"Hellbound" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Story by Davide Dileo
Script by Victor Gischler
Art by Riccardo Burchielli and Francesco Mattina
2015, 144 Pages
Graphic novel released on October 6th, 2015
Sometimes I wonder what the local cops do to explain the bizarre stuff they find in the wake of the Winchester brothers on Supernatural. They have to come across bodies and weird ritualistic writing and crap as crime scenes sometimes, right? Hellbound has a bit of that, pulling a couple of FBI agents deep into the shadows as they track a would-be serial killer, only to discover so much more. They've stumbled onto an age-old war between the powers of good and evil, and evil is about to make a major surge forward. The one man standing in the way is Dusker, the latest in a long line of Obscurers (think Slayers, but way more brutal), but is he enough to put these monsters down?
Hellbound jumps right into the action, picking up with FBI agents Jayesh Mirchandani and Isaac Brew as they come across the latest in a series of horrific murders. The fourth page of the book features eight severed heads plus a skeleton and a number of other body parts all chained to a wall. It hits like a ton of bricks and really sets the tone for what to expect with the rest of the book. This is really just the beginning. You quickly learn that the agents are tracking Dusker, but all is not as it seems at first.
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Dusker looks like he belongs with the family from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He's huge, doesn't speak much, and he drives a massive truck that's decked out like something out of Mad Max. When things get serious, he breaks out some homemade armor that would go hand-in-hand with his vehicle. Dusker's weapon of choice is a large monkey wrench with its handle carved into a long blade.
All of this seems totally cut and dry, right? This big guy's a psycho and the agents are going to take him down. Then they bust into a house and find Dusker battling a mutated werewolf and everything changes. First off, that werewolf is friggin' terrifying. Artist Riccardo Burchielli created some monsters that are right out of nightmares. This is no exception. It's a hulking beast, towering over Dusker, but it looks deformed, as if the man and monster were merged together in a painful surgery that did not go as planned. There are even gaps where the skin isn't fully formed together. You can see the man's face peering out of the creature's neck with the wolf head roaring above it. At first I thought this was a dude in a suit and the book was going to take a weird turn into furries, but I could not have been more wrong.
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Hellbound later explores vampires, which make up the bulk of the monsters that are after Dusker. At least I think they're vampires. They're unlike any that I've ever seen, even the stuff in The Strain. As with the werewolf, it's like the monster burst forth from the human form. It's painful, almost like the transformation in An American Werewolf in London. It reveals this being of teeth and sinew that will claw your face off in a moment's notice. These come in all shapes and sizes including giants capable of knocking down walls.
Interspersed throughout Hellbound are a number of flashback scenes illustrated by Francesco Mattina. These are in a completely different style than Burchielli's, but just as gruesome. Mattina's pages have a painted look with very clean lines. It's beautiful yet brutal. It's almost like the two artists are trying to outdo one another, much to the benefit of the reader.
Hellbound is like a mix between Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but with far scarier monsters. There are a handful of elements that I would have liked to have seen explored further, such as the origin of the Obscurers, the creatures, and the war between them. The book is left open for a sequel and I'd love to see one.