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This trade paperback collects various mini-series, one-shots, and back-up features from the following comics: Hellboy: Makoma; The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings; The Dark Horse Book of Witchcraft; The Dark Horse Book of the Dead; The Dark Horse Book of Monsters; Hellboy: Premiere Edition; and an all-new story, “The Vampire of Prague.”

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

Generally speaking, I found this collection to contain a mix of good stories and mediocre stories, with one very good story (The Troll Witch).

The Penanggalan: Short but sweet. Hellboy encounters a Malaysian vampire that separates its head from its body, flying around and strangling its victims with dangling entrails. I had heard of this creature a long time ago and always thought it was bizarre but cool. Now I finally got to see it in action.

The Hydra and the Lion: Hellboy fights a Hydra at the grave of Hercules. Sounds simple enough, but honestly, it contains some bizarre elements (courtesy of Mignola’s young daughter) and the hydra is poorly drawn in my opinion. Had a lot of unrealized potential.

The Troll Witch: For me, the stand-out story of the collection. Fairly short story in which Hellboy encounters the eponymous Troll Witch and hears the tale of how she came to be the way she is and what happened to her sister. Well-crafted and poignant.

The Vampire of Prague: Hellboy chases an elusive but fairly wimpy vampire in Prague. I was not wild about Craig Russell’s art and the story, such as it is, is pretty thin.

Dr. Carp’s Experiment: Another quick one in which Hellboy explores a “haunted house” and blunders into a trap that sends him back in time – where he fights a mad scientist and a demon-monkey – then is just as rapidly sent back to his own time. Fun.

The Ghoul: In the introduction to this story, Mignola mentions that this is one of the least-liked Hellboy stories by the fans, probably because the eponymous Ghoul n the story speaks only in poetry. Sounds pretty wacky, I know, but it worked. We have the graveyard encounter between Hellboy and the ghoul interspersed with shots of a puppet show where the puppets are performing Hamlet. Kind of a strange one, but I enjoyed it.

Makoma: The longest story in the collection. Semi-mythic journey of Hellboy traveling around Africa and encountering various giants. I’m not crazy about most African folklore and mythology, so this one didn’t do much for me. Richard Corben did much of the art for this story and it just didn’t work for me. He’s a good artist, but his style is just too different from Mignola and Davis to work as Hellboy art for me.

I give this collection 3.5 stars out of 5. It’s very much hit-or-miss for me. Had the two (longest) stories with guest artists been done by Mignola or Guy Davis, I probably would have rated this collection a half-star higher.

Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers