Lisa Bee’s #CBR5 Review #51: Hellboy, vol. 4 – The Right Hand of Doom by Mike Mignola

Hellboy 4I don’t really know why I’ve found myself liking Hellboy so much lately, but I really do enjoy him as a character a lot, as well as how Mike Mignola uses dark folklore tales as the basis of his short, episodic stories, just changing them slightly to suit the world of Hellboy. And there are always little explanations from Mignola as to where the stories came from, which I find to be incredibly interesting. Then again, I have a thing for supernatural lore being used in different works, if just in influence, or being reinvented in a new way, and The Right Hand of Doom definitely follows the pattern of Hellboy’s past volumes in that it plays little installments from his life involving different paranormal threats, which may or may not be connected to a bigger picture. I really enjoy it, but I know that some people aren’t into that kind of thing, just like how I like the somewhat less-detailed nature of Mignola’s drawings, which makes them almost seem more moody and dark (heeeeey, early expressionism, nice of you to drop by), while others enjoy more detail. Really I have been finding the Hellboy series to be one of those things that if you like it, you like it quite a lot, but if you don’t, then you are indifferent to it and just don’t see the appeal. 

In any case, a breakdown of all the different stories involved in The Right Hand of Doom can be found here.

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Sara Habein’s #CBR5 Reviews #23-27: Strayed, Martin, Attenberg, Shaprio, Mignola & Golden

tiny-beautiful-things-sugar-strayedTiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Sugar is magic. Cheryl Strayed’s online (and originally anonymous) alter-ego has a way of dispensing advice that speaks directly to one’s core. Through the questions posed to her about love, lust, and loneliness, she tells stories about her own life that are a blow to the chest. Her honesty is wrapped in gentle, hard truths that are applicable beyond the specific question-writer.

Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of many of the columns that originally appeared on The Rumpus, as well as several previously unpublished questions. Strayed also talks a bit about the how/why she decided to take on this writing gig, and also her thought process leading into shedding Sugar’s anonymity. Even though I had already read many of the columns when they first posted, going over them again felt nearly as potent. This book is a lovely addition for anyone who has ever asked, Am I okay?

StoriesForBoys_CoverStories For Boys: A Memoir by Gregory Martin

I read this touching memoir in one sitting. Beginning with the suicide attempt of his father, Gregory Martin discovers why the man who raised him has reached this point. Not only was his father sexually abused as a child, but he has also been a closeted gay man throughout the entirety of his 39 year marriage. He has admitted to Martin’s mother that he has sought out “hundreds” of unknown partners at parks and rest stops while traveling and while the rest of the family slept at home. Because they lived in Spokane, Washington, the settings were very familiar to me, having myself lived there for several years.

Though the book focuses on Martin’s perspective and not his father’s, this isn’t a simple story of “troubled man comes out” — this is about a father and a son having to navigate an almost entirely new relationship. It’s an interesting exploration of memory, identity, and empathy, and I’m glad I read it.

(Full Disclosure: Hawthorne Books provided me with the e-book for review.)

middlesteins-jami-attenbergThe Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

I’ve followed Jami Attenberg’s work online for several years now, but I must admit that this is the first novel of hers that I’ve read (a gap I plan to remedy soon). The Middlesteins is, so far, also her most successful book, and for good reason. She has written a family saga that feels very grounded in reality, centered around matriarch Edie. Edie cannot stop eating or obsessing over food, and it is severely affecting her health. Her husband, Richard, after decades of marriage, leaves her, and now her adult children are wondering how they can care for her and process their parents’ split, all while managing their own complicated lives.

One of the things I loved about the book is that Attenberg does not write caricatures. In the hands of lesser writers, a character like Edie could have dissolved into one-dimensional stereotype, but she is a whole person full of humor and love. The other family members, with all their quirks and problems, receive the same honest treatment. Though the plot deals with serious subject matter, it’s also a very funny book.

the-art-forger-shapiroThe Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

I picked up this novel on whim from the new books section at the library, and it was a lovely surprise. Using the real life art heist from the Isabella Gardner Museum in 1990, B.A. Shapiro has created a fictionalized story about a disgraced painter, Claire, who has been asked by a famous gallery owner to copy a Degás — the same Degás stolen from the museum. However, the more time Claire spends with this ill-begotten painting, the more she suspects that it may also be a forgery.

