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Hellboy: House of The Living Dead Hardcover – Nov 8 2011
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Taking place directly after the one-shot "Hellboy in Mexico" (collected in Hellboy: The Bride of Hell and Others), "Hellboy: House of the Living Dead" is the first direct sequel to a one-shot that I know of, and the first Hellboy original graphic novel. It is a hardcover and runs about fifty six pages.
The title is an allusion to two Universal Monster films, House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein. If you haven't seen those films, they came at the low ebb of the Universal Monster series and basically get together the famous monsters--Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Wolfman--for a battle royale. Mignola acknowledges these "sort-of-terrible" films as influences, along with the Mexican wrestler vs monster films like "Santo vs. Las Mujeres Vampiro."
The story basically tells of an event during Hellboys lost five months when he was drunk and in despair in the Mexican desert. He couldn't stop his friend from being turned into a vampire, and is trying to drown his guilt in booze and cheap sports. One night after a match Hellboy is approached by a stranger with a challenge. Hellboy must face an unknown champion and win, or else a young girl dies. Hellboy reluctantly agrees, and he finds himself lead to an old, falling down castle with a full Mad Scientist's laboratory in the basement. And Hellboy's mysterious wrestling opponent is--I am sure you can see where this is going.
Mignola has never bowed to convention, and "House of the Living Dead" is much more than a homage to Universal Horror. Sure, it is obvious that he wanted to make a story involving a bunch of classic monsters and some Mexican wrestlers, but the story ends up being more than the sum of its parts. Few of the characters follow their pre-written script, except perhaps for the Wolfman who is pure, doomed Larry Talbot. Combining the monsters with Mexico, Mignola takes a smattering of loose, unconnected elements and works them into a poignant story. The ending is fantastic, and put just the right cherry on an already fabulous cake.
To say that Richard Corben's art is great is to like saying that water is wet. I have run out of adjectives describing just how cool his drawings are. Corben has cemented himself as a necessary part of Hellboy, and I look forward to Corben-drawn Hellboy stories as much as I look forward to Mignola-drawn Hellboy stories. Corben's twisted little Dr. Frankenstein (Dr. Jose Luis Kogan) is a round little slimy charlatan with a fantastic rubbery face. And Corben's Monster captures that perfect blend of horror and sympathy without copying any of the famous interpretations.
As always, hail to colorist Dave Stewart who makes everything so much sweeter. There is a scene when the lightning comes to bring the Monster to life where the color makes all the difference. Stewart provides the necessary continuity that makes everything feel like Hellboy.
I loved Hellboy: House of the Living Dead. As much as I enjoy the continuing adventures of Hellboy in series like "Darkness Calls" and "The Fury," and as much as I am looking forward to Hellboy in Hell, my favorite Hellboy adventures are just like this; Hellboy wandering the world encountering monsters. After all, Hellboy is the modern descendent of weird fiction, and that particular genre was always served best by the short story. And few modern comic writers are masters of the short story like Mike Mignola.
I'm becoming more and more a fan of Richard Corben's artwork after seeing his treatments of Mike Mignola's stories in the last two Hellboy anthologies, and his work in this book is no less fantastic. He gets the macabre and gruesome aspects of the stories and compliments Mignola's script perfectly. Mignola's work is his usual high standard.
The only qualm is with the relative shortness of this book which is about half the usual length of a regular Hellboy book, which isn't a problem really to say that I wanted to read more at the end! But then the price reflects this anyway, and it's a nicely put together hardback in comparison to the paperbacks of the Hellboy series.
"The House of the Living Dead" is a great read especially if you're a fan of those cheesy horror movies from the early 20th century, and is a must-read for any Hellboy fan.
The story has a mixture of adventure, action, humor, and melancholy that are found in the best Hellboy stories. The art by Richard Corben is perfectly suited to this tale. It is a very quick read but also very enjoyable. If I ever want a wry smile, I'll come back to this book.
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