© Mike Mignola.
There aren’t many comics characters I would want to read novels about, but somehow Hellboy is one. His prose adventures are different in some ways from his comics…lots more words, no pictures, of course, but they’re also more internal. We get into the character’s head in the books, which almost never happens in the comics. Maybe that’s why I like them, it’s interesting to see how different authors do that and what they find there.
This time Hellboy takes an assignment in southern Italy, which after an Iceland escapade, sounds like a nice, warm vacation spot. So what happens? Werewolves made of fire and the Vesuvius volcano erupts, of course! Tim Lebbon does a fine job of keeping the suspense up, even through the difficult task of constantly finding new ways to describe the horror and pain of burning by fire, and the impossibility of defeating it by shooting or punching. Most of the book centers on The Esposito family of Amalfi: very old, powerful, insular and secretive. One young woman from it, Franca, has escaped Amalfi, though, and when her younger female cousin Carlotta uncovers a series of apparent murders in the family, and suspects she’s the next victim, Franca calls in Hellboy.
The feel of the telling is a mix of horror, film noir, and Italian gangster stories. Hellboy is on his own against creatures he can’t easily deal with, and as soon as he arrives in Amalfi things go rapidly downhill. It’s a page turner, but with good characters, a creative plot, and lots of action and suspense. Well done, all around, and recommended.