Review: Hellboy In Mexico

Published on May 9th, 2010

Dark Horse Comics had a special release this past week, with their ‘Hellboy In Mexico’ one shot. Dark Horse don’t put out Hellboy one shots all that often, if anything I’d say they put them out every 2 months at least, so whenever one gets published, I see it as a little gem that is there for the taking. I am personally a huge fan of quite literally everything to do with Hellboy and the BPRD universe created by Mike Mignola. As the proud owner of every Hellboy trade to date, I feel if anything, that it is my duty (and also the fact that I love it anyway) to this awesome universe of paranormal genius, to pick up new Hellboy stories whenever they come out.

This Hellboy one shot is a neat little package. Just as almost every Hellboy one shot goes that gets released from Dark Horse these days, it is written by the creator himself, Mike Mignola; and drawn by prolific artist Richard Corben. I have enjoyed the previous collaborations on Hellboy that these two gentlemen have done before (Hellboy: The Bride of Hell, Hellboy: The Crooked Man, and some others if I’m not mistaken), so therefore it can be safely said from the start, that this is not going to suck.

We take a trip back in time for this story, setting the scene of course in Mexico. A trip back in time to 1982. Corben’s landscape artwork is beautiful in the early stages of this comic. Hellboy and Abe seem to have completed an assignment for the Bureau (for Paranormal Research & Defence), and are sat in the scorching hot Mexican desert, waiting to be picked up to be taken home along with their captive, who I assume is some sort of monster or demon that the two of them seem to have trapped in a locked up trunk. Of course, due to the blistering sunlight and with Abe being an amphibious sea creature of sorts, he needs to find shelter to cool down in, whilst they wait to be picked up. The dialogue in these pages is something that only Mignola himself could write, as it shows an understanding of the relationship between the characters that no other writer could surely grasp.

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They walk for a bit, eventually stumbling across a time-torn motel I guess you could call it, in the middle of the desert. Hellboy has seen and in fact been to this exact building before, as it is later revealed in this issue, but he doesn’t say anything to Abe about it until they go inside; where Abe finds some extremely surprising old photographs around a crudely made shrine. One of the photographs has Hellboy in it. Abe inquires, and Hellboy tells him a story (it’s a real camp-fire moment, just replace the marshmallows for cigarettes) of how back in 1956, Hellboy was given one of his earliest assignments with the Bureau that led him to Mexico, to deal with an infestation of, well… pretty much every sort of monster you could shake a stick at. “Vampires, witches, the whole nine yards”, as Hellboy describes it, all came to gather around this hole in the ground that apparantly led to the devil’s cave. Why? Because legend has it that every hundred years, the devil ‘blows his stink’ (interpret as you will) up through the hole in question, and are thus attracted to it. These monsters came and slaughted towns, killing hundreds of locals, meaning it was Hellboy’s job to destory them. He hunted them down solo, until he comes across 3 brothers, who had once been wrestlers, but had been converted by a vision of the Virgin Mary to become monster killers. This seemed a bit stereotypical to me, as a choice of plot, what with wrestlers being in the story, it all seemed a bit obvious, and I couldnt get images of Jack Black as Nacho Libre out of my head. Regardless, I carried on not thinking too deeply about it, and was pleased to find out that thankfully this story was not as cheesy as I had thought it in my naivety.

Hellboy tells how he teamed up with the trio of wrestlers for a while, killing the monsters that had come to cause mayhem around the devil’s stink. He tells how he came to know them after a while, especially the younger of the brothers, who was called Esteban. In the narative, it claims that Hellboy and Esteban became best of friends and formed a special bond, although this was something I did not feel as the reader. They were more drinking buddies. But this was not really anything that bothered me, as the friendship between them was only dwelled upon for the space of one single page. So the 4 of them killed monsters by day, and got ridiculously drunk by night (two thumbs up!). Well, they lived by that daily routine until one night, young Esteban got sloppy. Esteben woke up in the early hours of the dark morning, and went outside in a drunken slumber, only to come to the realisation that in his drunken state, he had become surrounded by monsters. By the time Hellboy and Esteban’s two older brothers woke, he had vanished, along with the monsters.

This of course, meant that Hellboy and the two other brothers (whose names are never revealed, which is good as they are not necessary to know) seriously upped their game in finding Esteban and generally killing the monsters. Hellboy tell’s Abe in his on-going story, how they were driven to means of torture, even though they knew that torture meant nothing physically to vampires and is a rather useless way of getting answers from them.

When one day, they come across a poster on the wall of a flyer for a wrestling match, and across, someone had written “He is waiting for you Hellboy. Come alone”, with a map below showing where Hellboy must go. The poster depicts a monsterous beast of a man called ‘!CAMAZOTZ!’, with the mask of a bat, a black cape and horrific grey skin. Interestingly, he has a tattoo on his chest, similar to the one that Esteban had on his chest. At this point I’m thinking to myself that the ending is going to be slightly predictable. But I had forgotten one of the key rules to keep in mind when reading a Mignola comic. Which is even though the ending may be predictable (which isn’t always the case), it still won’t end how you expect it will.

By nightfall, Hellboy arrives at the ruins shown in the map. He enters and sees a wrestling cage surrounded by cheering monsters, all going crazy for Camazotz’s victory. This part of the comic sees a rather prolonged and over-violent fight go down, which I will skip over for the sake of this review, as it is just another comic book fight scene, but set in a wrestling ring. Hellboy knows that Camazotz is Esteban, and after a fierce struggle, Hellboy kills Camazotz, revealing himself to be Esetban all along. It is quite touching, as you do not realise that during the course of reading this comic, you have come to care for Esteban, and you have an appreciation for Hellboy’s friendship with this man. Which I did not think I would at first. The comic has truly redeemed itself from the lack of attention to their friendship earlier on in the comic, as I mention before.

This is where Hellboy’s story to Abe ends, telling the origins and events surrounding the photograph Abe found around the shrine. It is also, pretty much where the comic ends as well, as we see Abe and Hellboy getting picked up by a Bureau helicopter.

All in all, it was a well written story in terms of the dialogue, narative and character personalites (as you’d expect from the guy who created all of this), it’s just my beef was with the Mexican wrestlers. It’s hard to describe exactly why so, but I suppose the gist is that it seemed slightly childish, and to be quite frank, not very Hellboy-ish at all. But hey, on the flip side, I suppose if everything stayed the same in the Hellboy universe then it would become stale and people might get bored. Still, the essence of the good story was there and I did enjoy it. Richard Corben’s artwork was solid and delivered well. As always, Corben’s pencils are amplified by Dave Stewart’s colours.

Whilst not being the best Hellboy one shot, or short story out there. It was another relatively decent story to add to Hellboy’s history.

Rob Andrews
Rob@comicimpact.com