2 out of 5
Regarding the last collection of Hellboy, I opined that Mignola had shifted toward almost exlusively using existing folklore as a template into which to insert his creation; while this is certainly a valid – and potentially inexhaustive, given history’s selection of lore – approach, it felt like Too Many Cooks, story-wise, and the series lost some of its in-borne identity. However, because that collection was several short tales, sometimes elements aligned or were pared down appreciably for one tale or another. Darkness Calls is, unfortunately, that concept as applied to a longer, six issue, mini-series. Two stars generally denotes bad; with Duncan Fegredo on art – doing a convincing Mignola adaptation – and many returning story elements (Baba Yaga; Hecate), Darkness Calls isn’t bad, but Mike doesn’t prove to be too adept at blending any / all of this into something that’s very pleasant to read. Sure, you get a lot of Hellboy BOOMing about, as Baba sends fight after fight his way for eye-theft revenge – and this takes up most of the books – but this process involves cutaways to all corners of the HB-verse, quite distractingly very reliant on remembering character X from issue Y Z years ago, and quite a bit of it as set up for things that don’t directly affecting Darkness Calls’ goingons, so doubly distracting. I do accept that part of that is on me for not absorbing the history of this book too well, but I do also think that’s the mark of something that’s well written: it doesn’t have to be accessible to new readers, but those series with which I really connect I find that I have inklings of things way back from issue one because of the impact they made. And unfortunately, I’ve come to accept that Hellboy’s lore – or the way it’s presented – has never quite sunk in that well, even when the material is much more engrossing than it is here.
Because when we do stop to focus on, say, Hellboy and Baba Yaga’s minion, Koschei, all of the fantasy referencing is dressing for one fucking battle that gets repeated ad nauseam.
Fegredo, meanwhile, is learning as things go along, arting more in his own style in issue one and evolving into Mike’s layouts and pacing as we progress, but unfortunately, his grasp on script-to-page is imperfect, leaving a lot of the fight sequences (which I remind are a gigantic part of this collection…) ill-timed.
In conclusion: I am a bad Hellboy fan who hasn’t like some very important arcs and preferred BPRD once Arcudi took over…