The Zombie Rights Campaign Blog

ZRC Reviews: ‘Hellboy: House of the Living Dead’

We were graciously loaned an e-galley of this one by the publisher, so the ZRC had an opportunity to see how the fictional shadow government agency created by Mike Mignola, staffed prominently by a demon no less, handles Undead relations.

In a word: poorly.

First, the official description:

Devastated over the loss of his luchador comrade to vampires, Hellboy lingers in Mexican bars until he’s invited to participate in the ultimate wrestling match with a vicious Frankenstein monster!

Right off the bat, we have issues here. The comic raises serious questions about international law, jurisprudence and justice, as Hellboy, a secret agent of the US government, persecutes Vampires deep in Mexican territory as part of a masked wrestling Anti-Vampire hit squad.

Hasn’t Latin America had enough of that sort of thing? Apparently Hellboy helped pioneer death squads roaming the subtropical countryside, though his wore luchador masks and drank very heavily.

And thus the problems began, because if you’re waging war you should probably do it sober. Hellboy loses one of his comrades to the booze-and-violence filled lifestyle, and then?

He turns to the bottle to drink away the pain.

This state of affairs persists until the agent of a shadowy Mad Scientist coerces Hellboy into one last big wrestling match with his ‘Frankenstein monster’, a poor, put-upon mad science Zombie who of course has done nothing to deserve this treatment. Secrets abound however, and before the night is out Hellboy is going to run a gauntlet fully staffed by classic monster movie antagonists; will he survive?

Well, given that the story opens with Hellboy lurching back to his stateside job with a huge amount of alcohol-fueled lost time, the answer is ‘Yes’. Will it be Zombie Friendly?

More complicated question.

Hellboy clearly has issues relating to the Undead, let alone providing them with due process, judging from his bloody anti-Vampire pogroms. Yet he also displays great reluctance to fight, and sympathy for, the ‘Living Dead’ he’s forced to beat on in the ring.

Overall, in fact, the Zombie comes out quite well, although there’s a twist that might complicate the already fraught issue of whether all Frankenstein ‘monsters’ qualify as Zombies in the first place…

Along the way we get nuanced looks at werewolves, mad scientists and even imps and wagers with the Devil, but still, the poor Vampires can’t catch a break.

Odd, and puzzling, all things considered.

Ultimately a gripping and self-contained yarn, and a good introduction to Hellboy’s style for those not already initiated into the Mignolaverse, the ZRC is put in the awkward position of awarding ‘Hellboy: House of the Living Dead’ a Zombie Tolerant rating, with a significant ‘Anti-Vampirism’ disclaimer.

Poor vampires take it on the chin a bit here.

For fans of your Universal monster movies, supernatural-infused luchador stories or moody, grown-up graphic novels, this might very well be worth picking up. Just be aware of the problematic treatment of our Vampire allies in the larger Undead Equality movement.


About The Author

The role of 'Administrator' will be played tonight by John Sears, currently serving as President of The Zombie Rights Campaign.

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