Because I’m a sucker for heist stories and because I’m quite interested in visual art, I enjoyed unraveling the mystery of what had really happened during the time of the theft and in the 19th century when the painting was originally created. There’s a whole side-plot about why Claire has a poor reputation in the art world that is also quite interesting, and though I could work out some of the twists on my own, the complete ending still held plenty of surprises.

father-gaetano-mignolaFather Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

A friend recommended this novella for our book club selection, and I’m so pleased that she did because I’m not sure it would have otherwise crossed my attention. Set during WWII, Father Gaetano is assigned as the sole priest in a small Sicilian village, where not only must he conduct every mass, he must also see after the spiritual care of the many orphans who are now living at the church. To better engage the children in their catechism lessons, he brings up an old puppet set from the basement. What he doesn’t know is that the puppets believe that the stories are real, and after dark they appear without strings. What happens next is a series of disturbing events that affect everyone involved, all while subtly mirroring the national turmoil surrounding the village.

Though I am not well-versed in Catholic symbolism, I found Father Gaetano utterly compelling. Told from the points-of-view of the priest, a nun, and one sensitive boy who lives there, we are able to understand different ways how one can question their faith, and how they react when bravery is required. It’s a quick read interspersed with dark illustrations, and is yet another example of my need to occasional widen my reading repertoire.

(This post originally appeared on Persephone Magazine.)

Lisa Bee’s #CBR5 Review #30: Hellboy vol. 3 – The Chained Coffin and Others by Mike Mignola

Hellboy 3The third trade volume of Mike Mignola’s Helloboy series isn’t all that connected with the over-arching plot and story of Hellboy, but is more so a presentation of various little events throughout Hellboy’s career as a paranormal detective. Essentially, The Chained Coffin and Others is a collection of short stories, all featuring different ancient folk-tales, but with the twist of Hellboy eventually becoming involved in them. While it may have been nice to continue where we left off in the previous volume of the series, Wake the Devil, to find out more about Hellboy and the ominous “purpose” that he was awoken for, this volume is still fun and enjoyable, mostly to do with the fact that the character of Hellboy is just as strong as ever: he is powerful and seemingly indestructible, and his nonchalance about the serious situations he gets himself into really draws you to him as a good-spirited individual, though it is clear that he does care for people, despite his seemingly casual nature. If you couldn’t tell, I personally just love Hellboy, as I find him to be a really positive and amusing character.

For a brief rundown of each of the 7 short stories included in this collection, my full review of The Chained Coffin and Others can be found on my blog.

Lisa Bee’s #CBR5 Reviews #24-25: Hellboy, Volumes 1 and 2 by Mike Mignola

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction Hellboy: Wake the DevilSeeing as I read Seed of Destruction and Wake the Devil (the first two volumes of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series) back to back, I might as well review them as one, especially since they basically just compound on top of one another in following the same paranormal threat and mystery surrounding the beast that is Hellboy.

In all honesty, before starting this series, the only thing I knew about Hellboy was that there was a movie made about him a few years back with Ron Perlman, and master-of-makeup-and-costume-acting Dough Jones as some fishy thing? And Hellboy is super strong and almost like a rock or something? But you go to the odd convention here and there and hear Mike Mignola’s name being spouted around by people, and suddenly stumble upon this book and think, “Hey, why not?” And what a good random read this has turned out to be. Maybe the art is not as detailed as some might like (personally, I like things a little more minimal, and the drawings of Hellboy himself are totally entrancing to me), but the story is multifaceted in its complications and historical implications. In fact, you just scratch the surface with Seed of Destruction, which becomes apparent once you hit Wake the Devil, and the depth of the whole business of who Hellboy is and what he was made for becomes all the more elusive, despite the teases put out there for the reader to grab on to.

My full joint-reviews for Seed of Destruction and Wake the Devil can be found here.