Hellboy: House of the Living Dead

It’s no surprise that any new Hellboy book is a big deal for me, so I was very excited to get my copy of Hellboy: House of the Living Dead last night. I wrote up the following review, which is copied from my Goodreads account:

Normally I’m not a fan of what I think of as “gimmick” stories. All too often, the gimmick is all they have going for them. In less capable hands, the stand-alone “Hellboy in Mexico” one-shot comic could have been one of those gimmick stories, but instead it became one of my very favorite Hellboy stories to date. Instead of just resting on the concept of Hellboy teaming up with luchadors to fight vampires, Mignola invested the book with a surprising amount of pathos. So when I heard that there was going to be a follow-up graphic novel, I was ecstatic, and when I heard that it was going to be a nod to Universal’s “monster rally” pictures, I was doubly so. And House of the Living Dead doesn’t disappoint.

As an homage to the Universal monster rally films it is almost beat-for-beat perfect, including the weird tendency of those films to wall off each monster’s story from the others, and a late-in-the-comic gag about the suddenness and ease of Dracula’s death in each of the Universal House of … movies. It also manages to be a pretty good homage to classic Mexican horror cinema, and really does feel sort of like what might have happened had there been a Mexican version of House of Frankenstein, only now with added Hellboy.

Once again, the art chores play to Corben’s strengths, with lots of ruined buildings, brambles, and other weird stuff. Several panels are as good as any he’s ever done, including the one that was wisely chosen for the back matter of the book, and his gawky, awkward, slope-shouldered Frankenstein’s monster is very effective.

House of the Living Dead isn’t quite as poignant as “Hellboy in Mexico,” but it comes close, especially near the end. There’s a really spectacular moment between Hellboy and the monster in a bar, and the last pages are a nice foreshadowing of the forthcoming Hellboy in Hell storyline, a way to bridge these older stories with what’s happening in current Hellboy continuity.

It’s no secret that Mignola can pretty much do no wrong in my eyes, but he’s really struck a rich vein with these stories of Hellboy’s “lost weekend” in Mexico, so I’m really glad to know that we’ve got more of them to look forward to, including at least one short one drawn by Mignola himself!

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