Monday, January 1, 2018

Review - Koshchei: The Deathless #1 (@DarkHorseComics)


"I always felt bad about that--the dagger in the back. But I was very angry."

Hellboy does what he does very well. There are very few opponents where he's evenly matched and one of those opponents is Koshchei. In Koshchei: The Deathless #1 from Dark Horse Comics, that characters gets even more attention. The issue is written by Mike Mignola, illustrated by Ben Stenbeck, colored by Dave Stewart and lettered by Clem Robins.

Sent to kill Hellboy by the Baba Yaga in Darkness Calls, Koshchei the Deathless hinted at a long and tragic life before being enslaved to the Russian witch. Now Koshchei relives every horrible act on his road to immortality and beyond, with none other than Hellboy himself—in Hell.

Most (if not all) of the issue gives Mignola a chance to show readers a character in Koshchei that many readers may not be entirely familiar with. Koshschei is actually a very powerful character in the Hellboy universe and Mignola presents him in a way that demonstrates his ability to go up against any opponent--regardless of their stature and reputation. Mignola also knows that the Hellboy universe is one that relies on magic and his retelling of Koshschei's origin is one fraught will all sorts of different magical entities. There's a very cogent plot that runs through the issue (which isn't surprising considering Mignola's at the helm) that takes readers along for the ride as they explore those realms of magic. Mignola's dialogue is mostly narration, but it's very effective in terms of ensuring the reader knows the details to be able to understand what's going on.

Stenbeck has a very clear style that matches Mignola's work very well. His linework is clean and concise emphasizing Koshchei's brute strength in a way that empowers him to maintain his life when pitted against all manner of foe. The panels are arranged very cleanly with Stenbeck using that layout to move the story along a very formal line that moves the content of the tale to the forefront. The empty gutters further this effect and--save for some overlays here and there--give Stenbeck's artwork even more attention. Stewart's colors are largely darker and most of the panels are filled with blackness that does an excellent job of reinforcing a somewhat gothic atmosphere and tone.

Koshchei: The Deathless #1 is no-frills and straightforward, but it gives readers a glimpse into a character who's extremely powerful in the Hellboy universe. Koshchei has been put through the ringer in life, but that doesn't stop him from realizing he must keep on keeping on for survival's sake. Mignola's script is very engaging and paced well, mixing strong dialogue with an even more compelling tale. The artwork by Stenbeck brings with it the typical Stenbeck flair, in that it's delightfully macabre. Koshchei: The Deathless #1 is a great book for Hellboy fans, but it also proves accessible enough to new readers in its presentation and approach.

Koshchei: The Deathless #1 is available January 3.

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