RED HANDED: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt, has a series of bizarre thieves (such as a woman who steals chairs as a way to connect with the people who sit in them) run afoul of Red Wheelbarrow’s most legendary super-cop. Unfortunately by the time I got halfway through, the novelty of the quirky crooks was beginning to wear thin, as were the enigmatic discussions of law and morality between the cop and some unidentified perp (it was clearly leading to some Big Reveal, but I didn’t care).
FOOLS, MARTYRS, TRAITORS: The Story of Martyrdom in the Western World by Lacey Baldwin Smith looks at the nature of martyrdom as defined in European culture (I’ll make a minor quibble that some outside cultural perspectives might have made an interestint comparison) and the questions it raises such as is the supposed martyr just a fool? If he’s challenging the government (Henry II’s trusted vassal Thomas Beckett, for instance) is he a traitor? What’s the boundary between martyrdom and suicide-by-inquisition? The book starts with the west’s founding martyr Socrates, but Smith argues that martyrdom didn’t really become an ideal until religiously-motivated figures such as the Maccabees and Jesus (Smith acknowledges the awkwardness of treating Jesus as a mortal martyr, but argues his influence is too important to Christian martyrdom to omit). Even then, the ideal continued to shift: early martyrs were individuals dying for their own freedom of conscience, medieval martyrs stood for the rights of the institutional church and by the 19th century we started getting into martyrs for social causes, such as abolitionist John Brown. Overall, very interesting.
HELLBOY IN HELL: The Death Card by Mike Mignola marks the end of the series, much earlier than Mignola had planned (he gets into the details in the afterword). Suffice to say Hellboy runs into a lot of people he knew in life (his sister, the Vampire of Prague, his Mexican demon-bride) and slowly comes to see that his destiny isn’t over yet … Not the end of Hellboy’s adventures of course (as he can easily keep appearing in things like HELLBOY AND THE BPRD) but nevertheless a definite and well-done end—I really liked this one, and if you’re a fan I recommend it (but it’s probably better to catch up on earlier stuff first). I’ve already added this to the Hellboy Chronology. Cover by Mike Mignola, all rights to current holder.