Review: Hellboy in Mexico

Cover to Hellboy in Mexico by Richard Corben.

Yeah, Hellboy *is* beating up a demon luchador.

Note: Chad and I are celebrating our anniversary this weekend. Posting will be even lighter than usual as a result. –J

“Hellboy in Mexico, or, a Drunken Blur”

Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Richard Corben
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letters: Clem Robins

The last year or so of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. have been dense with continuity, leading up to a radical change in direction for both books. I’ve been reading them pretty avidly, but I haven’t felt at all prepared to review them with the thoroughness they deserve. Fortunately, I have no such qualms about Hellboy in Mexico— like Mignola and Corben’s previous Hellboy: The Crooked Man, it stands delightfully and somewhat ludicrously on its own.

While waiting on a BPRD pickup in 1982 Mexico, Abe and HB stumble into a deserted cantina… with pictures of Hellboy and a bunch of luchadores on the walls. HB sighs and admits to Abe that, yes, he’s been here before; in 1956, Mexico experienced a plague of supernatural events thought to be the work of the Devil himself. Cut off from the usual BPRD support staff, HB teamed up with a family of wrestlers to fight the eldritch hordes.

What happens next is… well, even lucha libre can be neatly squeezed into the intricate Hellboy mythos. The brothers believe they’re on a mission from the Virgin Mary, the avatar of a demonic Mayan bat god appears, and everything, as usual, ends a little direly for HB himself. It’s a funny story, and a sad one, and it emphasizes the gulf between Hellboy and the people he loves. It’s hard not to see echoes of Dr. Who in Hellboy here. Like the Doctor, HB works best with companions, people whose brief and brave lives show him what it means to be truly human. Hellboy knows that he’ll always have to go on without them at the end of the day, though, toward that mysterious destiny we’ve seen teased in The Wild Hunt.

Corben does some of my favorite Hellboy art. The Crooked Man found him working in the tradition of underground comics, all deliriously thick lines and bulging eyeballs, and Hellboy in Mexico showcases his talent at brooding, expectant atmospherics. A lot of this book takes place in wide open spaces, lit only by the glare of headlights; it reminds me of early Spielberg cinematography in a good way. The fight scenes are chaotic and crowded, the cantina sequences cheery and bright. As much as I like Hellboy artists like Duncan Fegredo, Corben’s got the right attitude and solid chops to pull off a slightly gonzo Hellboy story like this one.

Soon enough, Mignola’s coming back to handle the art chores for Hellboy, and we’ll see what happens now that HB’s claimed Excalibur and appears destined for the throne of England. Hopefully, all that portentous Arthuriana doesn’t spell the end of these black-humored, North American-based Mignola/Corben stories. I’d miss them terribly.