Review: Hellboy in Mexico or A Drunken Blur

Hellboy in Mexico or, a Drunken Blur

Story by Mike Mignola
Art by Richard Corben
Colors by Dave Stewart
Letters by Clem Robins
Covers by Richard Corben and Mike Mignola

$3.50 / 32 Pages / Color / Single Issue

Dark Horse Comics

 

There's…guys, there's a vampire turkey in this. 

And what I really sort of dig about this hemo-gobbler is that he isn't even the crux of the book. Bird's an aside. An ominous little detail in this anecdotal tale from Hellboy's past. Tijuana Turkey Terror could make for a rompin' stompin' book unto itself, but there's so much more going on in this comic.

Mysterious noises and movement from Hellboy's steamer trunk.

A plague of unholy death devastating the Mexican countryside.

A pledge to the Virgin Mary by three luchadores to dedicate their lives to the fight against demons.  

And if you'll note, Hellboy is about to deliver a Flying Elbow Drop of Doom! Ohhhh yeaaaaaaaaah! Slam into a zombie jerky Slim Jim! 

Okay. Let's make like Brian McKnight and start it back at one. This is the latest historical Hellboy jaunt from creator Mike Mignola and horror comic icon Richard Corben, who previously collaborated on the three-issue Hellboy: The Crooked Man and Hellboy: The Bride of Hell. While Mignola and artist Duncan Fegredo are generating remarkable forward momentum with the character in his main title, these flashback stories satisfy that thirst for pure, episodic Hellboy lore. As in The Bride of Hell, this is a done-in-one story and an ideal read for anyone new to the character or for those who tend to follow his exploits only in trade. Much as I love serialized storytelling, some of my personal favorite comic issues are self-contained narrative nuggets just like this one. In this case, it's like pivoting just to the left and catching the briefest of glimpses into the Twilight Zone.   

The frame of the story begins in Mexico, 1982. Hellboy and Abe are stranded after a mission, waiting in the desert for a ride back home. Hellboy's got a locked suitcase that's making a bit of noise. Abe stumbles on a shrine littered with old photographs. There's Hellboy posing with some masked wrestlers. What's the story there? And that leads us into an old yarn about a tequila-soaked adventure from the 50s. 

As a dyed-in-the-wool Hellboy superfan, seeing the letters H-E-L-L-B-O-Y all together was enough for me. But if you're not a zealot, why should you be interested? Well, aside from the fact that I'd never, ever lie to you and I've always looked out for your best aesthetic interest, there's the dynamite pairing of two tremendous storytellers. Mike Mignola does some incredible things with pacing and tension. The action is spectacular, but it's those pauses to survey the environment that amp up the spookiness. You see it in old horror, Japanese cinema and comics, but also in westerns. Look at the opening scene of Once Upon a Time in the West. That agonizing stretch at the train station. People waiting. People looking. Here, Hellboy pulls up to a sleepy old town and we see individual panels of the aforementioned putrified poultry, a religious statue, and then three luchador wrestlers hanging out by their car. Add in that signature sparse dialogue and you have a minimalist script that relies almost entirely on the visuals and the rhythm with which they're relayed. The guy is writing hiaku poetry in comic form. Every ingredient of the setting is there, deconstructed for the reader to absorb. 

If Richard Corben isn't the ultimate Hellboy artist, he's at least the perfect hand for the stories he's been given. The Crooked Man was a chilling Appalachian ghost story steeped in rural folklore, and he delivered some truly haunting pages. Seriously, I've been taking bejesus supplements ever since laying eyes on that cross-eyed, inbred Crooked Man grinning through the trees. I've been an admirer ever since. His art has this rustic quality. Creepy. Crawly. Like a savage R. Crumb. Wide, crude, fumbling hands and simple, childlike faces. When I think of Corben I think about ingrown hairs and sweat and snaggle-teeth. There's just something about this style that feels true to the old pulps, the Lovecraftian spirit that pervades the Hellboy mythos. I can see it not working for every reader, especially in terms of human figures, but for me it's just primordial.

I'm very excited about the ramifications of Hellboy's recent discoveries into his lineage, but I think some of the best stories being told about the character are found in these one shots. Hellboy might work best when he's recalling some weekend-long binge, those matter-of-fact run-ins with a couple of skeletons or an urban legend. He's had a long life, and when the book's been written, it'll be in the foot notes where the real tale took place.

Like that time in Mexico back in 1956. The three masked brothers. A Corona or twelve. And one spooky ass turkey licking the blood from its beak…

 

Story: 5 stars     Art: 5 stars     Overall: 5 stars

 


 

Paul Montgomery could really go for some cranberry sauce. Find him on Twitter or contact him at paul@ifanboy.com. 

Comments

  1. Is the portion of his elbow used for the "Flying Elbow Drop of Doom" maneuver also made of red stone? 

    Now I’m even more irritated that my shop ran out of this by 11:00 this morning.  This sounds excellent.  I can’t wait to read it next week. 

    I always wondered what a Paul Montgomery POTW article would look like.  Now I know. 

  2. Really wanted this. My shop was sold out before they even opened the doors. All the copies went to people with pull lists. =(  

    I guess it got good buzz.  

  3. Yeah, thank the Watcher for pull lists! I don’t get off work for another couple hours, but my copy is waiting for me!

  4. Paul, this is one of the best reviews I’ve ever read on a website, be it for comics, film or music. You seriously knocked it outta the park on this one.

  5. Great review, couldn’t agree more.

    Corben makes this issue work. Cause while Mignola wrote a fun one-shot, its Corben’s pencils that make this really fun to read.

  6. The wrestiling sequence in this was perfect! I’m not even a wrestiling fan but that sequence where hellboy gets in a reverse leg choke(or whatever you wanna call it) was just great sequential storytelling

  7. All I can say is that Paul loves comics and his love makes me love, and we can have a big comic love fest. Paul has yet to le me down on a comics recomendation and for that I’m grateful. I mean Hellbo vs. a Mexican wrestling vampires, CMON people it’s a no brainer.

  8. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @yanks – You know what else I love? You, baby! Glad you dug it. 

  9. Corben’s art is sketchier here than in The Crooked Man, and it serves the more kinetic aspects of the story really well. This was spooky, fun, and wonderfully atmospheric.  My pick of the week by a country mile.

    Great review, Paul!

  10. Paul, you wrote everything I wish to say about this issue. Listen to this man folks! He speaks the truth. There will be more Corbs on Hellboy coming too!

  11. Any fans of Corben should definatly check out ‘Startling Stories: Banner’ by him and Brian Azzarello. It’s a horrifying Hulk story that scared the shit out of me when I read it.
    Also, Paul forgot to mention the original Mignola/ Corben pairing on Hellboy: Makoma, set in Africa.

  12. This was the first time I’ve read anything with Hellboy and I lovedlovedloved it.  So much atmosphere and mood done in a simple, minimalistic style.  I want more Hellboy and more of Mr. Corben’s art. 

  13. It was awesome, I’ve pretty much read everything Hellboy related and I would love Richard Corben to do another miniseries in Hellboy’s past, The Crooked Man was only three issues so I’d love to see a five or six issue miniseries in the same vain.