I wasn’t kidding about rereading all the Hellboy comics. And out of all the early Hellboy stories, this is easily the most important.

In the first Hellboy collection Seed of Destruction Mike Mignola introduced us to Hellboy, the world’s greatest paranormal detective, in an adventure full of ghosts, monsters and hints of an epic story waiting in the wings. Wake the Devil is a worthy sequel, but that’s not why you should read it.

Wake the Devil is the book where Mike Mignola couldn’t hold it in any longer. He obviously had a lot of ideas when he started crafting the story behind Hellboy, and they start spilling out all over the place here. Vampires, Hecate, secret destinies, homonculi, Nazis, Nazi heads…this book doesn’t “have it all” it has “it all, and then some.”

Picking up themes from Hellboy’s first major story, this feels very much like the next step. While it starts off as if just another adventure, it very quickly becomes something much more.We see the B.P.R.D. expanded, get some new characters, lose most of them and are left with a lot to think about. What does Rasputin know that he isn’t sharing? What is the cosmic apocalypse he refers to, and how does it involve creatures of myth and folklore like Hecate and Baba Yaga? This is the book where we learn…none of those answers. But it is the book where we first realize the scope of the story, and that we better get ready for the long haul, because this tale is going to take a while. And that’s perfect.

Not to mention the idea of Hitler having a secret meeting with the possible template for Dracula and possibly developing plans to build an army of vampires to win World War 2 is awesome.

One of my favorite things about this book is that Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien are handled so well as supporting characters that are just lacking the opportunity to shine. They help humanize both Hellboy the character and Hellboy the comic.

So why should you read this book? Well, if you liked the first one, then you should read this, obviously. It’s more of everything you liked the first time, but turned up to 11. More mythology, more monster fights, more crazy Nazi science and plenty of crazy you didn’t see in mainstream comics before Mignola. The art is to die for, Mignola’s writing starts becoming the sparse, tonally perfect dialogue associated with Hellboy comics. It’s funnier, creepier and just about perfect. This is quite possibly Mignola’s best work. Completely auteured, with writing and art perfectly matched, there isn’t a page of this book that isn’t art all by itself.

  But the reason why you should read this is because it’s probably the best example of seeing an awesome comic made, fueled entirely by its creator’s love of the material. This is where we see Hellboy start to leave his “occult superhero” origins and begin to become a place where Mr. Mignola can celebrate the things he loves. Horror, Lovecraftian insanity, pulp heroes, history… If you read this, I highly recommend that you have the internet handy. There is a lot you may want to learn more about from the Women of Thessaly, to medieval Hungarian history. Don’t mistake my meaning, his later work is excellent and his talent only increases, but this really seems like the story he had to tell. It’s quiet in all the right places, and you will get lost in it and speed read through it all at the same time. If I could only recommend one Hellboy collection in a do-or-die, Hail Mary pass to try and turn someone onto the series, this would have to be it. It’s the perfect mix of horror, adventure, style and fun.

By now you should have finished Seed of Destruction, the story that gave us Hellboy. Now you need to go read the story where Hellboy becomes a life long “must read”: Wake the Devil.