by Mike Mignola (writer), Richard Corben (art), Dave Stewart (colors), and Clem Robins

The Story: Hellboy teams up with a trio of luchadores to fight vampires in 1950s Mexico.

What’s Good: Believe me when I say that Mignola definitely delivers on the insanity of that hook I typed out above.  With all the big powers and heavy talk of destiny that’s been going on in Hellboy lately, it’s sort of satisfying to get a Hellboy issue that kicks back and brings the sort of “out there” nuttiness that’s always been at least a small part of the comic’s appeal.

For the most part, this is a rollicking good time.  Seeing Hellboy party and fight alongside a group of luchadores (who stay in costume at all times) is a blast and when he has a full-on match with a vampire luchador, it’s all kinds of fun.  It’s about as much fun as writing “vampire luchador.”

I also found Mignola’s dialogue between Hellboy and his new friend, Esteban, the youngest of the three luchadors, to be particularly amusing.  Mignola effectively uses the old trick of having two characters converse with each of them exclusively speaking a different language, yet oddly being able to understand each other perfectly.  When Esteban says that Hellboy is his best friend in Spanish, only for Hellboy to respond in kind in English, it’s a guaranteed grin for all by the most stone-hearted of readers.

Despite all the comedy, the ending of the issue is beautifully tragic and a sharp, surprising bit of poignancy after an issue of vampire-wrestling and vampire-slaying.  The fact that such a wacky issue could have such a sad, but honest, ending and still feel completely organic is proof of Mignola’s skill as a writer.

Richard Corben’s art makes all of this possible.  His drawings of the vampires are as grimy, dirty, and generally disgusting as his monsters usually are, while his dusty Mexican environments feel truly barren.  His best work though is on the luchadores themselves.  Corben draws them in a manner that is comically absurd.  The three brothers feel oddly round and when Hellboy meets them, and they stare back at him wordlessly, it’s a surreal bit of comedy purely due to Corben’s efforts; they’re oddly adorable and out of place, while still being drawn in the same vein as most everything else in the issue.  It also bears mentioning that Corben draws the evilest turkey I’ve ever seen.

Corben truly comes alive, however, in the extended wrestling match between Hellboy and Camazotz the vampire luchador.  It’s thrilling and fluid, underplayed with a slapstick tone.  The whole thing feels theatrical and staged, as a wrestling match does, but natural nonetheless.  It’s almost as though Hellboy is trapped in a show he can’t escape, a show that is intent on beating the hell out of him.

What’s Not So Good: I only have a couple of issues.  For starters, Corben’s vampires look a little too much like zombies.  I have nothing against rotting and disfigured representations of vampirism, but they could have been a little better distinguished from their brainless undead cousins.

I’m also not sure if the framing structure between Abe and Hellboy that bookends the tale was really necessary, or if it had to be as thorough and extended as it was.  Mignola has done just fine with full flashback adventures before without any need for a narrative frame.  Of course, I only say this because I want more luchador-vampire action.

Conclusion: A rocking good time.

Grade: A-

-Alex Evans