Note: This review features mild plot spoilers — read at your own risk.
I have to admit that I was disappointed with this Hellboy collection, a first for me. It’s a short collection, only comprising a total of four comics, two two-issue stories. The first story collected here, The Third Wish, is the stronger of the two. I found the second story, The Island, to be unaccountably weak.
The Third Wish: Hellboy travels to Africa and ends up with a magic nail driven into his skull and is made a prisoner of a powerful sea-witch, held captive underwater for several years. Yes, that’s an odd premise, and no, the Africa bit is never really tied to either of the stories in this collection. It would have made a lot more sense to have Hellboy have some African-themed adventures (maybe tangling with spider-trickster gods, were-leopards, lost civilizations a la Tarzan, etc., but none of those happened). In any case, it’s a dark tale where three mermaids have their wishes granted (Monkey’s Paw-style) by the sea-witch and Hellboy eventually frees himself, but not before learning that he very well may be fated to bring about the end of the world.
The Island: After Hellboy frees himself, he washes up on a mysterious island, having a cool encounter with the ghosts of three sailors and meets a revenant sorcerer who reveals the secret history of the world, the fall of the angels, etc. We do gain some insight into the nature of Hellboy’s right hand, but none of it makes a great deal of sense and there’s not a great deal of dialogue in this story, Mignola seeming to fill many of the pages with cool, eerie, but ultimately pointless imagery. I was pretty disappointed with this story because Mignola relies too heavily on mood rather than plot. A better balance is needed. There are a number of “bonus” pages at the end that show how Mignola was originally planning to sketch out the start of this story, and while interesting to artists, I didn’t get much out of that section.
This was a thin, oddly self-indulgent collection and the weakest of the Hellboy collections to date. Sure, it has plenty of sweeping visuals and Hellboy is always entertaining, but I can’t say that this was a strong effort on Mike Mignola’s part. To be honest, unless you’re a hardcore Hellboy fan, I don’t think this is an essential volume in the series. I give it 3 stars out of 5.
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers