Mike Mignola’s Koshchei the Deathless is enthralling. It’s a tale with the weight and humanity of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It tells the tale of Koshchei who recently killed Hellboy. Ironically, it begins in Hell with an intent Hellboy wanting to hear Koshchei’s story. This is a mythology that feels like it has roots well beyond the story being told, that each character is given life beyond the panels of the pages. Not just from a storytelling standpoint, but from a visual perspective, as well. I want to soak it all in.
Koshchei was a great soldier. His fellow soldiers didn’t appreciate that much and decided to teach him a lesson by beating him almost to death and leaving him in the woods, bleeding out. A man found him in the woods and told him he would save his life if Koshchei become his servant for 9 years. That man turns out to be a dragon, and Korshchei’s quest begins. I mean, what a freaking awesome way to begin a journey!
Koshchei’s story becomes more involved from there; every turn in his life is one of high drama, each step pushing him further and further away from his humanity, and the solution to finding his humanity again is an adventure I’m looking forward to.
Like some other fandoms, I’m not as educated in Mignola’s universe. In fact, my only real experience is with the Guillermo del Toro films. (The first was okay, and the second was great.) As I step further into Mignola’s actual worlds, I’m becoming more and more of a fan. If you’ve never read any of Mignola’s work, this feels like a fantastic jumping-on point. The story is clearly set up, and it’s an origin story of a unique and well-written character.
The art by Ben Stenbeck feels like it could have been pulled from an ancient tome. I love Mignola’s style, and Stenbeck lives in the world nicely, alongside the brilliant Dave Stewart on colors . . . just brilliant. You feel like you’re stepping into another world. As much as I love Guillermo del Toro, I hope the new Hellboy film embraces this artistic vision and that we will see an expanded universe with these mythic character brought to the screen. Even if they aren’t, they are here now for you to enjoy. You don’t need a film to love a comic book.