by Mike Mignola (Writer/Artist), Dave Stewart (Colorist)
The Story: Hellboy helps a man cheat a demon in order for him to keep his soul.
The Review: Boy has it been a while since the last issue. While it is understandable that Mike Mignola has been a little busy in the last few months (co-writing Baltimore, B.P.R.D., Sledgehammer 47, Lobster Johnson one-shots and Abe Sapien will do that to you), the lack of presence of this delightful series was something that was rather sad for me. Still, better late than never, as the latest issue arrived this very week. However, with all the time that passed, does this issue actually satisfy and continue the story where it left?
In a way, Mignola makes the smart choice of giving readers something more akin to a side-story, one that does not focus exactly on the titular character himself. Telling a complete story all the while, he is able to play with his strengths and manage to give readers something satisfactory.
One of the better aspects of this issue is its atmosphere, with Mignola giving plenty of space to panels upon which there is no texts at all. Focusing instead on the characters and their place in the surreal environment they are in, the story becomes that much more eerie and magical, leaving the panels where they focus on the text and context to be that much more striking. Much of this effect is actually a result of the economy of space Mignola put in his panel, with every elements there for a reason. His sense of depth, his composition and the combination of motion with a certain restraint in the movement of so much create something that should appear static, yet doesn’t.
The story in itself, though, is something else, as Mignola is able to put forth a certain version of an old tale throughout his hellish tapestry, with Hellboy and his previous actions seemingly having an effect on the landscape of Pandemonium itself. The progression is sound in the entire issue, with a beginning, middle and end that is something rarely seen in most book nowadays, telling a complete story in the span of about 20 pages. In his tale, Mignola is able to combine a certain sense of wonder and curiosity to his more morbid environment, creating a certain effect that should clash yet fortunately doesn’t, making this almost magical in the best of ways. A minor complaint, however, would be the fact that Hellboy himself doesn’t do much in this story. He does serve as a point-of-view character to the adventures of Jules Dulot and his presence is certainly not unwelcome, yet he is most of the time merely a spectator.
Still, the tale itself is told in a dynamic manner thanks to the great panel layout and the excellent pacing, with Mignola always showing just enough details and never lingering too much in some of his scenes. His economy of dialogue, the multiple angles in the visual flow and the way the characters are portrayed in a subtle manner makes for an engaging read thanks to a good lot of the elements presented here. There is perhaps one specific page where an element is disparate from the narrative flow, with the demon returning to his original form for untold reasons, but it’s basically nitpicking at that point.
Still, despite all the talent that Mike Mignola has, a lot of the visual effects are also due to Dave Stewart, the Eisner-award winning colorist. Much like Mignola, Stewart understands how the right color at the right place can have a much grander effect than a multitude all over the place, with a very low diversity. His work is instead focused on stark contrasts, with a huge amount of pale and somber colors that are broken up by few panels showing extreme warmth, the red colorization becoming something huge as a result. His use of colder colors in most panels is also something that does bring the bleakness of Pandemonium really well, with a few touches here and there that highlight the few elements that Mignola puts in some of his panels. It’s with issues like these that we can see why he did win an award.
The Conclusion: The excellence of Hellboy in Hell is back in full force, as Mike Mignola tells a really nice story through his excellent art that use a certain economy of space, with some huge help from Dave Stewart. Thoroughly recommended.
Hugo Robberts Larivière