I do not know anything about this character save for the fact that he has been around for a fair while. This book collects comics from the last 3 years and this has a secondary title of ‘Volume 3’ which means there is a good deal more of this beforehand. I mention this because this in no way feels like either the start or the middle of this characters history. That sounds quite a contradiction, but what I mean is that there is no origin story in this book, but equally it does not make you feel like you have missed anything prior to this trade. It does that clever trick that films like the Dark Knight or The Avengers do which is to be a completely stand alone film, but at the same time give the person who has seen the previous one something extra. I am certain that there are moments in this comic that had I read the first volumes I would have picked up on and gotten a kick out of, but there is nothing here that means I need to have seen that.
My usual complaint about a book like this is that it really is not a book at all, simply a collection of one off stories packaged up into a new form that they can make a bit more money off. However here, that sentiment feels out of place, the story does flow and build and it makes it feel more than simply a collection of individual stories. The first way they do this is by dating the stories and the helpfully putting them into chronological order. It is a quick and easy way to give you a sense of continuity as the date moves from 1932 through to 1933 and we have tie ins with real world people and events; the coming of Hitler, changing of presidents, end of prohibition etc. The book also manages to feel more unified by slowly increasing the ‘weirdness’ factor of the stories, moving from regular people through to mystical monsters as the stories progress.
I have read and reviewed a lot of books that are on the surface similar to this title. I far prefer this to the Black Beetle, but I much prefer the art style in Dynamites Green Hornet and Shadow books. However despite my making the comparison throughout this review, it really is not a valid one. Sure this has all the trappings of a pulp hero with the wacky gadgets and the 30’s setting, but this is a Mike Mignola book and part of the Hell Boy universe which means that the supernatural is real and this makes for a completely different reading experience.
I really liked this book. Sounds like a very broad statement to make, but considering how much I expected not to like it, it was a huge surprise. Firstly the name sounded ridiculous, which had put me off even reviewing it until the very last moment. Secondly after a very quick flick through I was already bored because after superheroes, pulp is by far the largest section of comics that I have reviewed and to be honest, I am rather tired of them. And finally, I thought I was going to hate the art style, but on that note I was completely mistaken as I was sucked into the comic from the first story onwards and enjoyed every page of it.