‘Hellboy vs. Lobster Johnson in The Ring of Death:’ Comic Book Review

I’m of two minds here.

When a creator wants to lay a character to rest, I would like to see that happen. Let the library of works speak for itself.  On the other hand, Hellboy is one of my favorite comic book characters, and the more the merrier! The great thing is the Hellboy universe and Hellboy’s life are so expansive that you can literally pick up anywhere and tell any story.

Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson take advantage of that fact, telling a surprisingly charming story that pays homage to 1950s horror films and, more specifically, to the great B-horror films by directors like Ed Wood. This is a really playful one-shot.

I have to say that I was a little confused at first as to what was going on exactly. Hellboy and one of his BPRD cohorts are sitting down late one night to watch a movie, and up pops a black-and-white film featuring Hellboy vs. Lobster Johnson in The Ring of Death. I didn’t know at first if it was really happening or not. I kept wondering why they would use the same image of Hellboy over and over. But wait: Is that Hellboy? It was enjoyable, but a little befuddling. It wasn’t until the sort of post-prologue, or past-epilogue titled "Down Mexico Way," that basically worked as a punchline, everything fell into place, and I laughed.

The great thing is that "Down Mexico Way" doesn’t simply work as a punchline, but, for Hellboy fans, it places the entirety of the comic into context, positioning him in probably one of the saddest stretches of his life. You’re left with a somewhat melancholy aftertaste. But that’s one of the beautiful things about Hellboy and the universe that Mignola - along with others - have crafted. It’s fun, it’s epic, but it’s also very human, and that’s maybe one of the reasons why I’ve come to really embrace this character and this mythology as I’ve gotten older.

This comic had to have been a fun one for Mike Norton and Paul Grist to draw, and with Dave Stewart and Bill Crabtree on colors, and Patrick Satterfield’s lucha libre-inspired design work, it’s just a beautiful one-shot to look at.

This is me not complaining that we’re still getting Hellboy stories.


Creative Team: Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson (story), Mike Norton and Paul Grist (art), Dave Stewart and Bill Crabtree (colors), Clem Robins (letters), Patrick Satterfield (designer), Katii O’Brien (editor), Jenny Blenk (Assistant Editor)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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