Top positive review
Hellboy in Hell: The Charles Atlas Edition!
Reviewed in the United States on November 17, 2017
I'm kind of a Hellboy outsider, but I fell in love with ‘Hellboy: The First 20 Years’, a fabulous collection of Mignola's covers and other artwork, and it made me realize I wanted to read more Mignola-drawn Hellboy stories. I started with ‘Conqueror Worm’, because I'd heard it was the last arc he'd drawn himself, but I didn't care for it. The subject matter and story just didn't connect with me, and even the artwork seemed a bit dated compared to his more recent work. It dawned on me that ‘Hellboy In Hell’ was where I needed to start.
I read the trade paperbacks first. The covers of the trades (w/muted green and blue-grey backgrounds) are particularly attractive, I think. I'm not such a fan of the library edition covers; they're stylized but uninteresting. But I realized that I appreciated the oversized format of ‘The First 20 Years’, and that the library edition of ‘Hellboy In Hell’ might ultimately be more satisfying. When I saw that its extras included tonal versions of the ‘painted’ pages from “The Hounds of Pluto” (issue #7), that pushed it over the edge. (Plus: A short comic by Katie and Mike Mignola, “The Magician and The Snake”, that may help connect some dots regarding the book's ending.)
At this point, I think I've read the whole H-in-H series twice, and many of the plot points have become clearer as a result. The beauty is that even if you miss a few details the first time around, it's a still a beautiful work and an enjoyable read. Personally, I probably get the most out of Mignola's attempts at visualizing the landscapes of Hell, which are much more varied than I'd have imagined. We're introduced to many of these settings early on, and then later in the series their relationships and mapping are made clearer by several characters. I think the series gets even better in its second half. “The Trials of Dr. Hoffman” might be my favorite issue, but the return of the demon and his grandmother (from “The Three Gold Whips”) in the series' finale was also very effective. The ending itself was a bit elliptical; I still don't know what the final scene means, but that's OK.
About the Library Edition: It's massive! It's not as large as an Artist's Edition, but it's big, thick, and heavy. You'll probably have to rest the book on your lap or a desk to read it. If you're nearsighted like I am, this makes it harder to read than a trade paperback, due to distance. (These books would be much easier to handle at half their length—in other words, published singly, just like the trades. I wonder why they're doubled up?) Interestingly, the book's proportions do not match the trades; they're a bit wider, with greater margins at the sides. The margins give each page more breathing room and make it feel more separate (as opposed to being part of a two-page spread). Meanwhile, the book's larger scale places more emphasis on individual panels and artwork, encouraging lingering over details rather than just reading through the page. The proportions also demand alternative croppings for full-bleed panels: Here and there, you'll see bits of artwork along the sides that you won't see in the trade, while other bits may be missing at the top or bottom.
My advice: If you're looking to improve muscle tone with high repetitions, get the trade paperbacks. If you want to bulk up and build some serious muscle mass, get the library edition (and some protein powder). Either way is a good choice. Just get out there and exercise.
Finally, an observation: When it comes to shipping, Amazon have no idea how to package. My book was tossed into an oversized box with some "water-wing" style polybags thrown on top of it. There was nothing to prevent the book from shifting and sliding and getting damaged along any of its four edges, and no cushioning for the back side. I'm very lucky it arrived unscathed. The book itself was shrinkwrapped (by Dark Horse), which prevented scuffing. Thankfully, Amazon allows you to provide packaging feedback for every order.