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Hellboy: The Ice Wolves by Mark Chadbourn

Hellboy: The Ice Wolves

by Mark Chadbourn

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I do like it when the book cover sells the story rather than the author although I think having 'Hellboy' written in red on the cover would have made it stand out a lot more.
The back cover got me to thinking as after the mandatory description of what the story was about there were two subtitles. The first was 'Praise For Mike Mignola's Hellboy'. There was a quote underneath the subtitle about Hellboy being a comic that has achieved a "higher literary level" but it was a general quote about Hellboy and not this novel. Then the next subtitle was 'Praise For Mark Chadbourn' and the quote underneath once again didn't mention this novel and could have been a quote about any book that Chadbourn had penned. As such my mind mused upon why this was so. Was this novel so awful that they couldn't get a direct quote praising it? There was only one way to find out and so I began reading.
There were four main story arcs running through this book and three of them had absolutely nothing to do with Hellboy. Let me break them down for you:

*A back story about Dan, arguably the main character in the story, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder after seeing a young child blown apart by a bomb while stationed in Iraq.
*The disappearance of Dan's mother, when he was a child, through mysterious circumstances which may, or may not have had something to do with William. William is Dan's estranged father and the emotional distance that exists between them, because of the disappearance of the mother, is also explored.
*The relationship between Dan and his girlfriend Lisa who love each other but cannot communicate that love due to the way life has shaped their emotional experiences.
*A gathering of werewolves that Hellboy has to find a way of eliminating. Yes! There's actually a story line that involves Hellboy in this Hellboy novel!

Back to the first of those plots if I may. When I pick up any fantasy novel, whether it Hellboy, Batman, Harry Dresden, Cal Leandros etc I am reading such a novel to take me out of life. For me, at least, these types of novels are a form of escapism in that they transport me to worlds that can never be and tell stories that capture the imagination and make me forget about the bills I can't pay, the wars going on, and the all the bad things that seep into everyday life. Now, as much respect as I have for the brave people that make up our military and as horrific and disturbing as wars are I don't wish to be dragged back into that world when reading a Hellboy novel or any other fantasy novel for that matter. There's a time and a place for everything, if you will, and being reminded about the atrocities of the Iraqi war in a Hellboy novel really doesn't sit well with me.
The part of the second storyline that involves the disappearance of the mother is a complete farce. The reason for this is that on the very last page of the novel Dan gets a letter from his dad explaining the disappearance. The problem is the reader is never made privy to the contents of the letter and so after having the disappearance rammed down our throats throughout the book we never get a conclusion and I consider that to be very poor storytelling. It was as if the author couldn't think up of a good enough explanation and so decided not to explain at all.
The relationship between Dan and Lisa is the standard "friends who have deeper feelings for each other" scenario and plays out okay so I had no major qualms with that thread of the story.
As for the actual Hellboy vs Ice Wolves, which are actually werewolves, story it was unique in that it mostly took place in a haunted house with different time shifts leading the characters into various points throughout time. However, the characterization of Hellboy wasn't great and it read like the author wasn't really a fan but someone who researched Hellboy for the sake of writing the novel and never really got a grip of who Hellboy is and what he is about. As such you could take Hellboy out of this novel, substitute him with John Doe, and it wouldn't make that much of a difference to the story.
Overall I was thankful to have a Hellboy novel to read, in what is now a barren landscape where Hellboy in prose is concerned, but it wasn't a great read and was left disappointed and yearning for something better. ( )
  BookMarcBlogpants | Nov 12, 2010 |
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In Cancun, Mexico, police investigate a slaughter at a wedding ceremony. In Dublin, Ireland, the clientele of a backstreet pub are found dead. In Kyoto, Japan, the bullet train pulls into the station with blood-spattered windows. It is the time of the Black Sun. Across the world, the wolves are calling to each other. Locked in bodies that had no idea they were there, they rise from the depths of the unconscious and turn towards America . . . For Hellboy, it's a race against time to prevent a devastating wave of primal savagery washing across the land. And so he is drawn to Boston's Beacon Hill and the Grant Mansion, believed to be the most haunted house in New England, where the truth may lie buried.… (more)

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