After a brief break because of Portsmouth Comic Con, Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows takes a look at the Library Edition of Hellboy In Hell…
Hellboy In Hell
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Mike Mignola
Colourists: Dave Stewart
After 25 years, Mignola ended the run of Hellboy stories by returning to the character to write and draw it in a 10 issue series that started in 2012 and ended in 2014, Hellboy in Hell.
Hellboy In Hell opens up with the central character finding himself in Hell after seemingly being killed. Hellboy fights his siblings in Hell, even though it is clear that he doesn’t want the throne of the place. He is rescued by Edward Grey, who was Queen Victoria’s ghost hunter but it turns out that Hell’s main city Pandemonium has been destroyed so Hellboy is less at risk from attack from the upper echelons of the place. The story is broken up into arcs and the first arc is called The Descent. Visually, Mignola has changed as an artist and his art here is more abstract than if you compare it to his earlier work. It gives Hellboy in Hell a more dreamlike feel, which fits in well with the story. There are still elements of Victorian gothic here but his art has become more impressionist here
The fifth story here, The Three Gold Whips, is a classic Hellboy tale based on a Brothers Grimm story about a man who sold his soul for a magic whip but the creature is here to collect and Hellboy helps him to keep his soul intact when he passes.
Chapter Six, The Death Card, sees the return of The Vampire of Prague and the recurring motif of Hellboy killing his father Satan rears its head towards the end of this tale. Mignola is still the master of composition and he tells a story like no other comic artist still working in modern comics.
Chapter Seven, The Trials Of Dr Hoffmann, starts with a section of Mignola’s art painted in wash, which is probably the most beautiful interior work I have ever seen from him as an artist. It shows his versatility as an illustrator and offers a change of pace in the story. The tale of Doctor Hoffmann is a strange and haunting tale that carries into Chapter Eight, The Hounds of Pluto. Here we get the trial of Hellboy, who answers his accusers The Furies, who claim that he is guilty of the murder of his relatives. However he is acquitted of this crime and it is his sister who is responsible. So he is exonerated.
Chapter Nine, The Spanish Bride, reunites Hellboy with his demonic bride when she saves him from destruction from some irate demons. Hellboy chooses to ignore his destiny as the king of hell once again and his wife disappears from the scene again.
The final issue, For Whom The Bell Tolls, is one that I read twice and thanks to the beauty of social media, Mignola clarified some of what happens here. Many of the demons in Hell have been wiped out and Hellboy fights to destroy the remaining threats that still exist there. With his mission completed, he rends his horns from his head and returns to the ghostly existence that we saw him living a little earlier on. For Whom The Bell Tolls, I realise, reading it a second time like the rest of Hellboy In Hell, deals with nuance and subtlety moreso than any other Hellboy story that preceded it. Hellboy does live up to his destiny in a fashion in the pages of BPRD but here he destroys Hell rather than lead it to its greatest glory and so he confounds the fate intended for him. It is a clever and inventive conclusion to the cycle of stories.
The book ends as do the others with a character sketch section and two older Hellboy shorts, one co-written with Mignola’s brother Todd and the other with his daughter Katie when she was little.
Hellboy In Hell is a very strange story, probably the weirdest Hellboy tale Mignola has ever created. We also know that there are other tales of Hellboy still to be told as there is a new Hellboy series this autumn that is being co-written by Mignola. Hellboy in Hell is a slightly frustrating series but Mignola has always been a contrary figure. Whichever way he ended the current cycle of Hellboy stories, he wouldn’t have satisfied everyone. Hellboy began life as a pulp adventure story and ended ironically as a more intimate horror story. Fans of the early Hellboy stories may scratch their heads here but it is to his credit that he has tried to subvert the path of his creation and evolve him throughout his adventures. Hellboy is a unique creation in modern comics and Mignola has created a body of work like no other contemporary comic creator.