In Review: Koshchei the Deathless #2

Ancient lore and supernatural creatures are Mignola's playground and we're lucky we get to see what he's doing.

The cover: Koshchei stands before a subterranean pool of water containing a very large dragon and several of its eggs. He looks so minuscule compared to the supernatural giant. The artwork is by Mike Mignola and the colors are by Dave Stewart. The dark and light greens make this a disturbing piece, as it seems that anything else could emerge from this dark setting to attack the title character. Just so cool. Overall grade: A

The story: Somewhere in Hell, Koshchei continues the tale of his origin for Hellboy. When last seen, Baba Yaga sent a monstrous flock of birds to kill all his men, save three. The quartet are now following a ball of magic string through the woods to find and kill dragons. The ball goes to a mountain man, covered in furs. One of Koshchei’s surviving fighters, Mishka, says something to the old man, whose eyes go entirely black as he growls. The man takes Koshchei away to speak privately with him, leaving Fyodor to say, “You go on. I’ve got my eye on a fat rabbit over there. By the time you come back–” This stirs the ire of the old man further, who says, “No. I am the Leshii and these woods are mine. Every living thing here is under my protection.” He reveals sharp teeth as he makes this proclamation. They leave, with Fyodor upset. Away from the trio, the Leshii gives some background about the man whose father was a fish and whose mother was a cow. It’s a really neat, bizarre tale from the deity of the woods, but what else would one expect in a tale crafted by Mike Mignola? In addition to this tale, the Leshii gives him a warning before revealing his true form. Unfortunately, one of Koshchei’s fighters can’t follow instructions. The survivors come upon a new character who in turn introduces them to a very sinister looking character. Where this individual leads the heroes comprises the rest of the book and I couldn’t turn pages quickly enough to see what happened next. Highlights include a discovery in the third panel on Page 13, a stupid action on 15, a tremendous reveal on 16, several reveals on 19, and the final character that arrives on 22. Ancient lore and supernatural creatures are Mignola’s playground and we’re lucky we get to see what he’s doing. Overall grade: A+

The art: The artwork of Ben Stenbeck is perfect for this book. He creates visuals that look familiar to anyone, such as forests, beasts, people of rural villages — they look great! But when the supernatural rears its head, which it does often in this book, it’s a ferocious and shocking change to the proceedings. Opening in a tavern in Hell, the building looks as though it could be set anywhere in the world, which is a slick way to begin this tale in a “normal” setting. The third panel on the first page shows the immediate aftermath of the birds’ attack, with bodies on the ground, tents torn, and feathers still falling. The shock on the humans’ faces is neat in the fourth panel. The woods that are introduced on the second page seem to be the stuff of fairy tales, though there’s something very ominous about the Leshii. The focus on single subjects on 4 and 5 make the tale seem more like a child’s bedtime story, which again distracts the reader for the surprise on 6. The way in which the bottom two panels on that page and the first three on the page that follows subtly tells a frightening story. The arrival of the new character on 9 is terrific and would be a jump scare in a film. The final setting of the book is spectacular — every panel holds the threat of something that will leap out of the darkness to harm the characters. Stenbeck’s work with bones is exceptional. Though there were no sounds for it, I swear I could hear the bones crunching under the characters’ feet with each step they took. What’s first shown in the lake is mesmerizing, which makes one character’s actions a complete surprise. The reveal on 16 and what occurs in the second panel create motion and horror brilliantly! The pages that follow had my heart racing. And in perfect fashion, just as I though the action was done, and I could breathe, the reveal on the final page had my heart racing again. Wow. Seriously, Stenbeck will wow you. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Dave Stewart’s colors really accentuate the book’s artwork. I love the dead colors for Hell, which goes against all modern interpretations of how Hell should be colored. The sick green sky that accompanies the birds’ killings make the aftermath disgusting. The use of red, beginning on 6 and 7, is a shocking color in this setting, and continues to shock when appearing later in the book. The final setting allows for sinister colors, with oranges and yellows for torches and fantastic shades to show how little light there is. Eerie greens return on 14 and instantly put the reader on edge. The lighter greens that 19 uses are excellent to age the individuals perfectly. The oranges in the penultimate panel are a fantastic visual way to tell the reader the battle is not over. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, scene settings, sounds, yells, and whispers are Clem Robins’s bread and butter for this issue. The dialogue is very easy to read, never once stepping on key elements of the panels. The sounds are huge, with those in the final battle spectacular; my favorite being SPLOT. The whispers by Robins deserve a special shout out (no pun intended). They are done under the breath by one character at the death that surrounds him and done by some characters that shouldn’t be able to speak. Their words are disturbing looking due to their size, which allows them sneak into the reader’s skin. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Koshchei the Deathless is full of life, but it sure will scare you to death in several ways. The twists and turns in this supernatural trek are fantastic. Recommended. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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