'Hellboy: The Fire Wolves' is Tim Lebbon's second Hellboy novel in the series of unrelated prose novels that are available from all good booksellers now! It's not related in any way to his first Hellboy novel 'Unnatural Selection' and neither is it related to the other novel in the series 'Hellboy: The Ice Wolves'.
What is it with Hellboy and wolves? Fire Wolves, Ice Wolves and there's plenty of werewolves in his past too (there's one on the loose in Lebbon's other Hellboy novel). Just the sight of a wolf nowadays must make Hellboy howling mad!
Before I get into details of the story and my opinions on that I would like to express a few thoughts concerning the cover of the book. I love the overall color scheme and layout as it's very stylish and easy on the eyes. I hate that wolf. It just doesn't look scary enough to me. Although you might need a closer, enlarged look at it the wolf is actually a mosaic come to life but it still could of looked more horrifying.
Pompeii, AD 79, is where the story begins and sets the foundations for the rest of the novel. Mount Vesuvius is erupting and a fire wolf, a demonic presence that lives within the volcano, is on the rampage. An old woman, a demon hunter, casts a spell to trap the wolf as she dies and leaves a mosaic telling the story of what occurred. The wolf is trapped, the volcano rests and all is fine until...
Modern day and the spell has been broken and that, of course, means Hellboy is on the case. Rather than being a straightforward story of Hellboy taking on the Fire Wolves what we begin with is a seemingly separate story about a family curse. As such Hellboy is placed in the role of detective and he has to figure out what the hell is going on. Of course, this goes against his nature as he would rather just beat the crap out of something and Big Red's frustrations, and considerable efforts to be tactful, are played out well throughout the novel. As the mystery unravels and the link to the fire wolves and their overall plan becomes clear the story picks up pace and becomes more action packed. I actually loved the pacing of the story and having read other works by Tim Lebbon I can tell you it's one of his strong points as a writer; he can have you carefully reading every word in a calm manner or have you hurtling through each page in relation to the action taking place.
The story itself is a good one and Lebbon certainly has a grasp of who Hellboy is which is refreshing as other authors have severely lacked in this are in relation to the Hellboy prose novels. Throughout the novel there are various references to previous Hellboy cases/situations/characters that would go over the head of any first time Hellboy reader. Not that I think the story would be diminished in any way for those not in the know as it's akin to those superhero movies whereby, for instance, they'll mention the non-hero name of a character that isn't in the movie...to the person in the know it brings an appreciative nod of the head and a wry smile but those not in the know don't feel like they're missing out on anything.
I should point out that Hellboy works alone in this novel as he did against the Ice Wolves. In both these cases Liz Sherman would have been a great help as she has the ability of pyrokinesis. In many ways I guess having her a focal character in either novel would have watered down the plot due to her unique ability. I do prefer it when either Liz, Abe Sapien, or both, are involved as the characters play off each other well and add that little extra bit of dimension to the proceedings.
'Hellboy: The Fire Wolves' was a very good novel. It never quite achieved greatness but it is certainly a must for Hellboy fans and those who wish to branch out into a Hellboy prose novel could do far worse than to start with this offering.