Saturday, May 03, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #122: Hellboy in Hell: The Descent by Mike Mignola

After the movies and spin-offs and side stories and flashbacks and guest artists, it's a joy to finally get back to this: Mike Mignola writing and drawing his signature character, alone in a strange landscape, among beings he hasn't met before and scenes of wonder and terror.

Hellboy in Hell: The Descent is the first collection of the current intermittent Hellboy series, by Mignola with only Dave Stewart (as colorist) for company. And, as the title says, it takes Hellboy out of our world and back to the home he came from back in 1944 -- the underworld that the various villains of the series have been trying to get him to rule since the beginning. Hellboy is dead as this series begins -- that's the traditional way to get to Hell, and Hellboy is a traditionalist in many ways -- but, in a universe like this, just being dead isn't as much of a handicap as you might expect. (In fact, the beginning of The Descent overlaps significantly with The Storm and the Fury, the last Hellboy story, as if Mignola suddenly realized that he'd let Duncan Fegredo draw the death of his most famous character and decided to do it again all himself.)

Hellboy is guided and aided by Sir Edward Grey, familiar from other Hellboy-verse stories -- though you don't need to know anything about him besides what this book tells you. (He was Queen Victoria's tame magician for a while, found the good fight, and still fights it, as he can, in his changed circumstances.) He meets family members, and clashes with them: a scheming uncle, two ambitious brothers, and possibly even his powerful and mysterious father. There's more going on here than that, though: this is the beginning of a longer, episodic story, telling what happens in Hellboy's wake nearly as much as the story of Hellboy himself. A lot happens in this book, but the pace is slower than usual for Hellboy: he has no need or desire or ability to save this world, and so he's more of a vagabond than a soldier this time out.

Mignola's art is magnificent and inspired, all twisted figures and awesome monsters and Breughelian landscapes and decaying structures. It is breathtaking to see him draw the depths of Hellboy's universe again -- nothing against all of the other fine artists who have worked in that world, from Fegredo to Guy Davis to Richard Corben, but this all lives in Mignola's head, and his hand draws those visions better than anyone else ever could. This series may be coming out at a slow pace, and it may be a long time before we come to the end of it, but that's no bad thing: more Mignola art to tease and delight us over the next few years is something entirely to look forward to.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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