Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
One sharp Sword.
Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms is the first of two animated films based on Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. While these films opt for a more traditional animation style instead of a direct lift of Mignola’s trademark dark colors and ragged lines (as seen in the shorter animated The Amazing Screw-On Head, which shares Sword of Storms' DVD release date), they feature the same voice talent as Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy feature film. Ron Perlman returns as the titular heroic hellspawn, Selma Blair is once again the cute pyrokinetic Liz Sherman (although she seems to be somewhat younger in this edition) and, in an interesting twist, Doug Jones plays Abe Sapien. This is interesting because Jones was the physical actor playing Abe Sapien in del Toro’s film, but had his voie redubbed by Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce – however, rumor has it that Jones will be providing both the voice and body work in the upcoming feature sequel, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.

Sword of Storms is a nice addition to the Hellboy mythos, although ‘addition’ might be pushing the term a little. Mignola’s general ‘open sandbox’ policy to his work enables the continuity for each media type to be different – so the animated films establish a canon of their own, which is allowed to diverge from the canon of the regular films, which is different from the canon of the comics, which is different from the canon of the paperback novels. As a result, it’s sometimes difficult to tell if Hellboy and Sherman have a romantic involvement, if Hellboy’s father figure Professor Bloom is alive or dead… A unified timeline across the different media types could have gone a long way towards turning Hellboy into a full transmedia property, increasing the drive for fans of one media type to explore the franchise’s installments in the others. Instead, there is a scene here which was lifted directly out of an earlier Hellboy comic, which is interesting to see animated, but otherwise feels like a rerun.

Still, Sword of Storms has moments of beautiful, if simplistic, animation – for example, a flashback scene depicting a battle in ancient Japanese mythology is done with touches similar to calligraphic brushstrokes. There are also moments of clever humor, such as a scene where the otherwise human Liz Sherman’s remarks on how her pyrokinetic powers make her a monster send the monstrous-looking Hellboy and Abe Sapien into stitches. Another chuckle comes when a new agent at the BPRD (presumably installed here to serve as a device to bring new audience members up to speed) blanches at some stories of previous adventures, which leads Abe Sapien to cry, “You made the newbie face!” Childish, perhaps, but still funny.

In short, Sword of Storms is fun and instilled with the same blend of wry, dark humor and classic mythology that makes the Hellboy franchise so entertaining. Definitely a worthwhile addition to any Mignola fan’s collection.

Hellboy: Sword of Storms and The Amazing Screw-On Head will both be released on DVD on February 6, 2007.

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