And Then I Read: HELLBOY, Emerald Hell by Tom Piccirilli

© Mike Mignola.

There aren’t many comics characters I’d be interested in reading novels about, but somehow Hellboy is one. Maybe it’s the background of pulp horror and adventure stories that seem to inspire Mignola’s own work with the character. I’ve read several Hellboy novels, this is the latest, and I thought it was pretty good. Doesn’t hurt to have that well-designed cover with the giant Kevin Nowlan Hellboy logo and good spot art by Mignola, does it? But the rest is all prose.

I haven’t read anything else by author Tom Piccirilli, and at first I found the book dwelling too much on horrible details of human evil. The story takes place in the southern swamps of the U.S., in an atmosphere reminiscent of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, but Piccirilli gives it a feel of Stephen King with his focus on gore and cruelty. As the story goes on, though, more fantastic horrors reveal themselves, and I began liking it more. As far as Hellboy himself, Piccirilli does a good job of capturing his character as presented in the comics, even delving into his hopes and inner thoughts convincingly, territory where Mignola rarely goes. No other characters from the comics appear, but the new ones presented here are interesting and well thought out; southern archetypes rather than stereotypes, or so I feel, not having a lot of experience with the real thing.

The plot rolls along nicely, and once Hellboy and the main villains come together in the final conflict, it’s gripping stuff. If you’re tired of waiting for the next installment of the Hellboy graphic continuity, this is a good place to spend some time. Recommended.

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