By Levi Remington
There's nothing in comics that's quite as special as a short story in the Hellboy universe. Various creative teams have brought their unique voice to the character over the years, but Mike Mignola remains the arbiter. This way, stories are consistent in tone, and respect continuity. In Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea, Mignola joins co-writer and artist Gary Gianni for a fifty-page, standalone graphic novel that can proudly stand next to other "Mignola-verse" classics. It's that good.
Hellboy takes to the sea after the events of 'The Island,' and embarks on a ghost story lost in time and space. After being engulfed by a mysterious wind, he finds himself imprisoned on the ship of an oppressive captain. But with talks of the devil on board, and the looming threat of a colossal serpent who bears all forbidden truth, that's the least of his concerns.
Mignola and Gianni collaborated on the script, and it seems they both agreed that a minimal approach to the dialogue would suit the art best. This doesn't mean the story is stripped-down or without merit, though. Far from it. The story is full of signature Hellboy mythology, loose callbacks, wicked characters, vile motivations, and colorful dialogue in the form of crazy pirate talk or the humorously blunt reactions from Hellboy himself. It's a fully featured, fast-paced story complete with action and some light humor. You'll be muttering "son of a--" in no time, because this book is a precious and finite creation of man, and not an endless tome produced for your infinite pleasure. Though countless rereads aren't off the table.
Gianni's art is the star of the show here. His heavy line work is extraordinary. With each mark he demonstrates the precision and care of a painstaking etch, capturing exquisite detail and delicately structured shadows in service of rich, gothic atmosphere. Dave Stewart is on colors, of course, and he knocks it out of the park. I have no idea how he manages to adapt to so many different artists' idiosyncrasies, but the effect is beautiful and he makes it look easy. I love how subdued the colors are, while Hellboy's red is so vibrant and pulsing that I'm afraid to rub the ink off it looks so strikingly fresh.
Hellboy's latest standalone tale is a must read. If not for Gary Gianni's art, which is immeasurably stunning, then at least for his writing, which crafts a wild and tragic tale woven with poetry and possessed by an obscure devilry that only Mike Mignola could be responsible for.
Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea
Written by Mike Mignola & Gary Gianni
Art by Gary Gianni
Colors by Dave Stewart
Published by Dark Horse Comics