Those of you bummed out about the untimely passing of Hellboy will be pleased to know that the Big Red is back in an all new original graphic novel, which pits our hero against every classic movie monster in the book… And also there are luchadors. So basically? Best comic book ever.
Okay, so that’s being a little glib, but after the epic apocalypse that led to Hellboy’s demise, ‘House of the Living Dead’ works as a lovely palate cleanser before the next Hellboy story, which finds him, appropriately, in Hell. Flashing back to a time right after the Hellboy in Mexico one-shot (don’t worry, if you didn’t read that, all the info you need is in this book), this OGN – like most of author Mike Mignola’s best work – mixes horror, action, humor, and true, honest pathos into a neat graphic bundle.
Hellboy, you see, is mourning the loss of one of his friends by drinking himself into a stupor, and becoming one of the most sensational luchadors (masked Mexican wrestlers) on the circuit. So naturally, he attracts the attention of some rather unsavory characters, particularly a Central American version of Dr. Frankenstein. Fighting, as you can imagine, ensues; but at no point do Mignola, or artist Richard Corben lose track of the main focus, and that’s making Hellboy miserable.
What makes Hellboy such a tragic figure most of the time is that he tries to save everyone, and when he can’t – because there’s no way you can save everyone – he invariably blames himself. This book, in essence, is about Hellboy starting to get over that by killing as many monsters as he can. He does suffer loss in this book, and there’s still a heavy weight to bear, but its wonderful, and heart-warmingly surprising to see this much character development in a one-off tale that could be very, very silly.
Don’t get me wrong: I was cackling throughout every reveal, which I won’t spoil here, as Mignola and Corben mine nearly every monster in the book. Particularly, a near battle towards the end of the book is shocking, surprising, and laugh-out-loud funny. But the genius here is that for every great visual joke, there’s a page of absolute stillness and sadness, reminding us that whenever we’re dealing with monsters, we’re also dealing with the absoluteness of death.
That’s some pretty heavy stuff to work into a book about a giant red demon guy who likes to get drunk and wear a wrestler’s mask. But it’s to the team’s credit that it works every time. And it’s not just Hellboy either: from a thug with a complicated backstory, to a Frankenstein’s Monster that’s more than you expect, this book is all about the masks we wear, and how the soul beneath may not always match what’s on the outside. You know, what monsters are all about?
For older readers, you’ll find a rich, rewarding look back at a hidden period in Hellboy’s life. For new readers? This is an excellent introduction into the world and tone of Hellboy… So if you’ve been putting off picking up one of his books, why not start here?
Hellboy: House of the Living Dead hits comic book stands on November 9th, 2011, and bookstores on November 15th, 2011.