On his continuing journey through Hell, Hellboy meets with the second spirit who will guide him on his way. He comes across the Heart of Pandemonium, the resting place of Satan, the river Cocytus and the place where he was born.
There really is something special about a Mike Magnola comic book. The books stare at you from the shelf, tempting you with their sleek black covers and stark red and grey images. If you are one to judge a book by it’s cover, then boy will you be a sucker for this series. The imagery in Mignola’s work is outstanding and those who like a challenge while reading comic books will like this one. However, if you prefer a dynamic plot with lots of action, then this really isn’t the book for you.
After the death of Hellboy, he is plummeted into Hell. Back to where he came from, actually. In Hellboy in Hell #1, Hellboy came across a mechanical puppet show, telling the story of A Christmas Carol. It warned that three spirits would visit, just like in Charles Dickens’ novel. In issue #1, the first spirit appeared and carried him across the barren landscape. This is where we join him in issue #2.
Dark Horse comics describe Hellboy in Hell as a “story only Mignola could tell” and they are right. In this series, Mignola not only writes, but draws too. This is his very own Hell and he is in charge. There is something very simple, yet complex, about Mignola’s drawings. What appear to be basic lines and shapes actually carry heavy symbolism and represent more than you could ever imagine. In the first few pages, we are treated to terrifying architecture and freakish statues and intimidating stonework. Colours are well handled by Dave Stewart, who keeps things simple so as not to overwhelm the art. The reds and greys and blacks create an image of Hell that is unique to the Hellboy vision, yet immediately recognisable as a gloomy underworld.
As a lover of literature, I really appreciate the little nods to other books and plays throughout the series. In issue #1 it was the references to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In issue #2, Mignola references William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. When Hellboy comes across the resting place of Satan, he has the opportunity to kill him in his sleep and take his place as the ruler of Hell. I’m sure we all know the story of Macbeth but here’s a wee reminder: Macbeth is told he will become king, but before his true time comes, ambition gets the better of him and he kills King Duncan in his sleep to take his place. The echoes of this resonate in these scenes when Hellboy is presented with a dagger to complete the task. The quote “Is this a dagger I see before me” is cleverly deployed to highlight how similar these situations are. Hellboy, however, seems a much stronger man than Macbeth ever was.
As the second spirit appears and takes Hellboy back to his roots, it becomes apparently that this is a really important story to Mignola. There are flashbacks to Hellboy’s birth, where his mother is brutally destroyed by a demon. It’s a gorgeous and horrible double-page spread that depicts the scene as one of fire and pain. Sacrifice is an important theme to Hellboy and here we see the price his mother had to pay.
Hellboy in Hell is a stunning series and it’s great to see Mike Mignola back in the driving seat. A great deal of work has gone into this book and if you are a fan of well-constructed art and a really clever comic book, this is the title that should be at the top of your “to-read” bundle.