Folklore and legend are rich with plenty of ghouls, gods and monsters that fit nicely into the “Hellboy” universe. And “Hellboy: Sword of Storms/Blood & Iron” deals with some of the supernatural nasties in a pair of animated spinoff adventures. These two stories are solid if not brilliant, and they have plenty of Hellboy quips, weird creatures, and a healthy splattering of gore, fire and magic.
In “Blood and Iron,” the BPRD is asked to investigate a haunted mansion, and Professor Broom insists that Liz, Hellboy, Abe and himself go on the mission. Though the hype-happy owner is only interested in using the investigation to make money, the place is really haunted — bluish ghosts drift around, statues weep, and a witches’ magic circle is on the floor.
It soon becomes obvious that a pair of harpy-witches are trying to resurrect the evil Erzsebet Ondrushko, a horrendous vampire who was abducting young girls so she could bathe in their blood. Decades ago, Professor Broom defeated her and seemingly killed her. Now with Abe captured by the hags, Liz and Broom are in a race against time to stop the vampire’s resurrection — and even if they succeed, there’s still their witch-goddess Hecate, whom Hellboy must somehow stop.
And in “Sword of Storms,” first the team ventures into a green, slimy, root-filled underground temple, where they must battle an ancient bat-deity and a small army of Aztec mummies. Then to the main plot — a history professor receives an ancient scroll that tells the story of the demonic brothers Thunder and Lightning, and a doomed love between a princess and a young samurai. And when the professor finds the samurai’s sword — surprise! — he gets possessed by the demons.
But when the BPRD is called in, Hellboy touches the sword as well — and is sucked into a bizarre otherworld full of monsters, ghosts and magical creatures. In the meantime, Abe and Liz are caught in a typhoon that strands them in the middle of nowhere — and it turns out that dragons are on the way. To save civilization, Hellboy must not only escape from the otherworld of Japenese legend, but also deal with the demons and ghosts….
“Hellboy: Sword of Storms” and “Hellboy: Blood and Iron” are somewhat different beasts from the movies made by Guillermo del Toro — they have some characters and plots that were from the original Mike Mignola comics, and the art is more reminiscent of those. They’re fun additions to the Hellboy mythos, but they do have some flaws in there (the pallid ghostly romance in “Sword of Storms,” which is utterly unegaging because we don’t know or care about these people).
They are also quite different from each other — “Sword of Storms” is a very straightforward and simple storyline that travels along two parallel paths, while “Blood and Iron” branches out into multiple storylines (and even goes backward!). And they have plenty of dark facets — gore, slime, thunderstorms, creepy forests, haunted mansions and the various monsters that arise, ranging from harpies to headless goblins. And the writers do a pretty good job adding in that little humorous edge to the stories as well (“He really likes cucumbers… WHAT IS YOUR NAME?!”).
Ron Perlman’s vocals make this Hellboy absolutely perfect — he’s sarcastic but good-hearted (“You’re lucky we let you be seen with us!”), practical, and usually ends up dealing with all the messy stuff. Doug Jones provides an intellectual slant as the resourceful, mellow fish-man Abe, and Selma Blair has a little trouble bringing the sharp-witted pyrokinetic Liz to life. And John Hurt gets to be the star of “Blood and Iron,” where Professor Broom comes face to face with an old nemesis.
“Hellboy: Sword of Storms/Blood and Iron” have a few flaws, but they are solid animated adventures with plenty of monsters and dark twists. Just remember: These are definitely not for kids.