In Review: Hellboy Vs. Lobster Johnson: The Ring of Death

Hellboy continues to live in these early adventures.

The cover: What a fantastic movie poster cover! Paolo Rivera has crafted this wonderful frontpiece. A smiling Hellboy bust in flames graces the upper left corner, with the characters’ names above him and to the right. On the far right is wrestler Lobster Johnson looking in the same direction, his hands ready for a tussle. Underneath Hellboy are two of his stooges, big wrestlers dressed as skeletons. Below the Lobster is the title of the first tale. Beneath this is a character wearing a white suit with his head down, obscured by his hat. He’s in the desert and the title of his tale is in the bottom center. This seriously needs to be a poster, print, and tee-shirt. Overall grade: A

The story: Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson are the writers of both tales. The first is the eighteen page story “The Ring of Death” which finally shows two things fans have wanted to see: 1. Hellboy’s movie debut in a Mexican film and 2. one of the infamous Mexican wrestling movies that featured a character named Lobster Johnson. Who knew they would be one in the same? The story starts in 1962 at the headquarters of the B.P.R.D. in Connecticut where Vic and Hellboy are settling in to watch a movie on television. It’s a black and white film that begins with a woman in black stopping her car in a town in the middle of nowhere. In the back seat is a corpse. She opens the door saying, “We have arrived.” The wrestler Lobster Johnson emerges. “Strange. The fight promoter said he would meet us.” As he looks around a man approaches him asking for help, because the Devil himself has come to town. Within a building a gang of masked wrestling thugs have several people tied up and they are threatened by a familiar looking character wearing wrestling wear, complete with a hood that sports monstrous bat ears. The Lobster arrives and a fight occurs and then moves to the top of a building where the Devil seeks to carry out his evil plan. The story ends in the way of the best Z-level movies. The story bookends back in the present, with Hellboy and Vic’s reactions great. “Down Mexico Way” is in Mexico in 1956 with the Visitor looking to see what’s become of Hellboy, having tracked him there. What he finds surprises him and causes him some doubt. This is really funny and it was great to see the Visitor once again in a book. There were both fun Hellboy stories. Overall grade: A 

The art: “The Ring of Death” is illustrated by Mike Norton. The first page has some terrific emotions on Vic and Hellboy’s faces, with the latter having the most awesome sneer. The reveal of the corpse in the back seat on the second page is cool. The design of the Lobster is cheesy goodness. The top of Page 4 reveals Hellboy’s role in the film. What he’s wearing is hilarious and the bats that surround him on strings add to the schlock nature of the film. However, here’s where Norton is really smart, Hellboy was incredibly drunk during the filming and couldn’t complete the film, so this panel is repeated to show that his limited shooting was used several times. On top of that, another actor completed many of the scenes, a la Bela Lugosi from Plan 9 From Outer Space, so the Devil is very skinny when shown from the back or side. The fighting looks like the moves from a wrestling film and they are a delight. What happens to the Devil when he’s defeated is excellent. The final page has the two characters having very different reactions to the film. I loved this. “Down Mexico Way” is by Paul Grist and returns him to the Visitor, the character he drew in the series The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed. I loved that series and I love seeing Grist creating more with this character. His outfit is perfect for the time period and I love his reactions as he watches Hellboy, who himself is visually entertaining. The final page is hilarious for the Visitor’s reactions and how Hellboy is shown; I’ve seen the big guy beaten, but never in this state. This was a wonderful return. Overall grades: Both A

The colors: Dave Stewart colors the first tale, creating the perfect simulation of a black and white film. Stewart smartly doesn’t go one hundred percent black or white, but many different shades of both colors, providing perfect tone to the characters and settings. I also have to give a shout out for the opening and closing pages which feature Vic and Hellboy in a room lit only by the television screen — again, so cool and very realistic! Bill Crabtree is the colorist on “Down Mexico Way” and his first page is beautiful for the skies and setting. Having the Visitor in a black long sleeved shirt and white suit makes him stand out whenever he appears. Hellboy’s colors have him radiate off the pages. Notice how the colors in the background fade in the top three panels on the fourth page, mirroring a character’s disgust. I’m a fan of Crabtree’s colors. Overall grade: Both A

The letters: This issue’s text is by Clem Robins, who creates scene settings, dialogue, transmissions, the title of the movie, musical notes, yells, sounds, the final two words of the film, the title of the second tale, and the Visitor’s narration. I love the title of the film, which is exactly how a film of this quality would begin, and the final two words that end it are flat out awesomeness. The yells during the fights are great and the noises made by the bats are great. The Visitor’s narration sticks out from all other forms of text because it employs lower case letters, making his words to the reader sound more human. Overall grade: A

The final line: This is a hilarious read, both in the film and the Visitor’s short story. The film captures every type of cheese there is to be had in a 1950’s low budget film. The characters look great and Hellboy, both versions of him, are a hoot. The Visitor tale was a welcome return to this supporting character and I’d love to see more of him. Hellboy continues to live in these early adventures. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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