Always eager to make some money off their huge back issue archive, Marvel at one stage had a dig through their old X-Men archives, pulled a couple of great story arcs from the vault and commissioned some new cover art to wrap it in before making a further $1.25 off old material. Certainly not the worst business plan ever, and actually something I quite appreciated because it meant access to classic story lines I would otherwise never be exposed to!
For issue 58 which was a reprint of 1982’s Uncanny X-Men #154 featuring the X-Men and Corsair taking on a horde of Sidrian Hunters, Hellboy superstar creator Mike Mignola got assigned the job of producing a new cover for the reprint, and so he whipped up this particularly dynamic piece in his classic heavily shadowed style, depicting a stressed group of Storm, Cyclops and Corsair, as they huddle together against a seemingly endless barrage of insidious Sidrian Hunters!
A long time ago, a much younger Professor Broom banded together with the local Transylvanian constabulary and brought down the infamous Erzsebet Ondrushko, a vampiress who bathed in the blood of young women and was a loyal follower of Hecate, Goddess of the Underworld.
Of course, as vampires go, permanently getting rid of them is never a sure thing and when the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) is called in for a routine haunting in the Hamptons, Long Island, Professor Broom gets a sinister premonition and ends up taking top BPRD agents, Hellboy, Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien along for the ride.
Unfortunately for Hellboy though, as per usual, this isn’t going to just be another walk in the park job for him. Even if it isn’t Erzsebet that is causing all the ruckus, then there is another, more powerful figure watching from the shadows, poised to entice the Demon back to where he belongs… even if his true destiny includes the bringing forth of Armageddon itself!
Hellboy: Blood and Iron is a 2007 direct to DVD animated movie, the second movie from the Hellboy Animated franchise (based on Mike Mignola’s seminal comic book series, Hellboy) and follows on from the surprisingly good Hellboy: Sword of Storms movie that was released back in 2006. It is once again written and directed by veteran Disney alumni, Tad Stones, with some help of the legendary Mike Mignola of course, and as with the last outing, all the stars from the 2004 live-action movie return to voice their respective characters, namely Ron Perlman as Hellboy, Selma Blair as Liz Sherman and Doug Jones as Abe Sapien.
This time around it is vampire lore that gets used as the story’s main vehicle which unfortunately immediately limits the story to the set and accepted vampire genre guidelines. We have stakes, sunlight and the ever present holy water, all of which leaves very much a taste of been there, done that in one’s mouth when watching this movie. As with Sword of Storms, Tad again goes for the forking storyline approach, except he tries to shake it up a little by inserting frequent flashbacks in reverse order which shows a younger Professor Broom in action and aims on expanding the current storyline a little bit.
Unfortunately, this forking of the main storyline and the frequent flashback material takes a lot of the flow of the story away and it often feels as if you are trying to watch three or four different movies all at once – and not one of them have anything to do with another! Despite this weakened story, we do get quite a few action sequences to keep us enthralled, and as ever, Hellboy’s frequent quips and one-liners are enough to justify the movie all on its own – though you have to be a Hellboy fan to enjoy it of course.
Honestly, it is not the strongest of storylines and because of the lack of proper flow, this is one movie that ends up not feeling like much of a movie at all – rather just a single longish cartoon is what you are left with. Still, it carries all the elements necessary to make it a good and proper Hellboy story, and as such it will appeal to all those already a fan of our cranky red devil.
Visually, Blood and Iron looks a lot more common than what Sword of Storms did. True it still uses that clean, now fairly widespread animated style that balances simplicity and detail just right and makes for good looking animation which is not overly stylish, but it is in the colouring that if falls a little flat. No special effort to make it stand out, no special effects to speak of, and in truth, the backgrounds and colouring are just another point to add to that feeling of this simply being a lengthened episode of the usual animated series.
Aurally though, Hellboy immediately raises itself a notch by using the same actors that voiced the characters in the live-action movie, making for a great tie in with the rest of the Hellboy ‘universe’. As it is, all the voice actors do a superb job and together with some great sound effects make for a more than decent listening session. Christopher Drake also makes a welcome return as series composer and provides some great material, leaving us with a score that blends in perfectly with the rest of the movie.
Looking at it as a whole, while Hellboy: Blood and Iron is a competently produced and animated movie, it simply doesn’t seem to have enough newness or substance to let it stand out as a movie as such, and ends up pretty much feeling more like an extended episode than anything else. It feels as if the production house tried to play it as safe as possible and not bring anything spectacular to the table, leaving us with what can unfortunately only be described as a mediocre outing. Sure it has all the charm, humour and elements that you expect from a normal Hellboy outing, but this certainly isn’t the strongest of entries into what can be quite an entertaining universe to dwell in at times.
