This trade paperback collects the five issues of Hellboy: Wake the Dead, along with a new epilogue written specifically for this collection.
Note: This review features plot spoilers — read at your own risk. I will provide a brief overview of each of the collection’s sections.
Part One: Sets up the five-part mystery collected in this edition. The cabal of Nazis serving Rasputin who summoned Hellboy to Earth in 1944 are back and BPRD has eceived word that they may have just gotten their hands on the body of a vampire with whom they were formerly allied with plans to mystically resuscitate him in his ancestral castle in Romania (don’t you wish you had one of those?). Needless to say, an alliance between a bunch of cryogenically-preserved Nazis bent on world domination and a vampire who can quickly spawn an army of other vampires would be a Very Bad Thing and BPRD decides to do something about it.
Part Two: Hellboy goes to Romania, along with two other teams of BPRD agents, and promptly gets into a fight with some of the Nazis, including one of their cyborg thugs. He also encounters a really old vampire (not the one he’s seeking, unfortunately) as well as some mythological creatures, the “Women of Thessaly” (what I would call harpies). Some great mood-setting and characterization of the various villains.
Part Three: Lots of good fighting Hellboy vs. monsters and one of the other BPRD teams discovers a human-sized homunculus. Liz Sherman foolishly(?) brings him to life and he promptly kills one of the team. We don’t see much more of this sub-plot in this volume, but this discovery will have profound implications for BPRD.
Part Four: Lots of major, major happenings. Hellboy battles the snake goddess Hecate. The castle blows up. Ilsa Hauptstein, hot leather-clad Nazi bitch from Hell, is transformed into…something…by Elizabeth Bahory’s old iron maiden delivered to Rasputin by Baba Yaga’s queer little servant. (Yes, read that last sentence again – only in a Hellboy book!) Hellboy is captured by Rasputin and left to die at a crossroads.
Part Five: Hellboy defeats the vampire and the iron maiden critter. Abe Sapien gets some mystical hints about his past/origins. Nazi infighting back in Norway effectively ends their threat (for now…you and I both know we’re going to see these guys again). I’d actually have liked a clearer resolution of what happened here. This was the weakest of the five parts because many of the various struggles ended kind of mystically and it was unclear exactly what happened in the real world.
Epilogue: All-new for this collection. It shows some interaction between Rasputin and Baba Yaga after he has been at least temporarily defeated by Hellboy. Poignant. Moody, sophisticated storytelling.
If there’s a flaw in this collection, it’s that there is simply too much going on here. This was really a six- or eight-part story that was crammed into five parts, and it shows. Because there are three BPRD teams sent to Romania, the action has to switch back and forth between them , with not enough attention focused on any of them. We’ll have to wait for more on the Liz/homunculus sub-plot for a later book, unfortunately. We also don’t see what becomes of the transformed Hauptstein/iron maiden and so forth. Just too much going on for a book this size, so some characters just kind of disappear and aren’t dealt with any more.
I highly recommend this collection, as it advances the Hellboy storyline and is full of occult Nazi-bashing. If you enjoyed the first Hellboy collection, you should certainly pick this one up as well. I give it 5 stars out of 5.
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers