Hellsing volume 1

Hellsing volume 1Hellsing volume 1
Dark Horse Comics
by Kohta Hirano
BW, 208 pgs, $13.95 US / Higher in Canada

This action and gore-packed horror comic has just enough sly humour to take the edge off the guts and guns, putting this manga in the same territory as Trigun and Scryed. Both of those manga use both action and humour just like Hellsing, but those two series failed to put any sort of smile on my face. So, what’s the big diff, you wonder. Hellsing has two things going for it that those other two manga did not: 1. Outstanding art; 2. Wildly entertaining storytelling. Kohta Hirano is responsible for both.

I really enjoy the look of Hirano’s characters. Sure, the protagonist Alucard looks a lot like Vash from Trigun (I think it’s the red jacket, big gun and youthful, triangular face), but it’s hard to call one a knock off of the other considering the original manga ran alongside one another in Young King Ours. Where character designs of Trigun are inconsistent,  Hellsing’s are always striking and true to form. The police girl / vampire-in-training, is both sexy and scary. Alucard is both deadly and witty. I especially like the red scarf tied loosely and jauntily about his neck. For all his power and age, Alucard is a bit of a fashion plate.

Hellsing volume 1
Look at this image. That's Father Anderson. He's one cool, bad ass Catholic priest.

The real beauty of the art is in such details. Where Scryed and Trigun would lose detail and coherence in scenes of action, Hirano always maintains his vivid imagery. The scenes, therefore, flow from one another, allowing the story to progress through the images. Being able to follow the action makes for an intense read. This is important because there are lots of opportunities for action in Hellsing.

There’s an organization in England created to defend Queen and country from monsters. That agency is Hellsing, which has the knowledge, personnel and weaponry to handle the problems that arise when vampires and ghouls crawl out from the darkness. This organization’s most powerful weapon against these creatures is Alucard, a vampire souped up by generations of study and refinement by Hellsing. He’s got a big pistol filled with special silver bullets and enough ungodly will to destroy the most deadly of foes.

This certainly doesn’t sound like anything new in the world of manga, but Hirano fills his story with a number of fine nuances that elevates Hellsing above the other titles that share its genre. Hellsing, for instance, is a Protestant organization. It defends Britain from the likes of vampires. When Alucard is sent into Ireland, the actions of Hellsing catch the attention of the Vatican. They don’t like Protestants mucking about on Catholic soil and so they contact Father Anderson, a devout Irish Catholic priest. Wearing his priestly robes and gloves that bear the inscriptions “Speak with Dead” and “Jesus Christ is in Heaven”, Anderson confronts Alucard with swords and scripture.

I love this use of the antagonism between Protestant and Catholics. It’s clever, effective and adds history and political depth to the proceedings within this first volume. Father Anderson’s actions are seen as a direct attack on Hellsing and therefore on Protestants, which is in violation of an important religious treaty. The ramifications are sure to be felt throughout this series. Now Alucard will have to not only battle the undead, but also rogue Catholic agents. That’s just crazy ass fun. (Chad Boudreau)

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