The military, once again, is charged to go above and beyond the call of duty when a senator's daughter is kidnapped. SEAL Team 666 is called in when the kidnapper appears to be a giant sea monster.
Rapid firing military argot, precise munitions details, and procedural and gagdet-gear acronyms galore, Weston Ochse struts his literary military might with gusto, creating a fast moving, chupacabra slugfest against a very smelly rotting-skin-coat wearing cult called Followers of the Flayed One, the Los Zetas Cartel, and enough Mexican demons to let the blood and bullets flow and fly.
At no point, however, does Ochse let us even remotely think SEAL Team 666's dry-humored gun-toting whipcords of American might may be overwhelmed or ill-prepared for the job, and that's a suspense-killer. With a final showdown beneath Mexico City, and a demon-driven return to the human sacrifices of the Aztecs taxing their limits, the expecation that all hell would break loose at any moment never materializes.
Instead, his stalwart soldiers carry on, figuring it out and planning for the worst as they go, but always with a gung ho attitude that never says die. When one of their own is possessed by a dog-like demon (that barks a lot), in service of the more powerful evil force orchestrating events, they stick to their operations protocols and dutifully work it into their schedule. This would be a complete drama-downer if Ochse didn't razzle-dazzle with his steady attention to that doing it by the book, then deviating a little here and there to intersperse short background breaks for his men that provide more character depth than their precision, training-driven action allows for. It's a wonder how he keeps his novel from becoming completely formula-driven even while it relies heavily on that formula.
So let's call this one at being a light thriller with good characterizations, the expected but still effective dialog that's in keeping with those characters, and a storyline that's part pulp action, part military-jargon mystifying, and overall quite satisfying because he structures enough supernatural and human mayhem along with plausible (werewolves aside) genre complexity that doesn't require us to read a field operations manual first to make Age of Blood entertaining.
But we may just want to read that manual afterwards because he's sparked our interest.
I'm not sure if this is the Mexican lobby card for The Call of the Savage, 1935. I doubt it is, but that's the only movie with Dorothy Short that's listed in IMDb that remotely connects to this title. Actor John Bently does not appear in the IMDb or Wikipedia databases, so I can't cross match with him. Any ideas, please let me know.
Fabian Gray is a man possessed with both a mission and coterie of five ghosts: the wizard, the archer, the detective, the samurai, and the vampire. As you would imagine, this gives him a leg up--or ten legs up?--above and beyond his usual tenacious and resourceful self.
These wonderful reasoning and fighting abilities channeled through the ghosts were given to him by the Dreamstone, an ancient artifact--let's be polite and just say--he acquired . So what if Fabian Gray isn't all that clean and proper in his background? His ethics now seem to be on the up and up, so that counts.
But there are always complications when great power belongs to one man and others would have at it for themselves. Coming after it, and Fabian, are dark forces led by the devilish-looking Iago, a few big nasy spider-god things and their determined worshippers, and, as one character lays it out for him, "as with all things Mystical, there is a risk of danger."
But of course. Cue the drama. The Dreamstone itself is becoming a dangerous burden. Fabian needs to prove he's worthy to wield such power or it won't allow him to keep it. Isn't it annoying how that always winds up being the case?
Frank J. Barbiere's story is old-time movie serial paced (for you younger fans that means it's a lot like Indiana Jones in characterization and style), and the artwork is the Joe Kubert school of action and outline as energized by Chris Mooneyham. This team-up works hard and well to deliver the blow by blow encounters and the compact panels to build to a satisfying climax that leaves the door open for more rousing adventures.
And before I forget, there's the big eye-glasses wearing, steadfast but reluctant, why-do-I-continue-to-hang-out-with-you sidekick to provide contrast and levity throughout in key moments of terror. A dip in the purity pool for Fabian to fight old guilt demons rounds out his mysterious past, and a continuing thread to bring salvation to his sister promises there will be a mission within each mission goal to sustain the series.
Given all this, I'd say Fabian Gray easily has more than a ghost of a chance for adventuring onward.
There's magic to be found at the circus. Mischief, too. Especially when creepy clowns bang noisy drums in the middle of the night down dark, lonely roads to attract the attention of little boys. Little hellboys, that is.
Mike Mignola (story) and Duncan Fegredo (art) provide the mischief, and colorist Dave Stewart adds the sinister atmosphere in this short graphic novel that takes place when Hellboy's too young to smoke, but old enough to be tempted to burn.
He's also too energetic to be cooped up in the dusty confines of the Paranormal Research and Defense Headquarters, circa 1948, so he sneaks out in the dead of night to grab a puff or two. But something else is looking to grab him instead.
Also sneaking about, "from the clock strikes midnight...to the fearful crack of dawn" is a creepy circus with strange animals and stranger attractions, which would give Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show serious competition.
Enticing him into the wondrous rings of the big tent is a mysterious ringmaster with nefarious plans, and his daughter, who also has a few sinister plans of her own. Both father and daughter have a hellish time seeing eye to eye, but each one has their eyes dead set on the little red hellion with a promising future: for evil or good.
We know which way they'd like to see him go even if he doesn't. In turn, they try to entice the little kid with the big red hand into a future potential that's different than he or anyone else back at headquarters had thought about; except for one worrywart quoting ominous passages from books no one else is reading.
The artwork dutifully captures the mystery and the damnation while the story delivers all the circus devil-fleas and Hellboy could-bes you would expect from Mike Mignola, especially as experienced through young Hellboy's desire to grow up faster than he really ought to.