Mike Mignola and artist Ben Stenbeck have been making magic with their Koshchei the Deathless series in more ways than one. Magic does indeed get used in the series, but it’s also a compelling drama about an old world where monsters and ghosts live among us and the creation of Earth itself has a different beginning. Issue #3 comes out this week and its fairy tale storytelling style continues to be a delight.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Koshchei tells Hellboy of the last dragon, a kingdom terrorized by an avian creature, and the tragic choices he had to make in the Baba Yaga’s service.
Why does this matter?
Issue number 1 was perfect. Number 2 wasn’t far behind. Mike Mignola’s universe continues to flesh out interesting characters and this series is yet another instant classic. Koschei is dead now, telling his story to Hellboy in Hell, but his tale is one of sorrow and regret. He may have been a bad man, but this story reveals why he should be redeemed. Well, at least a little bit.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
My main gripe with this series is actually a strength in this issue which is namely Hellboy’s purpose in the story. So far he comes in and out to remind us Koshchei is telling the tale to Hellboy, but in this issue, Hellboy gives ample responses that add weight to the terribleness of Koshchei’s choices. As he details who he killed and why cutting to Hellboy gives the appropriate effect of, “Well damn dude” we all might be thinking, but is hammered home well.
The previous two issues did well to flesh out Koshchei’s rise to power and eventual destruction of the dragons and this issue carries that forward in a natural way, fleshing out his acquisition of magic and his eventual rule amongst humans. As the story unfolds Mignola reveals more information about the creation of mankind and even weaves in a monster, not unlike Medusa in its ability to kill, but way creepier looking. As with the previous issues the story so far has a folktale vibe that is rich in history and lore, keeping you turning the pages with great anticipation.
Stenbeck’s art, with Dave Stewart’s color, continues to be dazzling. Dark rooms filled with monsters and ghosts–some with creepy orange eyes–are highlights you’ll linger on. The style is clean and pleasant to look at while the story is well paced and even. Character acting is fabulous too and Koshchei’s despair is never missed, while Hellboy’s reactions to the story are genuine and realistic looking.
Sweet name for a bar.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The first few pages slow down the ramped up action scene in a somewhat unnatural way. Koshchei decides to take out the last dragon his own way, which makes his fellow soldiers agreeing to stand down hard to believe. It’s there to suit the plot and may have been handled a bit better. A minor gripe to say the least.
Is It Good?
I can’t get enough of the characters, the art, and the deep folktale roots Mignola’s story has. This is a supernatural fairy tale that’s hard to put down.