REVIEW: Bloody Hel (2021)

A Comic by Clay McCormack, Russ Badgett

Sometimes I come across a perfect convergence of a multitude of topics I am into – with the subject of today’s review, Bloody Hel by Clay McCormack and Russ Badgett, being a solid combination of a World War I military comic and a story about Norse Mythology rolled into one. It may seem like a random combination, but for many in Europe during the supposed “War to end all Wars”, it may have seemed like Ragnarök itself was upon The Earth. While this is not necessarily a historically accurate depiction of any sort of Norse beliefs, nor does it really try to be, but it respects the old Gods quite a bit, and uses them in an interesting way here.

“Drafted into a war he has no desire to fight, infantryman Private Andersen’s only goal is to make it out of World War I alive – a task made much more difficult when he’s ordered to cross enemy lines on an explosive secret mission. His unit never makes it to their destination. Instead, they unwittingly free a group of ancient Viking Gods, imprisoned for centuries by Loki’s children, Fenrir and Hel. Full of mystical battles, historical detail, and the power of human frailty, ingenuity, and heroism, BLOODY HEL gives new meaning to “the war to end all wars” with a shattering apocalyptic throwdown in the trenches, millennia in the making!”

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This book does an amazing job of showing the grotesqueness of World War I in many ways. While other books on the topic have a tendency to focus on tales of heroism, we see the underbelly here. Soldiers are seen eating maggot infested food, rats plague the trenches and cause disease, and people tied up in barbed wire are left to die. Truly the stuff of horrors, and a war that scarred all of the world for many years, both physically and emotionally. I think one of the more “messed up” things conveyed here was a moment where the protagonist, Private Andersen, is digging trenches and finds a wall of hastily buried Frenchmen mummified and entombed in the thick mud, a monument to the futility of the trench system showing that rarely was any ground actually ever gained.

Another strong suit for this comic was the artwork, witch was somewhat monochromatic at times, and made everything seem uneasy and almost post-apocalyptic. During daytime scenes, almost everything is a muted orange hue, as if the sun itself had given up on the world. At Night, everything is draped in green light, especially when anything paranormal starts to creep in. The artwork was pretty awesome and horrific at the same time, and makes me immediately want more of this book, which thankfully was hinted at in the final pages here.

The main story focuses on a band of dead Vikings that are cursed by The Goddess Hel to stay trapped in a rock until Ragnarök, once they come out and start fighting this book gets pretty crazy. Private Andersen seems to be special in some way, as he is a target of Fenrir himself, the gigantic wolf destined to kill Odin and bring about the end of the world itself. He appears to be feeding on the war itself, and is nearing the strength he needs to break his bonds. We never really find out what is going on with Andersen, so I hope the story continues in the next book, even though he would be a bit older (spoiler, it’s set in WWII).

Overall, this was an enjoyable comic, and a VERY interesting use of this setting and the supernatural elements. I usually prefer comics that try to be a more realistic depiction of either war or History, but with this being a horror book, it’s successful nonetheless. I am excited to see what the authors do in future installments, and whether they go past the next book with their story. Not everything was tied up perfectly, and Andersen, as it stands, wasn’t to solid of a main character, but all other factors combined I liked this a lot.

If you are interested in this book, please click HERE

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

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