Rent it only if you are a Hellboy fan and happen to like watching Saturday morning cartoons all morning long.
Related Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0817910/
Renowned professor of Japanese folklore, Professor Sakai is known for his thirst of all things antique, but this quest to chronicle all that has been is about to take a turn for the worse as he opens the forbidden scroll and releases the long-sealed demons of Thunder and Lightning. These fearsome demons, bested only once before, immediately set about reading the summoning of the all powerful Dragon, in an attempt to gain revenge and dominate this very Earth we stand upon.
Of course, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) can’t just ignore all of the strange phenomena that seem to now be occurring across the globe and it sends out its best agents to try and tackle the problem. So enter Hellboy, Corrigan, Abe, Liz and slightly nutty psychic Russell Thorne.
However, on the very first outing our nonchalant, unflappable, cocky, durable and very red demon finds that after touching a mysterious, discarded katana, he literally disappears into an alternate universe populated by all manner of Japanese monsters and folklore and is soon caught in the middle of a fight to fix the mistakes of the past and in so doing find his way back home and take down the twin demons while he is at it.
With Hellboy now gone and the phenomena getting worse across the globe, the rest of the BPRD can’t exactly sit on their backsides either and are currently scrambling to investigate the cause and stamp it out before anything worse raises its ugly head… but no one said anything about there being dragons!
2007’s Hellboy: Sword of Storms is the first movie of the Hellboy Animated series, based on Mike Mignola’s extremely popular comic book series Hellboy, a series that has even gone on to spawn a live-action film back in 2004. The film is written (with help from the original Hellboy creator, Mike Mignola) and directed by animation veteran Tad Stones, known for his stellar service to Disney where he produced and worked on Darkwing Duck, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers and even Gummi Bears!
While Hellboy is a work of pure fiction and tells the story of a demon brought to this plane of existence by Nazi Occultists and then freed by the Allies and now working side by side with the humans of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, the story is infused to such an extent with the rich tapestry of Japanese folklore and mythology that it becomes a little more than just your ordinary, ungrounded animated movie and in doing so becomes an absolute treat to watch.
The backdrop for the epic story is pretty much your usual stuff in that demons are released who wish to wreak havoc on the Earth and pretty much need to be stopped, but it is the inclusion of the three duel running storylines that eventually lead to the film’s singular conclusion that brings it above mediocrity and adds that little sophistication that makes it more than just a kiddies movie.
Everything that is classic Hellboy is retained and the movie works within the comic book universe instead of in the live-action movie world, a touch that is sure to please long time Hellboy comic book fans.
Visually Hellboy: Sword of Storms thankfully strays away from the original Mike Mignola’s heavily styled and shadow-heavy art and goes for a more standard animated production look which isn’t to say it looks bad – it just looks normal. Both the character and background designs are pleasingly simple but animated beautifully and everything flows together like a well oiled machine. Little inserts of CGI (like in the floating leaves/petals scene) can be seen here and there, but it is never intrusive and you hardly know it is there, a sign that animators are finally getting to grips with combining the two mediums at last.
The action sequences are particularly well animated and you can literally feel every blow as it lands, the hallmark of good animation techniques. Also of particular note is the superb colouring effects that brings everything to life and literally takes your breath away with its beauty in certain scenes. To sum it up, Hellboy: Sword of Storms looks and feels about as polished and professional as what you can get from any other animated straight to DVD movie.
A great touch in terms of the voiceover cast is the fact that all the actors from the live-action movie are back to reprise their respective roles in this animated outing. Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman) and Doug Jones (Abe Sapien) are all back and do a sterling job behind the microphone as do the rest of the terrific voice actors who lend their skills to the show.
On the musical front, Hellboy has a rich orchestral score that reflects well the various locations the movie takes place in as well as upping the tempo as the situation calls for it. So often the music makes for the moment and as such, the music composer for Hellboy certainly didn’t disappoint!
I have to be honest and say that I thoroughly enjoyed Hellboy: Sword of Storms. True it is your standard action/adventure beat-em up but it carries a hint of sophistication around it and combining everything that makes Hellboy as interesting as he is with some authentic Japanese folklore makes for a great yarn, and with some stunning visuals this is one of those animated movies that makes for a great watch and should probably not be missed, particularly by those already converted Hellboy fans!
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellboy:_Sword_of_Storms