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Set in 1956, the book Hellboy: House of the Dead, centers on the emotional events of Hellboy’s growth both in and out of the wrestling ring.¬†Battling guilt while in a literal house of horrors, our reluctant hero finds himself faced with some of horrors most classic creatures in a mash up of monsters that moves the plot along quite nicely.
Hellboy comics have always had a distinct flavor all its own; mostly due to the element of action combined with some form of biblical or fantasy horror. Fan will recognize the writer and artist team of Mike Mignola and Richard Corben and it clearly shows that this was an excellent partnership in many respects.
Available for pre-order¬†with a preview from Dark Horse Comics,¬†the duo of Mignola and Corben are supported by coloring from Dave Stewart and lettering by Clem Robins. The artwork is a fresh take on the Hellboy horror, action drama, feeling more up to date than in past comics. Mignola clearly knows what he’s doing and showcases classic Hellboy nonchalance mixed in with excellently timed Spanish dialogue and wrestling.
This is a hard cover release that’s emotionally driven and well plotted. Hellboy’s character is revealed more as the story progresses rather than having him simply destroy everything in his way as a new reader of Hellboy might assume. The choices that Hellboy has made prior to the start of the comic regarding the death of a friend are shown in a few select flashbacks that emphasize the loss of self due to events outside of his control.
A hint at the enemies within is obvious on the front cover but beneath the surface the villains in this story, outside of their horror characteristics, also possess an emotional depth that is not in keeping with their traditional stereotypes. Excellent use of foreshadow and characterization that readers will pick up on will add an element of suspense to the overall plot which keeps fans guessing. For some of the villains you’ll scoff at the slightly predictable dialogue but the plot for how Hellboy dispatches his enemies is really the star here.
Hellboy fights hard against his enemies using brute strength and reluctant acceptance born of a shoulder heavy weariness.¬† What is less expected is how he also sympathizes with select combatants in a surprising twist as Hellboy himself will come to realize. An enemy can also turn into a friend, or at least, a drinking buddy.
The real enemies here that need fighting are less obvious but no less important to Hellboy as he journey’s forth through the pages. Hellboy fights and he survives, growing up and making tough choices that many people can sympathize with greatly. His real enemy is life and death in many ways, because he struggles against its forces all the time.
Throughout the story, the feeling is that Hellboy just can’t catch a break, as if he’s always going to up against a constant stream of enemies from multiple sides and plots within plots to do him harm. The lesson to take away from this particular hard cover issue of Hellboy is that not everything is within your control.
Life is what you make of it. Hellboy seems to know this and therefore fights the good fight. The ending might leave some readers scratching their heads but overall, despite the sense of not belonging to his reality, Hellboy knows that where he treads very few can follow. His path is one of hell and that is where he is bound.