Koshchei the Deathless ends this week, completing a journey that reveals the backstory of one of Hellboy’s greatest foes. They’ve both been hanging in a bar of Hell chatting up how Koshchei got there and in this issue, we learn what was really going on when they both came to blows.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Koshchei retells his final encounters with the Baba Yaga, and he and Hellboy part ways.
Why does this matter?
Mike Mignola and Ben Stenbeck have made magic with this series while showing it in action. The story has a folktale feel that weaves in and out of ancient stories and even older characters. The story has been revealing too, basically showing how Koshchei isn’t the blind evil villain but a tragic character.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Hellboy fans who have held off reading this series will need to buy this book. He’s not only a major facet of this issue and its flashbacks, but we also get a different angle on some key battles he’s had with Koshchei. Hellboy’s part in this story has always been a bit fuzzy since he barely speaks, but it becomes quite clear by the end what his purpose is in Koshchei’s retelling of his hard life.
This issue also dives a bit into Hellboy lore that I wasn’t aware of. Take for instance a strange gargoyle-like character that Koshchei comes across looking for a river of blood. That character ends up being Hellboy’s sister. We also get a play by play of each battle between Hellboy and Koshchei which helps remind readers of the different forms Koshchei took in their altercations.
Stenbeck draws yet another great issue with plenty of creatures, creepy atmospheric moments, and quite a lot of fight scenes with Hellboy. The art is paced well with pages ranging from three to six panels, but most keeping it down to three to five. Dave Stewart’s colors are fantastic as always, adding a mystical nature to scenes. There are creepy trees in this issue that are the perfect color of grey and brown that almost seem alive.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I need to read this collection in one sitting because as it stands the pace and focus of this issue seem way off from what was built up in earlier chapters. There are small scenes that seem to suggest we may see a character or an idea later–maybe this series is revealing the past while setting up the future–but it meanders a bit and changes its focus. Since this issue focuses on the battles between Koshchei and Hellboy, the focus is less on Koshchei’s personal struggle even though he ends the issue talking about it. This chapter serves as one of those clip shows with some added scenes thrown in which seems to do a disservice to the overall plot of the series.
Is it good?
It’s a sad day when a series as good as this one ends. There will be some joy in rereading it all in one sitting, but Mignola and Stenbeck have done a wonderful job with this imaginative, creepy, and at times a moving story.