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This trade paperback collects various mini-series, one-shots, and back-up features, including: Dark Horse Presents #151; Dark Horse Presents Annual 1998; Dark Horse Presents Annual 1999; Gary Gianni’s The Monster Men; Abe Sapien: Drums of the Dead; and Hellboy: Box Full of Evil #1-2.

Note: This review features mild plot spoilers — read at your own risk.

This collection is divided into three parts, each of which contains several stories and corresponds to various stages of Hellboy’s life and career on Earth: the Early Years, the Middle Years, and the Right Hand of Doom.  I’ll provide brief commentary on each of the stories.

Pancakes: A quick two-page story about a three-year-old Hellboy eating pancakes.  Yes, that sounds silly, but it works as a story and it’s hilarious.  Good stuff.

The Nature of the Beast: A young-ish Hellboy is asked by the mysterious Osiris Club (do we ever see these guys again?) to slay a dragon.  A nice little story that provides some insight on Hellboy’s true nature.

King Vold: Hellboy has a run-in with a Norwegian king who has been cursed to hunt on Earth forever.  This king also has a very nasty “hound” who causes Hellboy some problems.  A good piece.

Heads: One of the few Hellboy tales set in Asia.  Hellboy encounters some nasty vampiric flying heads who waylay travelers.  They’re not too clever, as it turns out, and Hellboy puts one over on them.  Brief but entertaining.

Goodbye, Mister Tod: A mix of a Lovecraftian creature from beyond the stars and a physical medium who uses ectoplasm (we’ll see more of a prominent physical medium in the Hellboy universe later).  Not a great deal of substance to this one, but not bad either.

The Vârcolac: Hellboy tangles with a female Romanian vampire and the thing she summons to defend her.  There’s nothing wrong with the story at all, but it’s probably my least favorite of the collection.

The Right Hand of Doom: Sheds some light on Hellboy’s backstory as well as his (potential) destiny and that right hand of his.  Good stuff, though brief.

Box Full of Evil: Hands down, the best story in the collection in my view, and this is a collection brimming with good stories.  Hellboy and Abe (though Abe doesn’t play a large role here) are up against three Satanist occultists who seek power, wealth, etc. – the usual – and, of course, it turns out poorly for them.  Some very cool twists and turns.  This story, if nothing else – will show you why you should never make a deal with the devil.  Plus it’s got a cool monkey in it.

This is a terrific collection of Hellboy short adventures and I highly recommend it.  5 stars out of 5.

Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers