I finally finished Hellboy.
After 23 years of single issues, graphic novels, B.P.R.D. tie-ins, movies, animated series, and a pretty meh video game, I finally got to the end of his story, and I’m so glad it’s a real ending.
I was introduced to the character back in the late ’90s, right after high school. This stretch of time was a pretty low point for my comic collecting days, but I was working at a bookstore, and we got enough comics in to give them a spin now and again. The first story I read was the Wolves of Saint August, and the character kicked around in my head for a while as an interesting take on superheroes. I’d see action figures and posters in my various treks into comic shops, and I’d always notice, but I never really dove in.
In the early 2000s I was collecting again, and was devouring Y the Last Man thanks to the recommendation of Dave, best comic shop guy in the country. He asked if I had read any Hellboy, and since he was so spot on with Y, I gave the first few collections a spin.
I. Was. Hooked.
H.P. Lovecraft, Faerie, mythological monsters, biblical curses, witches, and demons? All the things I love and read about anyway, tied up in a neat bow with a red skinned monster hunter? Yes PLEASE! I’ve been devouring every bit of Big Red ever since, so it was with a heavy heart that I finally decided to read Hellboy in Hell, the last Mignola story on the ol’ horn-head.
In case it wasn’t clear: Hellboy is dead.
Over the last few years he’s been connected to some pretty heavy people in history, got a mythical sword, and was swept up in the coming apocalypse. Then? He died like he lived: saving others from yet another permutation of the Dragon he’s been associated with since his birth.
Death for Hellboy means he’s now in Hell, and the 10 issues of this last series show us the secrets about the place he’s been avoiding his entire life, and finally reveal the truth about Hellboy’s origin and his destiny with his Right Hand of Doom.
I’m not revealing any plot points in this review, because this is truly a book were the artwork speaks far louder than any of the text, so discussing plot points falls incredibly flat without the images to back it up. The art — Mignola’s first work outside of covers and pin-ups for years — is exemplary. His unique style and the incredible layouts of this world of Hell are all things you’ve never seen before, and Mike just runs wild with it. The monsters, see-through bugs, and various denizens of Hell are all crazier than the last and leap off the page with every BOOM. Even Hellboy himself goes through quite a few revisions in these pages, from skeletal to gigantic, and Mike gives this swan song the dedication it deserves.
Overall, the book was excellent, and the ending was a moment of perfect ambiguity and closure. Don’t worry if you’re a little confused — Mike clears up some of the symbolism in the afterword — but the fact that there IS an ending is excellent. Mignola has said he’s leaving comics to work on his painting, and capping off his Hellboy run of 23 years is something I admire him for. It must be hard to leave the character you’ve been deciding every aspect of for two decades, but he said that the ending of his story created itself, and he saw it to the logical conclusion.
We will still see Red in a few ongoing stories, so this isn’t his complete disappearance from the comics or movie scene, but the tale is told, the die is cast, and unless Mike decides to pick it up again, we’ve finally seen the last moments of Hellboy.
May he rest in Hell.