Scott Hampton knows horror. That’s been evident ever since a friend of mine showed me Hampton’s adaptation of “Pigeons from Hell” many years ago (and trust me, it’s creepy). So when Dark Horse announced that “Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead” would have Hampton drawing a script by Mike Mignola? Why yes, that was reason to salivate in anticipation.
Happily, the book has turned out as good as one would hope. With Hellboy fighting a ghoul in an underground crypt, there’s a small part of me which keeps flashing back to “Hellboy: The Wolves of St. August.” As that’s my favorite “Hellboy” comic ever, that’s a good thing. The children’s nursery rhymes coming out of Mary’s mouth as she fights Hellboy are there just enough to be creepy, but not so overwhelming that it ever grows distracting. And like so many of the best “Hellboy” stories, Mignola avoids making “Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead” simply about a monster. Instead there’s more than initially meets the eye, something that results in a satisfying ending.
The only part of the script that I wasn’t so fond of was the subplot involving the B.P.R.D. teammates outside the mansion that get attacked. I get that Mignola was trying to show that there’s a wider-reaching danger to this story than just Hellboy getting beaten up, but it’s hard to keep from feeling like it was filler. If nothing else, every time it cut away from Hellboy I found myself growing a little impatient until the action would shift back to underground.
And as for the art, well, it looks gorgeous. If Dave Stewart didn’t have a coloring credit I’d have assumed that Hampton had painted the comic, the integration between the two looking so smooth. Characters under Hampton’s pencil look real, ghouls look like actual rotting corpses, and Hellboy still looks awesome. The fight between Mary and Hellboy moves across the page well (this might well be the first traditional fight scene I’ve ever seen Hampton illustrate), and those drawings of the crypt are actually a little unnerving, there’s so much creepy atmosphere going on here.
While we wait for “Hellboy: The Fury,” this is a great way to catch your breath and get a fun little two-parter. I love that Mignola spends as much time with his side-stories in making them as entertaining as the core “Hellboy” comics; this is another winner from the Mignola-verse.