Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hellboy in Hell Volume 1: The Descent

Writing and art by Mike Mignola

            WARNING: The following review contains Hellboy spoilers, up to and including The Storm and the Fury.  If you wish to go unspoiled, stop now.

Comic book deaths tend to mean one of a few things.  The title might end for a while.  The character might be replaced or someone else will take over and make it a legacy character.  Either way, it’s not like the title can just continue with the same character, right?  Well, as you can probably guess from the title, Hellboy in Hell takes Hellboy’s death in stride as a continuation of the series.
So yes, Hellboy is dead, and naturally, being a half-demon, he’s wound up in hell.  Which has, appropriately enough, gone to hell.  And as per usual for Hellboy, he encounters monsters, hints of his past, and maybe just some hints of his future.
Normally, a character finding themselves in hell would come with some grief, but part of the enjoyment of Hellboy is the way he simply takes everything as it comes.  His reaction to winding up in hell is little more than a “Huh” as he moves on.  Encountering demons, monsters beyond demons, and the throne of Satan gives a little more of an eyebrow raise, maybe a whole “Geez”.  But Hellboy’s seen it all before.  Far from making this boring, Hellboy as the apathetic hero makes things far more interesting for Mignola’s own interpretation of hell.  Especially when he actually shows a reaction to something, showing that things have gotten serious. 
And of course, the other matter of comic book deaths is “When are they coming back to life?”  If The Descent is any indication, the answer is “In a while”.  It quickly becomes clear this is not a temporary thing, a small story stepping stone to quickly be reset.  There is plenty going on relating to the ongoing arcs, including Hellboy’s royal status.  And when those aren’t being advanced, there are plenty of adventures to be had, with the final issue here showing a standalone story that hasn’t been out of place in the past, just from a new perspective.  And the thing that will make readers most glad to go to hell is Mignola’s art.  Returning to the artwork for the first time in years, Mignola’s surreal, gothic art is well at home here, making hell his own.  Creatures pop out of the ground, Hellboy wanders from a house to a surreal landscape.  Characters recite Macbeth and Christmas Carol in good measure.  This is classic Hellboy.

Hellboy in Hell feels like act 2 of the plans for Hellboy.  And if this is how interesting and entertaining hell is going to be, then being in hell for a while may not be such a bad thing. 

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