Remember how, earlier in this decade, Duncan Fegredo's work was being completely wasted on the abysmal "Ultimate Adventures" comic by Ron Zimmerman? Even back then, Fegredo's artistry almost made that comic worth reading. In "Hellboy: The Wild Hunt," Fegredo's work looks even better, and coupled with Mike Mignola's majestically sad story, this is a comic that you simply must read.
In his Hellboy work, Fegredo spots blacks like Mignola but still maintains his own storytelling habits. It's Mignola filtered through Fegredo's sensibility, and I like it just as much as Mignola's own work on the character (and since Mignola is one of the best artists to ever work in comics, that's saying a lot). And as a writer, what Mignola mostly does is get out of Fegredo's way; he doesn't overwhelm the story with narrative captions the way he used to do in the early Hellboy stories.
Actually, that over-written, over-captioned tendency does rear its leaden head in the back up story, illustrated by Guy Davis. Mignola and Davis give us a six-page "How Koshchei Became Deathless" story at the end of this issue, and though it's always nice to see Davis's work, and though we might need to know more about Koshchei in the future, the story seems to accentuate the weaker elements of the Hellboy franchise (a reliance on telling over showing, too many arcane explanations of things we don't really need to know everything about). The back-up story continues next issue, and perhaps it serves an important purpose in the overall narrative, but it pales next to the Mignola/Fegredo collaboration that fills most of this issue.
"Hellboy: The Wild Hunt" #2 opens with an assault on Hellboy (who had been lured into a trap at the end of issue #1), and almost immediately Hellboy gets knocked unconscious and awakens to find his attackers dead. It's a nice bit of storytelling, as we learn only that "the giants are still near" and we have to image the bloody slaughter that occurred off panel. And when we meet the giants, and see them in their Fegredo-illustrated glory, we know that Hellboy's journey will become more than difficult.
There's a great scene where Hellboy tries to sneak by the giants with a charm of invisibility, but makes it only halfway through before he realizes, hey, he's Hellboy! So he drops the charm with an "ah, screw it," and unleashes on the big baddies.
That's only the opening sequence, and the issue then turns to the sad tale of Gruagach the transformed. Something is being set up for future issues here, though I'm not exactly sure what. But the Fegredo artwork looks amazing thoughout, even when Hellboy's not around to liven things up.
"Hellboy: The Wild Hunt" shows a Mignola comfortable with his fictional world. His writing seems less restrained, and his stories more expansive. This is Hellboy comics the way they were always meant to be, tinged with a pathos but not overburdened with seriousness.