Hellboy vol. 4: The Right Hand of Doom TPB – Mike Mignola

4 out of 5

Really, you could just sell ‘Pancakes’ for the price of this trade and it’d be worth it.

Our first collection with a consistent art team?  I think so – which displays one of the qualities of the title that makes it enduring: The art and colors do shift somewhat during the course of this book, with the stories published years apart, but the character and general tone are so established that it doesn’t matter in what order you approach the material; you are by no means alienates by not going chronologically.  The mythology got heavier later on, but, in general, all of the various mini-series – and odds and ends, as collected here – can be read in any order you fancy and it’ll work.  And again, this isn’t because Hellboy is like an Archie type character by any means, his world restarting oh each first page – it’s because of how full of history and life his world feels.

‘Right Hand of Doom’ bounces around between various shorts from various sources, mostly with a slight humorous edge.  Pancakes – intended as a gag – ended up being a fan-favorite, and other entries concerning ectoplasm beasts and vampire things and floating heads run the HB routine of ‘go here and punch that,’ but he actually loses a couple of times here – saved by good fortune – and Mignola definitely makes every page look interesting.

The collection closes out with the only real additions to the ongoing plot – the title story and its followup, Box Full of Evil.  While these seem somewhat repetitive when reading the trades back to back – a summary of what’s come before, and sort of a mini repeat of HB’s showdown with Rasputin, this time with demon Ualac – it’s worth noting that the title had been bouncing around for several years when these issues were published, and Mike needed a way to remind people what Hellboy’s right hand was, why that was a big deal, and why it mattered – why it was so defining – for him to turn away from that.

Slightly on the filler side but still cover-to-cover entertaining, you could probably skip this volume with no detriment to the overall narrative, but… Pancakes!