this case, people from a colonizing nation using a story from a colonized nation for entertainment, and entertainment mostly meant for other colonists. I suppose there’s a debate to be had about whether making a story and name known and treating it with dignity is a lesser offense, but I’m not sure anyone has the authority to make that call. I certainly don’t. My instinct is that in a cosmic sense, this probably isn’t okay. I wouldn’t encourage it, and in fact, I’d instead encourage seeking out authors from the area and culture a legend originates if you have an interest to hear it. But whether or not the Makoma Hellboy story was a good idea to create in the first place, what matters in this moment is that it was created, and we can learn from it.

My brief background research on the story wasn’t able to come up with much for what the Makoma story traditionally is. Rather frustratingly, the story in Hellboy is only attributed to “Africa” with a brief mention of Tanzania elsewhere unconnected to the actual fairytale, so the origin of the story that Corben and Mignola were drawing from is difficult to trace. The names of the giants (Chi-Eswa-Mapiri, Chi-Dubula-Taka, and Chi-Gwisa-Miti) come from a Bantu language, though I’m not sure which one. The Bantu language family is a widespread and widely-spoken group of languages including Swahili, Chewa, Zulu, Shona, and Xhosa, among hundreds of others. The Makoma story appears to come from somewhere in Central-East Africa, attributed to the Sena People of Zimbabwe by Laura Gibbs of the University of Oklahoma.

The Andrew Lang version in The Orange Fairy Book is the only full version of the story I could find, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a major inspiration for the Hellboy iteration. Lang was a Scottish author and editor from the latter half of the 1800s who is most remembered for assembling fairy tales from a wide variety of sources. He got the Makoma story from a cryptic Mr. Fairbridge, who I think might be Kingsley Fairbridge, though I couldn’t find a first name. According to Lang, Fairbridge himself got the story directly in Zimbabwe from one of more people in via one of the native languages (possibly Shona, given its prevalence in the region, though Lang doesn’t specify further). In any case, by his own admission, Lang’s stories are not direct translations but rather themselves altered and embellished to make them more acceptable to his audience, specifically Victorian English children. I think that’s useful to know going in, because while the Hellboy story differs from the version I could find, that version itself has passed through many filters of its own.

Lang’s version begins much like the Hellboy version; Makoma is born fully-grown with a hammer and a sack, and jumps into a lake where he kills all of the crocodiles and then names himself. Fully-realized, he departs for distant lands to become a hero. He comes across a giant who is making mountains, and when the giant hears his name, he becomes enraged at Makoma’s arrogance and they battle, with Makoma winning the fight. By the end of the fight, the giant has shrunk and begs Makoma to spare his life, so Makoma throws him in his sack.

Makoma comes across several other giants and creatures over the course of the story. Three other giants meet the same fate as the mountain-builder – the others being a giant who digs riverbeds, a giant who plants trees, and a giant who eats and breathes fire. With their strength, Makoma could now build hills, redirect rivers, plant crops, and control fire, allowing him to make a homestead with his new friends. While building the homestead, though, one of the giants is attacked by a water spirit with an enormous moustache, and Makoma waits to meet the water sprit. When the water spirit appears, he says that he lives in the nearby river and his moustache causes fever. He tries to bind Makoma with the tendrils, but Makoma kills the water spirit with his hammer.

The homestead is complete, but Makoma then receives a vision from his ancestors. They tell him that he must defeat Sakatirina, a five-headed giant. He wanders until he comes across Sakatirina’s wives and discovers this giant is larger than any he has ever faced – his legs are like mountains, and his heads cannot be seen because they are in the clouds. Makoma hits his feet with his hammer to no effect, then sets a fire at the giant’s feet to get his attention. The giant grabs Makoma and smashes him against the ground, but instead of dying, Makoma becomes a giant himself and wrestles with Sakatirina. They fights for many days and nights, tiring each other out but evenly matched, until they both collapse from exhaustion. Then a god-like spirit declares that they are both the greatest heroes of all time and no man will ever come against them, then takes them up to live in the sky.

