Digital ComicsAlliance: ‘Hellboy,’ ‘Oldboy,’ and ‘Ultimates’
We’re rearranging Digital ComicsAlliance a bit, just to keep things fresh. From here on out, look for an in-depth review of one story and an assortment of brief reviews of other books that are worth reading digitally, posted every weekend. There are a lot of great digital comics out there, and this way we can hopefully cover more ground and put the best books in front of your eyes. This week, let’s take a look at the unbelievable sadness of Hellboy: The Wolves of Saint August, the fun geopolitical action of Ultimates, and the getting-to-know-you-again action in Oldboy.
A lot of comics have sad scenes. Heroes die in glory, families fall victim to serial killers, loving couples break up… but how often do they give you that spike of despair and grief that really makes you appreciate what and who you have? We3, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s heartbreaking comic about robotically-augmented pets, is one of those books shouldn’t read on public transit if you don’t like people to see you cry, but the best sad comic I can think of is Hellboy: The Wolves of Saint August. It isn’t the saddest ever, but it packs a lot of punch in a pretty small package.
Hellboy started out good, but The Wolves of Saint August is where it tipped over into great, and it hasn’t faltered since. Kate Corrigan and Hellboy arrive in a town to investigate the supernatural, and quickly find themselves at the center of an ages old conflict. The story is your standard Hellboy tale (come to town, find a monster, punch it in the nose), but the addition of Kate makes all the difference.
Kate’s still a little green, so when she’s confronted with a ghostly young girl who appears out of nowhere, she reacts with compassion instead of hostility. The girl asks, “Why does God hate me?” and Kate replies, “Oh, sweetie. No. Nobody hates you.” Then you turn the page, the girl says four words, and it hits with all the impact of a punch to the stomach. Kate collapses, tears flooding from her eyes, and remains in darkness until Hellboy finds her.
I don’t want to ruin the reveal. It’s a good one, though. You could start reading Hellboy from this issue on and have a whale of a good time. The Wolves of Saint August is a sign of exactly how good Hellboy can be, and one of my hands down favorite single issues.
I’ve got to admit that I was skeptical. The Ultimates, as a concept, has had a hard time of it. Mark Millar’s big return to the series after Jeph Loeb’s turn felt like a lot of nothing. It was all sound and fury, signifying nothing. I’d written the franchise off as just being yet another art showcase until I finally got around to reading Hickman, Ribic, and White’s turn at bat. This new Ultimates, unbelievably clunky title aside, is pretty good. Hickman is digging into geopolitical strife, rewriting the map of the Marvel universe, and having some genuinely new fun with the Ultimate characters. Part of the potential of the Ultimate universe is seeing new versions of old characters performing different tricks. So far, Ultimates fits the bill.
Creative Team: Garon Tsuchiya (writer), Nobuaki Minegishi (artist), Kumar Sivasubramanian (translation), Kathryn Renta (letterer)
Platform: Dark Horse (iOS/web)
Format: Individual graphic novels
Oldboy is probably best known as the second installment of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, but it began life as a Japanese comic in the ’90s. Dark Horse recently made it available on their Dark Horse Digital service, and it’s totally worth reading. Shinichi Goto was locked up for ten years by an unknown person. When he finally gets out of his private prison, he’s driven to figure out who locked him up and why.
The result is a solid little story about a man getting used to being free after ten years of experiencing nothing but television and working out. Minegishi’s appealingly cartoony art (Goto’s nose!) makes something that should be horrifically traumatic a little more palatable, and you really feel it when he takes a drink with an old friend for the first time in a decade. Oldboy is a pretty good book that takes its time in fleshing out the mystery.