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ZADZOOKS: Hellboy: Behind the scenes

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This chronic feature lets me review what recently has passed my bloodshot eyes. So pull up a chair, break out the sarcasm filter and welcome to Mr. Zad's comic critique, featuring Dark Horse Comics' world of Hellboy.

Hellboy II: The Art of the Movie ($24.95, softcover) Fans get a deconstruction of the latest cinematic adventure of the world's most famous demon paranormal investigator in a 224-page, full-color, 8 1/2-by-11-inch book. It offers the shooting script (including a scene not in the movie) and mixes in generous amounts of sketches, illustrations, paintings and photos of final props, creatures and environments that define "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."

What's the story? I am not going to give away the movie's plot, but Hellboy and the eclectic B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) team find themselves battling an elven prince and an ancient mechanical army and even encounter the angel of death.

Besides the script, the best read in the book is director Guillermo del Toro's introduction, which explores the origins of the film and the difficulties in making it.

Writing strength: The combined creative force of Mr. del Toro and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola deliver a script that will satisfy Hellboy fans and average moviegoers enamored by fantasy creatures and action. It's also fun to read the dialogue juxtaposed against storyboards in many of the pages.

Artist's style: The book offers a great selection of styles, including parts of Mr. del Toro's illustrated diary, loads of production sketches, some sequential art from Mr. Mignola, detailed pieces by comic-book artist Francisco Ruiz Velasco and black-and-white examples of monsters by creature creator William Barlowe.

Pop-art moments: Mr. Mignola's take on a young Hellboy's first encounter with pancakes (originally seen in Dark Horse Comics Presents Annual 1999) is reproduced in the book.

The book also offers a look at some of the oddities found in Troll Market. Readers get a selection of final sketches and words by Mr. Barlowe and others next to the finished creatures seen in the movie.

Read it or leave it? Let's savor it. The tasty tome presents a tantalizing mix of art mediums to give fans a satisfying look behind the scenes of the latest live-action Hellboy universe.

B.P.R.D.: The Ectoplasmic Man ($2.99, one shot) Finally, fans of the Hellboy universe learn the origins of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense's most gaseous member. The fellow also happens to be one of the stars of the new film "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."

What's the story? Powerful psychic medium Johann Krauss gets caught in a soul-consuming disaster that leaves him devoid of a body but º alive as spiritual energy. He must decide whether to dissipate into the netherworlds or join the fight against evil as a member of the B.P.R.D.

Writing strength: Mr. Mignola and John Arcudi bring to life the tragic existence of Krauss as they explore his first meeting with the B.P.R.D.'s Dr. Hoffman, reveal the design of his containment suit and, in a measly 24 pages, even manage to add a pretty charismatic demon from hell.

Artist's style: An obvious lover of monsters and the undead, New Zealand illustrator Ben Steinbeck fits the Hellboy universe. His effort is not as gritty as Mr. Mignola's work or as disturbing as Guy Davis', but he delivers the Hellboy vibe complete with a foreboding mood and antiquity pure in creepy design.

Pop-art moments: Mr. Steinbeck's full-page vision of the demon Wieland Lorst trying to consume Krauss is unexpected.

Read it or leave it? Krauss rocks, and I found a high enough creep factor for me to partake gladly in the horror.

* Check out the Zadzooks! online community (www.washingtontimes.com/ communities/zadzooks/).

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