The Hellboy version makes some obvious additions and alterations. I’m not sure where the city of corpses or the boy in the sack components of the Hellboy story come from, but I suspect those are taken from other tales. While parts of the story are clearly adapted to better fit the Hellboy-specific lore, with two of the creatures Hellboy comes across bearing a close resemblance to Liz and Abe, and the dragon at the end obviously standing in for the Ogdru Jahad, I was surprised that these elements were not entirely fabricated by Mignola & co. The Banyanga of the northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo, a bit north of Zimbabe, have stories about a folk hero named Mwindo. The Mwindo epic differs from that of Makoma in most respects, but Mwindo does fight a seven-headed serpent named Kirimu, sometimes called the Dragon. The battle between Mwindo and Kirimu have many similarities to other tales about heroes fighting dragons, and while Mwindo does not die with Kirimu, Kirimu’s death gives life to many people and his body is used to feed people. Beyond what is apparent in the Hellboy Makoma story, tales like that of Makoma and Mwindo have themes and character personalities that fit well with some of the traits that Hellboy embodies, such as being arrogant and good at physical feats, but also a more complex person on an emotional level who must tailor his softer qualities and rely on others, like his monster friends, to complete his journey.

(A good source for the Mwindo story is The Mwindo Epic from the Banyanga (Congo Republic) by Daniel Biebyuck and Kahombo Mateene.)

I can understand the desire to retell the Hellboy story by mapping it to an existing story. This isn’t the first time Mignola has done so; Hellboy has similarities to Heracles, Thor, Beowulf, and other heroes from various legends, and a large part of the series revolves around fitting Hellboy in some way or another into legends from different regions and time periods. There are certainly global, or at least widespread, aspects of myths and legends. Clever tricksters, brave warriors, underdogs, hidden people, shadowy demons, nature spirits, and dragons are elements found in many stories worldwide. And it can be rewarding to find those connections that allow you to empathize with people from a time or place very different from your own.

However, it’s important to not get lost in trying to find the monomyth. Different regions have their own unique histories that shape how their stories are told and what parts of them are important. Even though large serpent-like creatures are found in tales from most cultures in some form or another, that doesn’t mean that they all serve the same role in stories. Even calling them all “dragons” is probably an oversimplification. So it goes with those other elements I mentioned. When we try to apply terms to figures in myths from other countries and regions so that they better fit stories we already know, we can easily erase the parts of those myths that are unique to the people who tell them.

Zimbabwe has been inhabited by humans for over 100,000 years. It’s part of the region where our species is thought to have evolved, and it has an elaborate, extensive history of its own, influenced by its neighbors through wars, politics, trade systems, and changes to the physical environment over the past several thousand years. It was the center of the Kingdom of Mapungubwe, and the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, and the Kingdom of Mutapa. It was also invaded, colonized, renamed, stripped, and exploited by Europeans, like so many other countries. That history carries into the present day, shaping the complex geopolitical relationships and tumultuous recent political state of the country, as well as its art. Narratives continue to evolve in this region, influencing and being influenced by other nations and cultures. The Makoma Hellboy story is arguably one of them. However, it is not written to be in concert with the rest of what comes out of and goes into Zimbabwe, or other countries in eastern Africa. That’s one of the holdovers of a colonial legacy – it seeps into everything, often without you realizing unless you trace it back to its source. You can’t remove the impact of colonialism from our modern world. It’s baked into the crust, as it were. But you can notice it, and hopefully build something better that doesn’t rely on a colonial lens alone for its foundation.


Series Breakdown Rating:

Characters: 7
Aesthetics and Style: 7
Mood: 8
Plots: 7
Composition: 7
Sum: 36/50

1 thought on “Out of the Shadows – Hellboy: Complete Short Stories, Book Two”

  1. Sounds like a pretty good Hellboy collection. I’ve not read this one and it seems to have a good variety of short stores. Always enjoy reading Hellboy, so will have to check this sone out as well.


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