Hellboy In Hell Vol. 1: The Descent
Story & art by Mike Mignola; Colored by Dave Stewart
Dark Horse Books
Apparently Mike Mignola had to kill Hellboy before he could get interested in drawing him again. Good as the other artists have been, it's a treat to see Hellboy's creator back creating Hellboy comics. It would have been a long haul for monthly readers, though: it took from 2012 - 2014 to get to issue #5, the last one included in this collection. I was wondering why I hadn't read a new Hellboy story in awhile!
The book opens with "Hellboy: A Brief History" which encapsulates the entire Hellboy history in one paragraph. Here's the final sentence: "Shortly thereafter he fought a dragon and was killed." The title means what it says: it's "The Descent," not "The Resurrection." But this tale is very much a continuation of Hellboy's story. It opens with the witch Baba Yaga telling Sir Edward Grey (last seen in Hellboy: The Wild Hunt) how to find Hellboy in Hell. Sir Edward volunteers to help Hellboy in his journey, declaring that "his story is not finished."
Hellboy falls into the Abyss, and the monsters start coming right away. I found I was just as involved in Hellboy's battles as I ever was, despite the fact that he's dead. What's the worst they can do: kill him again? Mignola has fun adapting Dickens' A Christmas Carol (as a puppet show) to introduce Hellboy to Grey. Later he does a similar thing describing the murder of Satan using quotes from Shakespeare's Macbeth. You have to love a goofy horror comic with literary footnotes.
In short order Hellboy finds himself involved in a power struggle for Pandemonium, which had been deserted by all the princes and ministers of Hell when they heard of Hellboy's coming. All of the intimations of his high demon status are confirmed, but he still refuses to accept them. Along the way his family history is fully revealed, as well as the story of Sir Edward's mysterious disappearance.
And Hellboy even has a good old-fashioned adventure, as he helps a mortal who had sold his soul to a devil. Nice to see that there's room for a bit of adventuring in Hell. One can only hope that Mignola can clear his schedule enough to get back to this series more regularly.
This collection also includes an especially extensive Sketchbook section, with notes from Mignola. He mentions that the sketches for the spectral version of Sir Edward Grey were done years ago, which shows how long he's been planning. The original cover art is reproduced full-size in color as well.