Monday, September 19, 2016

Hell Above, Hell Below

Hellboy in Hell Volume 1: The Descent (2015-2016/Collected 2016): written and illustrated by Mike Mignola: Mike Mignola's Hellboy series moves inexorably towards its conclusion in this, what may be the penultimate volume in the long-running series. The end of the last book saw Hellboy dead on Earth and plummeting into Hell. And now we open, on the borderlands of Hell.

Hellboy is his usual acerbic self as he fights an assortment of demons and, well, more demons. Some have personal grudges against him as he sent them back to Hell during his heroic, monster-fighting career above-ground. Meanwhile, Hell's capital city of Pandemonium is strangely empty, and Satan himself is asleep in a basement. Hellboy has help in Hell, but will it be enough to see his mission through -- if there is a mission?

Well, that's the question. Hellboy in Hell marked the return of Mignola to drawing Hellboy as well as writing it after several years of having Duncan Fegredo handle the art duties. It's a welcome return. Mignola has simplified his line, his shapes, and pretty much everything about his style. It's a marvelous, evocative evolution of cartooning that can attain startling effects both comic and horrific. 

Hellboy's purpose in Hell seems a bit vague, but some of that reflects Hellboy's own rejection of the 'destiny' the first couple of years of Hellboy set up. He's not going to usher in the final act of the Apocalypse, having rejected his demonic heritage. Why, then, does he not remember committing a major act of violence in this volume?

If you've never read Hellboy, this is not the place to start. If you have been following Hellboy, this is pretty much essential as we approach the end of a remarkable horror/fantasy epic. Highly recommended.

BPRD: Hell on Earth Volume 4: The Devil's Engine & The Long Death (2012/ Collected 2012): written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi; illustrated by Tyler Crook, James Harren, and Dave Stewart: The eruption of Hell onto Earth-Hellboy continues in this collection of two miniseries dealing with Hellboy's former unit, the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence. Things are grim. Monsters are everywhere. This volume contains two 'snapshots' of the ongoing conflict/apocalypse, nicely scripted by John Arcudi and possessed of a number of fine visualizations of those monsters by Tyler Crook and James Harren. 

An unusual, freaky, and disturbingly visualized Wendigo seems to owe at least some of its visual debt to Jack Kirby's white monkey of fear from his 1970's series The Demon by way of Steve Bissette and John Totleben's visual reimagining of the character early in Alan Moore's 1980's run on Swamp Thing. It's all enjoyable, though a bit light on the textual side of things. Recommended.

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