Zagor vs Hellingen - At the Borders of Reality, review: is anybody out there?

Zagor vs Hellingen - At the Borders of Reality, review: is anybody out there?

Zagor vs Hellingen - At the Borders of Reality, review

Zagor against Hellingen - At the Borders of Reality is not only the fourth volume in the series that fully re-proposes the decades-long challenge between Zagor and Professor Hellingen but also marks its inevitable turning point. In the previous volume, entitled Zagor against Hellingen - Terror from the Sixth Planet (recover our review), the challenge between the Spirit with the Hatchet and the mad Professor seemed to have reached its final act. In fact, Hellingen had not only managed to escape captivity but had also made an alliance with the Akkronians, an alien race ready to invade our planet in search of sustenance. The battle had been terrible and had forced Zagor to resort to all the most hidden resources, including an ancient Indian magic kept in the bowels of Mount Naatani, to repel the invasion. Helligen himself had mysteriously disappeared, perhaps suicidal, using one of the very advanced Akkronian devices which then exploded.

Zagor against Hellingen - At the Borders of Reality

Zagor against Hellingen - At the Borders of Reality: is anybody out there?

First Zagor and then also Cico are afflicted by terrible nightmares and visions. After yet another psychotic episode, salvation is always represented by a new mission: in fact, Zagor receives a letter from Colonel Perry inviting him to go urgently to Forte Pitt. However, the journey is less relaxing than expected. The Spirit with the Hatchet and the Mexican in fact arrive at Mount Naatani where their conditions seem to worsen and only the intervention of the shaman Akoto seems to cure Zagor of the Ah-En-Nai, of the Madness that has taken possession of him.

With the help of La Plume, and one of his incredible devices, the Spirit with the Hatchet arrives in time to the lake according to the colonel's instructions but only to discover the first of a series of macabre resurrections. From the bottom of the lake, in fact, Titan re-emerges, the metal colossus that Zagor had managed to shoot down during the first battle with Hellingen. And it is precisely the insane Professor who comes back to life by physically and psychologically torturing the Spirit with the Hatchet now that he has incredible superhuman abilities at his disposal. But what really happened to Hellingen during his absence? The answer is lost in the maze of a story that speaks of space ships and dreamlike dimensions interrupted only by the arrival of Cico, accompanied by soldiers who put an end, once again, to the life of the Professor.

Zagor vs Hellingen - At the Borders of Reality

Zagor against Hellingen - At the Borders of Reality: the end of an era

Orphaned of its creator and therefore of a very precise narrative-editorial identity, between the second half and the end of the 1980s, Zagor is a series in which various authors alternate with many good ideas but firmly anchored to a certain Nolittian orthodoxy that had led to a good production but not exciting. For this reason, in 1988, in the full rise of his most famous creation for Sergio Bonelli Editore or Dylan Dog, Tiziano Sclavi, author of some of the most brilliant Zagorian stories of those years, is recalled on the series.

The result is Zagor against Hellingen - At the Borders of Reality: a long saga made up of six books which, starting from the Nolittian orthodoxy, empties Zagor of all his syncretic-narrative prerogatives in favor of a fantastic dimension that refers to the classic epic and some fantasy literature. The narrative structure adopted by Sclavi is in fact deliberately familiar to the Zagorian readers with the long prologue on the road which, recalling the great Nolittian sagas, serves to serve as a link with the last meeting between Zagor and his nemesis but gradually loses its meaning. when, with sudden changes of register, the events become more rarefied and less rational between giant monsters, talking animals and a Spirit with the Hatchet who cannot rely on his physical and moral abilities nor can count on the help of any ally.

The story thus becomes alienating and depersonalizing in its central part which corresponds to the return of Hellingen. Space is a non-place where the mad Professor finally gets his macabre enlightenment and the means to defeat Zagor. A defeat that is not consummated either immediately or physically but insinuates itself in Zagor's mind in the last dramatic act of the saga that magically reabsorbs the clash between the Spirit and the Hatchet and his nemesis.

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Zagor vs Hellingen - At the Borders of Reality To act as a link between the old Nolittian vision and the renewed status quo promoted by Sclavi (which, to be honest, will only find a hold several years later) are the pencils of the stainless Gallieno Ferri. Here the designer is in effect in the mature phase of his career: the stroke has found its balance in a plastic and effective synthesis which, in Sclavi's screenplay, is expressed in an unprecedented, extremely material chiaroscuro but also in a marked expressiveness that it tends to make the dramatic events extreme, especially in Zagor. It is also interesting to observe how the classic Bonellian setting of the table is reworked in favor of larger panels, even single horizontal ones, in which the designer also opts for medium, long and sometimes very long fields. There is an evident parallel between these choices and the sidereal and honoric space in which many sequences are then set. A convincing proof by Ferri that once again demonstrates its flexibility.

The volume

Sergio Bonelli Editore (you can view the news scheduled for May 2022 thanks to our dedicated article) continues to propose with the tested graphic layout of the series also this volume which is the most full-bodied of the paperbacks produced up to now with a foliation of over 500 pages. Everything is strictly in black and white and in the 16 × 21 cm format from traditional uncoated paper and excellent binding. The cover of the volume takes up that of Zagor 279 - Ai Confini della Realtà, an register that gives, as easily understood, the title to this fourth volume of the collection.

From the editorial point of view, Moreno Burattini, the curator of the series, resumes its journey both in the editorial history of the clash between Zagor and Hellingen and in that of the Spirit with the Hatchet. In particular, in this volume we dwell a lot on the author Tiziano Sclavi and on the salient features of his production inside and outside Sergio Bonelli Editore but above all on the paradigm change that Zagor had to face when Guido Nolitta left his guide, as widely described in the previous volume. The long editorial contribution is embellished with some covers and tables of the original books that make up the saga and by Sclavi's production. Also in this fourth volume of the series the original books contained within it should be indicated (i.e. Zagor 275-280 of June / November 1988) but due to an obvious small oversight those of the next volume are reported (Zagor 376-379 November 1996 / February 1997).

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