Hellboy in Hell #4 by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart is the final chapter in the first arc of a new chapter in the Hellboy mythos.
Reeling from his tour of hell and the bloodshed so far Mignola finally gives Hellboy a chance to catch his breath since his death plunged him into the depths of the underworld and Big Red is left to wonder what’s next in this period of his “life”.
Finding himself back at the estate from Issue #1 Sir Edward, known well to avid Mignola-verse readers by this point, introduces himself formally to Hellboy detailing the final moments of his true life and the formation of his new dead-man-walking immortal existence. He promises Hellboy that he’s finally freed from his destiny of destruction and apocalypse, essentially setting up the main premise of what Hellboy in Hell is to become: The main man himself free to wander the layers of the afterlife and encounter all manner of adventure within. With a demonically shielded mansion of magic as shelter a new status quo (if such a thing ever truly existed under Mignola’s pen) is born.
Mignola’s abstraction and angularity is as strongly present as ever, suggesting rather than detailing the madness and bleakness of the world within. The subject-to-subject transitions and beats are atmospheric and meaningful. Snake imagery accompanies Sir Edward hinting at the slithering lies beneath his promises of freedom from fate and destiny, coiling around Hellboy’s proverbial neck. It’s juxtaposition with the images of free-flying birds hammering home the point.
Stewart’s colors have always been a major force binding the Hellboy books together and this is no different now. The eponymous demon spends most of the comic cast in a murky pallor, a far cry from his distinctive bright reds. His trademarked colors are eschewed for a more spectral form shifting to its surrounding tones, as befits the ghost of himself he now is in hell. But as the story unfolds and he comes to terms with his new set-up he casually lights up a cigarette and our hero is back to us in glorious crimson. From Mike and Dave this represents the most striking story-beat in the book. After several issues of taking whatever fury and horror was thrown his way, Hellboy is finally ready to take a proactive role again. Hell quakes at the thought.
So while this issue plodded slowly in comparison to previous installments, the chance to refresh us and set up the oncoming tale is a much welcomed delivery from Mignola. Abandon all doubts ye who enter here, this Boy’s ready for Hell.