Hellboy is one character that has been out of the spotlight for a long time, and HELLBOY IN HELL has been a long time coming; particularly for fans of the character. This issue could not come soon enough, or come at such an appropriate time, either as it features an excerpt of one of the most well-known Christmas stories, ever. And although Mike Mignola (who returns to the series as its penciller) crafts a unique and interesting story that continues to borrow from British folklore and fiction (in this case, 'A Christmas Carol), he doesn't spell things out for you. Not even a little bit.
The series left off last year with Hellboy's death and his descent into hell -- or so we thought. We open where we left off, with a quick refresher on the events that transpired, a brief history of the character on the first page (and when we say brief, we mean really brief), and we catch the character mid-fall into the pit of hell. Yet before Hellboy makes his way into Hell, he has to enter purgatory, or at least that's what we're led to believe.
If anyone can tell a story using only pictures its Mike Mignola. The creator of Hellboy does an absolutely fantastic job using the art in his panels to tell the story, but doesn't sacrifice his abstract artistic style. The art in this issue and the overall presentation is what is really striking about this comic. It just envelops the reader, and although there are some definite moments that will leave you confused, it's still a beautifully presented comic.
There are some moments that are really confusing. What was the reason for incorporating lines from A Christmas Carol, for example? However, although this does feel a little bit all over the place, I do think that that's because this issue is mostly about set-up. And as confusing as it can be at times, it's still an interesting story that will lure you in and keep you interested.
It's very clear that Mignola builds on previous HELLBOY stories, so if you're a new reader, you should probably brace yourself or catch up on his HELLBOY series. And even if you've been reading Mignola's Hellboy for ages, you might want to brush up on your knowledge so you're not completely lost. Like I mentioned previously, there seems to be a lot of set-up in this issue and it doesn't feel like it will be a very easy, self-contained story to read (like many of his HELLBOY stories). This is a story that I have been looking forward to for quite some time and it is one that definitely did not disappoint. The way the issue is presented is really beautiful and it is definitely a great start to a new series.