Friday, 29 July 2016

Hellboy: House of the Living Dead Review (Mike Mignola, Richard Corben)

In 1956, Hellboy was sent to Mexico to investigate a series of mass killings – he then disappeared for five months. The first part of Hellboy’s long “lost weekend” was covered in Hellboy in Mexico (a short story that appeared in The Bride of Hell and Others) where Hellboy teamed up with luchadores (masked Mexican wrestlers) to fight vampires; the story of what Hellboy did next in those five months continues in House of the Living Dead. 

Hellboy is working as a luchador when he’s blackmailed into fighting a mad scientist’s champion: a Frankenstein’s monster! But that’s only the beginning of his crazy night: cue the Wolf Man and Dracula – it’s Hellboy vs the Universal Monsters in a south of the border smackdown! 

House of the Living Dead is a loving homage to the cornball horror movies of yesteryear. Besides the Universal Monsters you’ve got the classic mad scientist and hunchbacked assistant in their lab full of tesla coils and a buxom damsel in distress. Mike Mignola gives them his own spin though with an unusually talkative Frankenstein’s monster, a Dracula cameo that’s more comedic than horrific, and, of course, the addition of the Mexican wrestling angle, all of which are great. 

I love how the story can have poignant moments like Hellboy reflecting on his fallen luchador buddy as well as a tragic love story all set against the nutbar concept of Hellboy wrestling the Universal Monsters and the contrast doesn’t stand out as noticeable or awkward. That’s how amazing Mignola is as a writer. And that ending! Brilliant. 

Richard Corben’s macabre art-style is perfectly suited to the Hellboy aesthetic and I loved his Frankenstein’s monster design, imbuing the character with a silent, melancholic air rather than being overtly menacing or gruesome. 

The only downside is that it’s shorter than the average Hellboy volume at basically the length of a double-sized issue so it doesn’t feel like it should be its own book. Otherwise though House of the Living Dead is a really entertaining read even if it’s over a little too quickly.

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