There are moments when comics transcend the informality of their medium, bringing weight and depth to a story uncommon in most titles. Hellboy in Hell has achieved this, building the mythos of the character and heightening an already stellar backstory with more tension, intricate characters and moral uncertainty. The layers Mike Mignola is weaving into this story are impressive, drawing upon actual historical sources as well as his own Hellboy lore. This chapter gives readers more information to work with and draw our own conclusions, as the end goal is still unclear, as are the motivations of the supplementary cast of characters.
Hellboy has been tempted time and again but it seems that he may have fallen prey to his demonic influences without even realizing it. Say it ain't so, Big Red. It's a punch in the gut to fans without feeling cheap or an overused tactic to get a reaction. It's a blow I don't think anyone saw coming, and one that even Hellboy is still reeling from. Was it just a dream? A trick? A magic spell cast to confuse and demoralize him, or even more simply just rattle his bones while in hell? Whatever it turns out to be, I'm hoping its anything but the truth, as that would be a near unforgivable act for the character, as much as readers may understand or consider to be the best course of action overall. What's done for the greater good is rarely the same as an act of goodness, and all the rationalizations cannot take back the step across that line.
This issue reveals who Hellboy's mystical pal is and though I did not recognize them, at least one fan more familiar with his universe picked up on it from the start and wrote in to let Dark Horse know. I love reading fan mail columns at the end of Dark Horse or Image comics, they tend to post the really interesting letters and don't seem to edit them if fans mention other publishers. That's a classy move.
Mignola and Dave Stevens work together so well that the art is nearly flawless; telling the story without overcomplicating pages and interrupting the narrative. There are panels that exist solely to add atmosphere; not a common artistic move in comics but really adds to the ambiance without distracting from the story underway. It's a cinematic editing style translated to another medium, melding collage, story and simple yet impactful images to create something uniquely Hellboy/Mignola-esque. Mignola's art has always stood apart from other comics on the shelf, and maybe I'm only noticing this now, but Hellboy in Hell feels more like pouring the pages of an ancient book of lore, both art and story wise, that just happen to be filled with modern quips and humour. An excellent series that should definitely be on your pull list.