Hellsing, a secret organization also known as the Royal Order of Protestant Knights, has protected the United Kingdom and the English crown since ancient days from supernatural threats. Whether it is vampires or the mindless ghouls they create, the Hellsing Agency is ready to take on the fight local police are unable to handle.
In these first two volumes, we are introduced to the Hellsing organization and its members as they take on vampires that threaten the people of the UK, and the Vatican, who still seems to hold a grudge against the mostly protestant country. In short order though, the fight is brought to the gates of Hellsing itself as two vampire brother and an army of ghouls attack the organization at their very headquarters.
It’s quite a cast of characters that we are introduced to in these first two volumes. Even though Alucard is the protagonist, I really see this cast as an ensemble. Alucard is a powerful vampire that serves the Hellsing family. He likes a good fight and is looking for a worth opponent that can challenge him. He gets very excited when he thinks he’s may have found one in the vampire brother. It seems like he can’t be killed, as stabbing and beheading doesn’t stop him, though he can be incapacited. A little blood though, fixes that right up. Intrega Hellsing is the current head of the Hellsing family and of the organization. She is technically Alucard’s master, but their relationship isn’t really one of master and servant. Alucard has been with Integra since she was a young girl. They seem to be more like best friends. Even though Integra wll give him orders, his eagerness to carry them out are less of a servants and more of someone who just enjoys his job.
There is however very much a master and servant relationship between Alucard and Victoria Seras. She looks to Alucard for guidance and is completely loyal to Integra, though that may be more because Integra is the leader of Hellsing and not so much because she is Alucard’s master. She is quite the marksman, a skill that is only improved with her vampiric powers and the huge weapons she gets from Hellsing. Rounding out the cast is Walter, the Hellsing family butler. He is indispensable to Integra in diplomatic relations and intelligence gathering, and also quite the fighter. He may be a little out of practice, but he is also ready to take up the fight.
The story moves at a very quick pace. Each chapter adds to the overall plot, though it doesn’t seem like it at first. The increased vampire attacks, microchips found in the vampires, the organized attack on Hellsing, and the single word “Millenium” are all leading up to a larger enemy that looms just on the horizon, just beyond Hellsing’s sight. The down times between fights are often dedicated to these developments, but there is also some character development. A sub plot that runs through these two volumes is Seras adjusting to becoming vampire. She struggles with the changes in diet and even in her own senses, which are now more acute and give her greater accuracy. She doesn’t mope or second guess her decision to become a vampire, it’s more the difficulty of letting go of old habits. Her struggles are portrayed well, though she doesn’t get to dwell on things for long, as there is usually another fight just around the corner.
Hellsing is a horror title, so there is plenty of blood and gore. People are sliced up, dismembered and heads are crushed under heel. Alucard himself is shot up, stabbed and even has his head cut off! There is nothing sensual about the blood sucking in this title. It is brutal and deadly, just like you’d expect vampires to be. But along side all the horror are some nice doses of humor. Alucard and Integra have some fun exchanges, and Alucard takes no ends of pleasure in teasing Seras by calling her “Police Girl” all the time. And one of the funniest scenes involves Seras dispelling a tense situation between Alucard and Father Anderson with a group of Japanese tourists at a meeting between Hellsing and the Vatican.
The art in these two volumes is rather uneven. In the first volume, the art appears less polished and it doesn’t seem like Hirano has the characters down yet. Alucard looks more like a ‘Vash the Stampede’ clone and Integra is portrayed as more sensual than serious. By the second volume, these things are cleaned up and characters really come into their own. One of the things that I really like about the art is the way that Hirano can give a character a maniacal look using the eyes. He really does a good job of using the eyes to express a feeling. When a character is to look menacing, he uses a silhouette with just one eye lit up. To show excitement or a maniacal feeling, he’ll make one eye bigger than the other, which looks very disturbing. He also uses several eyes on Alucard when he is using his stronger vampiric powers. When he transforms in volume two, it is pretty creepy. You don’t want to read that part just before bed.
Overall, these first two volumes of Hellsing are a lot of fun. We are introduced to a great cast of characters, and there are hints of a greater story that just killing vampires dropped throughout both. Both volumes end with a bonus story that each has elements and characters that later show up in Hellsing. Dark Horse rates the first volume of the series as 13+, but the violence and language is upped in volume two, so I recommend an age rating of 16+. If you love action and don’t mind a lot of blood and gore with a lighthearted touch, then definitely check these two volumes out.