Hellboy (Vol. 10): The Crooked Man and Others by Mike Mignola (writer), Richard Corben (artist), Duncan Fegredo (artist), Joshua Dysart (artist), & Jason Shawn Alexander (artist)
The first story,“The Crooked Man,” is an Eisner-winning comic and the first Hellboy tale to take place in the Appalachian woods and is based on the folklore of that region (though, in an introduction to the story, Mignola makes clear that this story is not an adaptation of any existing story). He also lets us know in this introduction to the three-issue comic that he wrote this tale with artist Richard Corben specifically in mind. Opening in 1958 in Virginia, “The Crooked Man” is about Tom, who comes home after twenty years to find the two women he knew in childhood indebted to the devil, and only one of them, Cora Fisher, wants release. The other woman, Effie, enjoys being a witch and laughs at their suffering. Hellboy goes along on the journey with Tom and Cora as they travel up the mountain, past the witch-infested coal mines, and up to the church to bury Tom’s father, who died at the hands of Effie. Effie follows them up the mountain and to the church. Once they make it to the church, they are safe. Or at least they are safe until the Crooked Man and a host of witches show up to claim Tom’s soul for his dabbling in witchcraft with Effie when they were young teenagers. Mignola tells a fantastic story as Tom, Hellboy, and a priest fight the powers of evil.
“They that Go Down to the Sea in Ships,” the second story, takes place first in Massachusetts and then in North Carolina in 1986. First, in Massachusetts, a tarot-reader finds the head of Blackbeard and kills for it. We join up with him a month later in North Carolina, where Abe Sapien, Hellboy, and an historian on hire by the B.P.R.D. are out to find the head of Blackbeard. The tarot-reader is on his own mission, out looking for Blackbeard’s treasure. Meanwhile, we are told that Blackbeard’s body is still out there somewhere in search of his missing head. We get some flashbacks to Blackbeard’s death, and then we journey through time following the history of his long-lost skull, but in the present Hellboy must do battle with Blackbeard. This is one great pirate story!
“In the Chapel of Moloch” is the third story and takes place in Portugal in 1992. Hellboy is called to help out by the agent of a painter. The agent rented an old chapel in which the artist worked by candlelight to capture the atmosphere. His work goes along smoothly for a while, but the agent, after returning to the U.S. for a time, comes back to Portugal to find the painter, Jerry, suffering enormously, walking around like a zombie, barely eating or speaking. We join Hellboy as the agent shows him the painter’s working studio in the chapel. By candlelight, they observe the haunting, Goya-like paintings. But what captures their attention most is the painter-turned-sculptor’s latest work — a giant sculpture of Moloch. The rest of the story is about Hellboy’s solution to the problem of a possessed artist and a come-to-life statue of Moloch.
The last story, “The Mole,” is a very short, eight-page tale in which Hellboy plays poker with some ghosts who point out that Hellboy has a mole on his hand. It’s a solid closing to a great collection of stories by Mignola and a variety of artists.
The volume includes an excellent essay on Manly Wade Wellman by John Pelan. Wellman, a pulp fiction author, wrote stories influenced by the Appalachian folk tales, as well as occult detective fiction, Lovecraftian-inspired stories, and science fiction. Wade directly inspired Mignola in his writing of “The Crooked Man.” The essay is a nice bonus to this volume. Though I can’t give this entire collection a five-star rating, I assure you it is a worthwhile four-star collection of stories.