Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.

Consider Guillermo del Toro a cuddlier, friendlier Clive Barker. He’s just as fascinated by monsters’ anthropology and physiology, but far more interested and involved in their search for solace than for a skull to crush.

Far superior to its predecessor, this 2008 sequel became a field guide to del Toro’s fertile brain. Using tactile, tangible puppetry unrivaled since Jim Henson’s heyday, it fabulously and freakily immersed viewers into a world of skin, hair, teeth and bones that weren’t their own.

Even in a monster menagerie filled to capacity, there’s still a point to their presence and plenty of room for Hellboy. Given the stronger storytelling focus, Ron Perlman’s ragged, raw approach is even more of a comic scream. Here, the stone-handed, ill-tempered demon battles the ancient Prince Nuada, who seeks to command the Golden Army in a monster uprising.

There’s a stronger dimension than the X-Men-tality of persuading humans to love the oddballs. These oddballs strive only to love themselves, particularly in an uproarious bit involving Hellboy, amphibious pal Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), a little Barry Manilow and a lot of Tecate.

Lastly, Hellboy II boasted easily one of the decade’s most innovative supporting characters: Agent Johann Krauss, a German-accented glob of ectoplasm that corralled its senses by wearing what looked like an outmoded scuba suit and shooting smoky spectral air from his suit’s nipples and fingertips. Krauss was like an Aqua Teen Hunger Force character that waded over from Adult Swim and a perfectly fussy foil for Hellboy.