Thousand Faced: Hellboy: The Bride of Hell & Hellboy In Mexico

Hellboy: The Bride of Hell & Hellboy In Mexico
Written by: Mike Mignola
Illustrated by: Richard Corben
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Hellboy is fun. Hellboy weirds you out. Hellboy schools your ignorant comics-reading ass whether you want it to or not but with Hellboy, you pretty much want it. Other than the dark mercurial artwork what I love most about reading Hellboy is how Mignola draws on myth, folk lore, faerie tales and a monster-sized imagination to bring you stories. Being a voracious reader I recognize these influences when I see them and really appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into them. We watch a lot of Food Porn (Channel) at my house and Mignola brings all the elements together like a man making a fine meal out of a bunch of recipes. He spices it up with his art and brings a pretty satisfying dish to the table. The sparse, haunting style of these books blend nicely with the realm of supernatural stories and fantastic faerie tales and it has a way of sticking with you.

The Bride of Hell. Richard Corben, a resident of Kansas City at one time is the artist. If there is an artist in comics that can complement Mignola’s writing it is the former creator of Den of Earth. Hellboy looks great but he’s normal for Hellboy. Corben’s people look vaguely Neanderthal. The Bride in this has a large upper palate that’s kind of simian-like. For this comic Corben’s way of depicting people is just off enough to make them part of the alien landscape of this story. They look like they’re from a place that is not quite our world or maybe it’s just that the artist himself might not be.

The tale begins with Hellboy being sent to rescue a young woman with a well-connected father from being ravaged by a demon. You know how demons like a little virginal action now and again. He bursts in on the ritual and fights his way past Asmodeus himself while hauling the sleeping victim. He reaches sanctuary in a cemetery made up of Crusaders and tended by a lone monk who describes how the terrible demon has attacked and diminished his order until he is all that’s left of them. Since it is hallowed ground Asmodeus may not enter. So Hellboy decides to take the fight to the demon with the girl safe and napping.

Hellboy tracks the demon to his Hellish lair under a tree. Meanwhile the old monk speaks to the sleeping girl and tells her how Asmodeus was captured and humiliated at the court of Suleiman (Solomon) while bound with Biblical words of power. Then it is Asmodeus telling Hellboy after getting loose and taking the throne for himself. As it’s told by the demon he tried ruling Jerusalem for a few years and found it terribly boring and confining. He gladly returns the throne at the first chance and eventually finds people who venerate him and give him wives to sate his lusts. Then this order of knights who once hunted The Templars and now hunt witches with equal ferocity find this desert sanctuary. The demon is banished again with words of power and his friends and wives brutally slain by those showing them the sweet love of Jesus. This is why the demon has taken it upon himself to hunt and torment this particular order. When it dawns on Hellboy that the victim is not a victim but a willing bride he races to the cemetery but it’s too late. A ghost risen from the grave kills her because she is indeed a witch and not suffered to live like the Bible tells you so.

This is one of those “tough call” jobs Hellboy tends to get now and again. It leaves a cold ambiguity of evile taste in your mouth.

Hellboy In Mexico. This is the other kind of story I like for this character. Once again the Mignola/Corben team is a blast.

In the 1950’s, a young Hellboy is sent out on one of his first missions. A monster plague is taking place in Mexico and the B.P.R.D. sends him and two other agents to deal with it. The trail is full of messy corpses and horror. The other agents lose their courage and run off. Soon after Hellboy runs into three brothers who were going to wrestle and already have their own masks. On their way to Mexico City they find a murdered priest and get a mission from God to kill monsters and as luck has it they befriend Hellboy. A fun-filled romp of monster slaying ensues. Hellboy grows closest to the youngest brother as the tequila filled post-hunt parties take place. Soon Esteban is taken by the demonic hordes and is gone. Later he turns up in the ring, demonically mutated and serving the monsters. Hellboy kills his best friend to free him and goes on a mammoth drinking bout which ends when other agents finally find him passed out in a seedy bar.
Hellboy finds a bunch of films from the time made while he was in a  classic Keith Richards’ state-of-mind. Apparently he was quite a hit and inadvertantly ensured that masked wrestling would thrive in Mexico. Hellboy humour. I gotta love it!

It has been a few months since I looked at a Hellboy comic and I have been concerned that it’s quality would flag now that two movies have pretty much filled Mignola’s pocket way past the need to produce to survive. My fears were ungrounded. The work is still everything I’ve come to expect from one of the most fertile talents in the industry.

by Bill Hilburn

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